Jewish World ReviewApril 11, 2004 / 21 Nissan, 5764
Force is the only choice
One year ago, American soldiers helped a crowd of Iraqis tear down the
statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's Faradis Square. So ended the
Mother of all Battles.
Now, in Baghdad and throughout Iraq, U.S. forces are facing the
Mother of all Insurgencies.
The fighting in the streets is not, as a distraught Marine officer told
reporters, a reprise of the battle of Hue. Iraq isn't Vietnam except in
the minds of Teddy Kennedy, Robert Byrd and frequent fliers on the
Woodstock Time Machine.
On the other hand, it is also not Germany or Japan after World War II.
Turning Iraq into a democracy has always been a fantasy. Iraqis are as
likely to adopt an open political system as Americans are to make
cricket their national pastime, and for the same reasons: They are
foreigners' games, unnatural and unmanly.
What about all those public opinion polls showing a majority of Iraqis
hungry for democracy? They are, in a word, phony. After a lifetime of
repressive rule, the average Iraqi has a tendency to tell strangers with
questionnaires whatever seems safest.
No, one year after its invasion of Iraq, America has not won many
hearts or minds. It never had a chance. Watch the screaming lunatics
drag torched corpses through the streets and you realize that these are
hearts and minds impervious to civilized feeling or rational thought.
Not all Iraqis, of course, belong to the lynch mob, but disconcertingly
few seem outraged by its words or deeds.
There is no outrage in the wider Middle East, either. There is also no
anti-American insurrection on the so-called Arab Street. Arab
dictators know how to keep their people in line, which is why most of
them have ruled for decades. From North Africa to the Persian Gulf,
national politics are ultimately the politics of the gun. Iraq is no
America seems, finally, to be grasping that. Arab body counts are often
wildly exaggerated, but if it is even close to true that the Marines have
killed 280 in Fallujah, this is a Middle Eastern count. Keep it up for a
town or two more, and Iraq will be as quiet as it was under Saddam.
At which point, the question is: What to do with that quiet? America
has to step back and consider what its actual interests are, in Iraq and
The U.S. has embarked on a war against aggressive anti-American
Islamic fascists. This war will inevitably take America to Syria and Iran,
and ultimately Saudi Arabia. Iraq (and Afghanistan) are no more than
theaters in that wider regional conflict.
The reason for the war is simple: Jihad (of the Saudi, Saddamite, Bin
Ladenist, Hezbollah or Iranian flavors) threatens American security.
Victory means disarming Middle Eastern dictators of weapons that
reach beyond the neighboring village; demoralizing and killing
terrorists and closing their bases; cutting off funds for anti-American
indoctrination; supporting friendly regimes in the area, and protecting
the U.S. oil supply.
These things can best be accomplished in Iraq without turning it into a
model of American values. Once the place is pacified, the U.S. should
turn power over to locals (the current "governing council" will do), lay
down a few basic limitations and withdraw its troops into garrisons in
the countryside - with the clear understanding that they will be back if
the ground rules are broken.
Despairing voices ask: How will this all end? This is a self-defeating
question. You can always scare yourself into inaction by conjuring up
the ghosts of Vietnam. But the Vietcong never tried to kill a U.S.
President, or blow up a train in Spain or attack downtown Manhattan. If
the jihad isn't put down in Iraq - and beyond - with brutal finality, the
Mother of Insurgencies may be coming to a theater near you.
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