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May 13, 2004

Is the War in Iraq Winnable?: Our Real Goal in Iraq, and the Real Goal of the Terrorists

The Fallujah terrorists and the Sadrists both claim that they want America out of Iraq.

They do not. They want America to stay in Iraq.

They do not want America to cede political control to Iraqis. They want America to retrain control, breaking its promises.

Again, the situation here is strangely counter-intuitive.

America has announced that we are ceding political control on June 30. We are, substantially, giving the country back to Iraqis on that date.

The terrorists claim they want to drive us out of Iraq. What can this mean? That they want to drive us out of Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule? They're fighting in order to advance the transer-of-power date from June 30 to June 17?

They're fighting over a fortnight?

Of course not. The terrorists do not "want America out." What the terrorists want is to be in charge of Iraq whenever it is we leave. And for there to be any chance of that happening, they need us to leave later, not sooner.

There is no chance, currently, of the Ba'athists, or Sunnis generally, taking control of Iraq. If there were such a chance, they wouldn't be fighting us; they'd be cooperating with us, salivating over the soon-to-come day when we'd leave and put them back in control.

Similarly, there is no chance, currently, of the Sadrists taking control of Iraq. The Sadrists would not need to fight us in order to take control. They could simply wait for the elections, at which point the majority of Iraqis, supporting the Sadrist movement, would elect Moqtada al-Sadr Tyrant for Life.

The very fact they're fighting us demonstrates they do not have political power.

Their only real hope for power -- as slender as that hope might be -- is not to drive America out of Iraq, but to drive America deeper into Iraq. Not to force America to leave early, but to force America to stay longer.

They can attack Americans, and those who ally themselves with Americans, because it is a sad fact that the Muslims are a people hateful of Americans, even when the Americans liberate them. There is no major political price to pay for butchering Americans, even amongst Muslim "moderates."

There will, however, be a steep price to pay for killing fellow Iraqis, when Iraqis are in charge of their own country. There will be a hefty political price to pay, but that will be the lesser penalty. The bigger price will be the brutality with which such anti-Iraqi terrorism is put down.

The terrorists, then, are working with a limited window of opportunity. If power is transferred on June 30, as planned, they will not be allowed to run the country, and furthermore, they have no hope at all of fighting to win control of the country through force of arms.

Their goal, then, is to make the situation such that it becomes impossible for America to hand over power on June 30. America would be forced, by the actions of the very terrorists claiming to want us out so desperately, to stay longer. And then they hope that the majority of Iraqis become so enraged by the lingering American presence that they turn to the Ba'athists, or the Sadrists, as saviors.

They hope, at that point, the Iraqis say, "We now find the Americans more intolerable than we find you. Please-- drive them out. Drive them out, and we will give you what you so desperately want-- political control of Iraq."

It is in light of this reality that we must judge the actions of our military.

Do we want to just storm in and kill as many Fallujahans and Sadrists as possible? Yes, of course we do. But killing them is not our goal; killing them is only one tool in our toolbox for achieving our actual goal. Our actual goal is not necessarily to kill them, but to isolate them politically, and to insure that, when we withdraw on June 30, they will not have greater political power than they began their insurrections with.

We do not want to make them heroes, nor saviors.

And we do not want to undertake any action which, while reasonable in terms of achieving justice or vengeance, undermines the likelihood of our achieving our primary goal: creating an Iraq which is stable enough to handle its own internal problems. An Iraq which is stable enough to handle the terrorists itself, with all the sensitivity and mercy that Arab counter-insurgencies are historically known for.

If the terrorists really wanted us to leave Iraq sooner, they would negotiate to lay down their arms and begin cooperating. We're quite sure that, were they to do so, the CPA would be willing to cede authority in early June. And we're quite sure they know that.

Their goal is not to drive us out -- one does not fight to achieve something one already has. They are fighting, as all people fight, for something they don't currently have, and won't have, unless the situation changes: political control of Iraq.

The current schedule does not permit this, and this is why they terrorize.

And that's precisely why we can't deviate from this schedule. We cannot stay in control of Iraq longer, no matter how desperately the terrorists want us to.


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posted by Ace at 03:54 PM

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