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May 13, 2004

Is the War in Iraq Winnable?

Liberals keep asking this question. Some panicking conservatives are asking it, too.

Allow us to answer.

Is the war in Iraq winnable?

No. It is not winnable. It is no longer winnable, and has not been winnable for some time.

It was already won. It's not winnable in the same sense that a dead horse is not killable.

For there to be a "war" at all, the other side -- whoever that may be -- must have some chance of "winning."

The other side does not have any chance -- or, at least, no significant chance -- of "winning" anything much at all.

The Sunni rebels in Fallujah cannot win back the country. Even if America were to take the John Kerry route and just bug out, the Shi'a majority would not suddenly grant power back to the Ba'athists.

It would not happen. It could not happen. It is an impossibility.

It is simply not the case that the majority of Iraqis are sitting there hoping for the Fallujah jihadists to "win," meaning to prevail politically over America and the non-Sunni majority, and assume power. There may be many Iraqis who want the Fallujah jihadists to bleed America -- to kill the troops whose major crime was fighting and winning a war the Arabs were powerless to, or lacked the courage to, fight and win themselves, in order to make some claim of vindictated honor -- but the majority of Iraqis don't actually want the Falljuah Ba'athists/Al Qaedaists/criminals to take over the country.

And they would not permit them to, even if America fled with its tail between its legs.

Strike that -- they would not permit them to, especially if America fled with its tail between its legs.

One thing we're liking about the June 30 handover of power is that internal security will largely become a problem for Iraqis, with only support from Americans. At that point, Iraqis will be making most of the decisions and doing most of the dirty security work.

And the thing is, as much as Iraqis might complain about our ruthless/brutal tactics, they're just saying that because people who lack power like to complain. Complaining is the way people without power protest their lack of power.

The day that Iraqis are actually fighting the insurgents is the day Iraqis stop complaining about ruthlessness and brutality. Not that ruthlessness and brutality will cease; quite the opposite. There will be more ruthlessness and brutality than the American military would ever be allowed to inflict.

But Iraqis will be doing it themselves, and hence, will have no one really to complain about.

We've seen how Arabs and Muslims put down insurgencies in the past. It's not pretty. Although, in this case, such brutality will be richly justified. The UN might fuss, but who listens to them?

The analysis is similar when it comes to Moqtada al-Sadr. What, precisely, is he fighting for? What political outcome is he actually hoping to achieve?

He can't be fighting for actual control of Iraq. If he were actually so popular that he could ultimately assume power, he wouldn't need to be fighting now at all. We are turning over power on June 30; elections will be held by January. No one who has any real shot of running the country needs to engage in violence, because, once again, we're turning the damn country over shortly. al-Sadr is fighting not because there's a good chance he will be part of the Iraqi ruling class, but precisely because there isn't such a good chance.

He hopes that by killing Americans, he can increase his profile and his political popularity. Perhaps he can. But it is important to bear in mind that he can only come to power if the majority actually wants him to do so. And if the majority actually wants him to do so -- well, once again, we are turning over Iraq on June 30, and there will be elections by January. If he were to come to power, which we think unlikely, it would not be because he won a "war," but because he increased his political popularity. Whether he fights us or whether he doesn't fight us, he's not going to "win" through war; he's going to win through political popularity, the same way any politician wins power.

We've been chagrined lately at the panickiness seen throughout America, on both sides of the aisle. What do these shrieking ninnies think, precisely, is going to happen?

We don't know. In the worse case scenario, there would be a country-wide, broad-based political/populist uprising in Iraq demanding that we evacuate the country immediately. But we have to note once again: Our goal has always been, ultimately, to honor the legitimate, broad-based political wishes of the Iraqi populace.

If the Iraqis did suddenly say, as a whole, "Get out now," what is the big problem, exactly? We're planning to "get out" in some form or another over the next few months, retreating largely to our bases, to act only as a guarantor of the basic integrity of the poltical process, to protect Iraq from external threats, to occasionally provide assitance in maintaining internal security, and to, of course, project power throughout the region. If the Iraqis really did want us out -- and we mean the majority, of course -- why wouldn't we honor their wishes, assuming they were not becoming another terrorist state? We never had any plans to rule Iraq against the wishes of the majority of the public. So if the majority of Iraqis actually did ask us to depart, what, precisely, has been "lost"?

Us leaving in Iraq in that fashion would not be "losing a war." It would complying with the legitimate majoritarian wishes of the Iraqi populace, which has always been our plan.

So we're not quite sure what all the shrieking and nervous tics are about. We have accomplished all of our main goals in this war. In fact, we accomplished most of these main goals some time ago. We are now attempting not to win an actual war, but to conduct a humanitarian nation-building operation, at considerable cost in terms of dollars and American lives. If the Iraqis decide that our generosity and courage are no longer wanted, what is the downside to that, exaxtly?

Our main goals at this point is not killing Fallujah rebels nor Sadrist criminals. We are killing them, of course, but that is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. We are killing them in order to lessen the threat to our own troops and contractors and engineers in Iraq and to help make Iraq a more stable place in the future, when it's governing itself, and when it's patrolling itself. Our assistance on the latter score is an act of generosity and big-heartedness; it is not, however, an actual primary war-aim in and of itself. We should not fear Iraqis rejecting that generosity any more than we "fear" our unemployed cousin Norton refusing to take yet another loan from us.

The only likely path to political power in Iraq is through, well, political power. Minorities cannot prevail over much greater majorities through force of arms, unless those minorities are much more well-funded and well-armed than the majorities, which is simply not the case in Iraq, nor is it likely to ever be. The carnage in Iraq is not a campaign to kill Americans in order to win the country for one minority group or another; it is a campaign simply to kill Americans, because that is all these people know how to do, or are capable of doing.

American soldiers may die, and that is a tragedy, but the men who kill them cannot win some greater battle or achieve some greater political goal. Whoever ultimately rules Iraq will do so because they have obtained enough political popularity to do so, which is what America has always envisioned for Iraq anyway, and Sadrists and Fallujah Ba'athists cannot change that fact.

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posted by Ace at 01:41 PM

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