The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Predictions in Iraq
Here's your chance to tell me how wrong I was in a month:
Judging by the hysterical coverage in our media, one gets the impression that we have already lost in Iraq, the elections will be violent farce, and Iraq will be in a civil war in a year.
The media may yet be right. But three things that have been conventional wisdom in the media for the past year now look unlikely:
1) America, appalled by the violence and the confusion, will pull out Iraq or try to get others to fight the war for us (despite the fact that it can only be won by us).
This became very unlikely with re-election of George Bush. One of the reasons why John Kerry lost was his wishy-washy approach to Iraq (it was the wrong war at the wrong time...blah, blah), but only he could win it (by convincing pussies like the French to fight it for us with their - ahem - military might).
The American people wisely asked how the Senator could win a war that he didn't believe in.
There will be no pulling out: We're in Iraq come hell or high water.
2)The Iraqi populace, infuriated at American military actions, unites behind the terrorists, making the American position untenable.
This "cast out the infidels" idea is increasingly unlikely, though the media breathlessly reports that it's just around the corner. The insurgents have NO political support; on the contrary, most Iraqis favor crushing them. The terrorists can hold no territory (hence, their main strategy is random bombing to intimidate Iraqis and kill soldiers), and are divided about where they would take a "liberated" Iraq. They would take it to either more tyranny or civil war.
This negative vision (and the countless Iraqis they have murdered) has won them few friends in the country. Most Iraqis see their future as bright, peaceful and democratic. They realize that only America - bumbling and incompetent as it has been - can get them there.
3) Elections will be postponed due to the violence, for it is futile to hold an election as long as there are people in Iraq willing to set bombs.
There will always be people in Iraq willing to set bombs (at least for the foreseable future). This is the country that created Saddam Hussein, for Christ's sake. This militancy is a disease that afflicts not only Iraq but most of the Middle East, and it is the reason we are in Iraq.
An election delay has been called for by some Iraqi politicans, many world leaders and several UN officials. This is not because of any real concern about the "legitimacy" of the vote by these people (America is not going to be able to kill all the terrorists in Iraq with an extra month or two).
Postponement of the elections would confirm the suspicions of some disaffected Iraqis that the election was only an American sham. That is what these leaders want.
The elections are not an American sham, and they will happen as scheduled.
So the wise sages of the media have a bad track record thus far in Iraq. I bear these things in mind whenever I open up my morning paper. The media has been very wrong in the past.
And I think they are wrong now about the outcome of the elections. There are three ways this thing could play out.
The most likely (a mixture of 1 and 2 below) are both to America's advantage:
1)Election turnout is high (50%+) and violent. Iraqis endorse an anti-American government.
This scenario is possible (though not as likely as 2, or a mixture of 1 and 2), and the media will play it as a great defeat for America. They will quickly brush off the inspiring pictures of brave Iraqis defying the terrorists to get to the polls. The media will focus on Iraqis slaughtered for voting (and unfortunately, there will be many), and they will chatter on about how the Iraqi people have rejected George Bush's policies.
But in many ways, this may be the best outcome.
An anti-American government will have street cred among the Arabs, and it will be viewed as legitimate through much of the region and the world (leading other Arab citizens to wonder why they can't vote). America will respect the outcome, despite the fact that it doesn't like the politicians it will have to deal with (what an example to the region!).
But that government - like Ayatollah Sistani - will probably hold its nose and work with us anyway.
A government's first priority is to maintian power. After delivering a punch to George Bush, this government will have to face the primary threat to its power: the terrorists.
I don't believe they will ask the Americans to leave. I think they will view that as suicide. (But if the Iraqis are prepared to shoulder all of the fight themselves, more power to them.)
I think they will stomach the anti-Americanism and work with us. And they will still be viewed by the world as the true government of Iraq. A win-win situation, without looking like it.
The Americans and the new Iraqi government may be strange bedfellows, but together, we can take the fight to the terrorists. The Americans will respect the political legitimacy of the government. The terrorists will not.
Thus, the US can win by losing in this election. This will be a difficult political sell for George Bush, but it will American victory nonetheless. And that is what matters.
2)Election turnout is high (50%+) and violent. Iraqis vote for a pluralistic, but chaotic government that will compromise along the lines of the Iraqi interim constitution, and fight with us against the common enemy: the larval tyrants that the media calls "insurgents" and Michael Moore calls freedom fighters.
This is the most likley scenario.
Of course, there will be glitches. In addition to atrocities committed by the terrorists, there will be enough "voting irregulaties" to keep America-haters busy for years (they never seemed bothered when Saddam Hussein received 99.99% of the "vote").
Predictably, Jimmy Carter will declare the election to be poorly conducted, despite the fact that Iraq will at least have a free press (unlike the "free and fair" elections in Palestine and Venezuela - where the governments control all speech).
Some stridently anti-American types will be elected (as in 1), but they will never have anything resembling a majority (this is somewhat unfortunate). It will be diverse and chaotic. The government will be fairly liberal for the region.
It will fight the terrorists more strongly (Though Iraqi resolve against the terrorists has been one of the most underreported stories of this struggle: for every dead US soldier, there are three dead Iraqi policemen and soldiers. Iraq's population is 1/10th of America's. Percentage wise, a similar loss in the United States would mean the deaths of 30,000 US soldiers. Yet young Iraqi men still stand in line outside the recruitment offices, willingly putting themselves in harm's way.)
This scenario would be a slam dunk for America if not for one important problem: such a government will not be viewed by most of the world as having legitimacy. It will be viewed as an American puppet regime.
It won't be, but appearences matter. Particularly in this region.
3)Election turnout low (40%-) and violent. Iraqis endorse an illegimate, divided and benign government that isn't taken seriously by anyone in Iraq or the world.
Though much of the media thinks this is the likely outcome, I do not. I could be wrong (yes, it happens), but I see most Iraqis voting and respecting the outcome.
Will America's cost go down?
I have been surprised by the resiliency of the terrorists. Their depravity and inhumantity are symptomatic of a deep sickness - a belief in the power of tyranny that Americans find difficult to comprehend. They seem to feel that if they can only kill enough Iraqis viciously and publicly, the Iraqi citizens will cower before them. (And if that doesn't work, they will ignite a civil war.)
Their have seldom been people in history who have fought for a more unworthy cause. The fact that large numbers of people throughout the world sympathize with them tells us alot about the rest of the world - and why its feelings about Iraq should be regarded with suspicion.
But I have been gratified by the resolve of America. At no time has a majority of Americans advocated leaving the field in Iraq.
With the elections, we will be turning a corner. I don't know what is around that corner, but there is good chance it will be a free and democratic Iraq.
And that is a chance worth taking.