Across the Bay

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Young on Iraq "Strategies"

Here are a couple of pieces by Michael Young on some of the current chatter (all of a sudden becoming conventional wisdom!) on Iraq and the need for a US "exit strategy."

Michael ends one of the pieces with the following important questions:

"There is probably no magical solution in Iraq; only a long hard slog. Opponents of the war who demand a quick pullout must maneuver their arguments over the piles of prospective victims this option would surely produce. However, it is among the supporters of the war, conditional and unconditional, that the transformation has been truly dramatic, and where acceptance of defeat is suddenly so widespread. But are they right, or are they just victims of the latest Washington fad—the pull of irrevocable doom? After watching the Iraqis written out of their own narrative for so long, are the doomsayers now prematurely writing America out of the Iraqi narrative?"

These points echo IraqPundit's lamenting on his site of what he calls "The iron triangle that consists of power and polls and the press":

"I wonder how the situation would change if Iraqis (you remember them?) were allowed to compete in this Washington contest. Letting them be heard clearly could certainly change the meaning of banner headlines about the "Impact of Insurgents."

In an alternate universe that included Iraqis (and not just the disappointing raw security recruits), we might, for example, have the occasional headline about their "resolve." Fallujah's thugs have had "resolve" attributed to them in front-page headlines, but never ordinary Iraqis.

Yet ordinary Iraqis seem to be showing a great deal of resolve in the face of murder, and a great deal of commitment to the coming elections. I have discovered evidence of this in an obscure publication called The Washington Post, in a dusty edition that originally appeared on Monday, December 20, 2004. It may be unreasonable of me to expect the Post editors who wrote the "Impact" headline for the Tuesday Post to take into account what the paper had to say about Iraqis in the Monday Post (the same day these editors were composing the Tuesday front). I'll just reproduce the evidence here.

In a lengthy account of the weekend's horrific bombings, Post staffers and stringers gathered Iraqi reaction to these attempts to intimidate them. Here's one example:

"'These attacks aim to destroy the country and the holy sites. This is terrorism against Shiites,' said Fadhil Salman, 41, the owner of the Ghufran Hotel in Najaf. 'They want to foil the elections, but this won't deter us.'"

Here's another:

"'God saved us,' said Abu Ahmed, an employee of Kawther Transportation Co., whose office was just 10 yards from the blast. He was cut by flying glass.
'All the dead and wounded were civilians,' he said by telephone. 'But this won't stop the people from returning to their normal lives.'"

Here's a third:

"'I swear to God, even if they burn all the elections centers, we will still go and vote,' said Ali Waili, 29, a taxi driver reached by telephone in Karbala. 'We have been mistreated for a long time, we have been tortured for a long time.'"

Here's a fourth:

"Those responsible [for blasts at a mosque] 'must be trying to incite sectarian strife, but this will not happen,' said a mosque caretaker, Ali Mashhadani.

There's more in the same story. What then is the "impact" among Iraqis of the campaign of murder and terror being directed against them? Based on the Post's own evidence, it appears to have been to strengthen Iraqi resolve, restraint, and commitment.

The Post is quite interested in acknowledgements, so perhaps the Post will acknowledge the Iraqi resolve that its own staff has observed, and then place the U.S. effort in that context. I'm waiting for the big banner headline about it.

I'll have something similar to say in my response to Dr. Emile and the really annoying Left vs. Right face-off that dominates the talk about Iraq in the US.