Jewish World Review July 13, 2003 / 13 Tamuz, 5763

Zev Chafets

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Consumer Reports

It's a mistake to
battle insurgents | If I were President Bush, I wouldn't fight a guerrilla war in Iraq.

Instead, I'd focus every effort on killing Saddam Hussein and his sons. Then I'd appoint a friendly local regime, garrison U.S. troops in some out-of-the-way bases in the Iraqi hinterland and lay down a few ground rules for the new government: no chemical or biological weapons. No military or political alliances with outside powers. No aggression against neighbors. No anti-American incitement in state-controlled mass media or schoolbooks. And no interference with the free, market-rate flow of oil.

Violate these restrictions, and the U.S. Army comes back in force. Accept them, and you can run things as you like.

I don't for a minute think this kind of disengagement would lead to democracy. There's no evidence Iraqis want a democratic government. There is even less reason to think the U.S. can impose one.

Bush evidently disagrees. He is willing to wage a prolonged guerrilla war for the sake of turning Iraq into an open society. "Bring 'em on," he says. Critics still traumatized by Vietnam think such a war can't be won. They're wrong. The U.S. can win a guerrilla war (if victory is defined as achieving equilibrium), but only if the public supports it. That obliges the President to tell the nation the facts of life.

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Fact One: Iraqis aren't shooting at U.S. soldiers because the G.I.s have bungled postwar municipal management. Hostility is the product of a brutal, xenophobic, anti-American culture. A lot of Iraqis like Saddam. Most prefer him - or some other local tyrant - to Uncle Sam.

What about the cheers that greeted G.I.s when they reached Baghdad? Sorry, but in the Arab world, foreign conquerors are always greeted with roses - followed by bullets. Soon, the bullets are replaced by bombs. U.S. casualties, now a matter of tens, will become hundreds and, if it goes on long enough, thousands.

Fact Two: Winning a guerrilla war, as Israel has done against the Palestinians, requires fighting fire with fire. That means targeted assassinations, collective punishments, severe economic sanctions and the willingness to inflict civilian casualties. It's not for sissies.

It's hard to sell this kind of war to civilians who are not in personal danger. Even many Israelis supported a campaign of measured brutality only after realizing there was no way to physically disengage from the enemy and that proximity to the Palestinian terrorists had turned Israelis into targets.

Fact Three: The U.S. is engaged in an unfinished war in the Mideast. In Iran, the ayatollahs are desperately trying to go nuclear. Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestine Authority remain engaged in the care and feeding of international terrorists. Al Qaeda is on the loose. Bogging the army down in Baghdad will make it extremely difficult to deal with these genuine threats to national security.

Bush may be right in thinking that he can impose democracy where where none has ever been. So far, he has been a terrific wartime leader, and he has earned the benefit of the doubt.

But that's not the same as saying that there are no doubts. Hopefully, the President himself has already experienced them and come up with good answers to the question: Why should the U.S. fight a guerrilla war for Iraqi democracy?

If he hasn't entertained such doubts, he's getting the wrong kind of advice. And if he doesn't have answers, he's going to be sorry.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

07/10/03: It's a mistake to send troops to Liberia
06/26/03: A Dem leaps in and lands on his face
06/20/03: Let Iraq build its own playgrounds
06/12/03: Raines and Clinton — boomers gone astray
06/09/03: Why Hillary did believe Bubba and what it says about her prospective presidency
06/04/03: Iran is next: Bush must tell Americans the Big Truth about ayatollahs
05/30/03: NYTimes has a bigger problem than Blair and Bragg — Dowd
05/27/03: Political — and literal — suicide
05/12/03: That noise is Europe rising
05/09/03: Dems overplay the economy card
05/05/03: Truth or Consequences: To win Arab liberals' trust, Bush needs to find Iraq's WMDs
05/01/03: U.S. security, not economy, is key for prez
04/28/03: Real artists, not airheads
04/22/03: Sealed With a Kiss
04/14/03: Don't believe the cheers
04/03/03: Iraq's only the start --- Syria & Iran are next
04/01/03: War's happy troubadours
03/27/03: What's not going on is the key in this war
03/20/03: The big question: Can Arabs handle liberty?
03/17/03: In war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry --- now, let's go get 'em!
03/13/03: Jewish plot? This pol has gone punchy
03/11/03: Prez is ready to finish off the Security Council, too
03/04/03: Those human shields need some star power
02/28/03: How prez could further racial pluralism but end affirnative action
02/24/03: Prof's arrest will test Arab Americans' loyalty
02/11/03: Rhyme, but no reason
02/04/03: McGovern's children
01/23/03: A peace movement that's going nowhere
01/13/03: No time for experts
01/07/03: Senator from Mayberry shouldn't alarm prez
12/31/02: Dem Dummies
12/19/02: Saudis still play Santa to Arafat
12/13/02: Lott has to be dumped to save W's authority
12/05/02: Kissinger's Saudi pals litter 9/11 money trail
11/25/02: Sharon looks like a winner
11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
11/14/02: The Dems don't have a prayer
11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
10/31/02: Sharpton the patriot
10/22/02: Rabin, gone but not missed
10/17/02: Israelis bracing for US' punch at Iraq
10/14/02: Geriatric war resisters
09/27/02: Al Gore: The Lost Boy of American politics
09/05/02: The intifadeh's over, and the Israelis won
08/29/02: At the world summit, just anger & hypocrisy
08/21/02: No time for weak knees on Iraq
08/16/02: A pro-Arab pol may get the beating she deserves
08/13/02: Fight it out now
08/02/02: Memo to The Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. values won't sell in Arab world
07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

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