Wither Iraq?

In the aftermath of the first World War, Germany not only found itself in ruins, but it had the added burden of paying stiff reparations to the allies. Moreover, Germany was prohibited from rearming. With the humiliation and economic disruption Germany faced, it's not surprising that one Adolph Hitler and his National Socialists became popular by telling the German people what a raw deal they had been given; that a Jewish conspiracy running the world was responsible, and that Germans, the greatest people on earth, should reclaim their historical lands and cultural glory. The ideology of National Socialism was touted as the wave of the future and the path to a resurgent Fatherland. So when Germany started to rearm, the League of Nations and the allies, weary of war, did nothing. The result was a second World War, which some could see as a continuation of the first World War.

Fast forward to 2003. Saddam Hussein, a tyrant every bit as vicious, if not more so, than Hitler, was dictator of a ruined country. Like Germany, Iraq was prohibited from rearming and faced economic sanctions that kept its economy crippled. Saddam told his people that they had been treated unfairly, and that Iraq was still at war with the United States. His Baathist ideology, which was invented by a Syrian who modeled it after Germany's Nazi ideology, was unpopular, so the previously secular Saddam invoked Islam to win favor with his people and provide an excuse for further war. He threatened revenge, tried to assassinate George H.W. Bush and even moved divisions to the Kuwaiti border until warned off. With the "Oil for Food" program, Saddam earned abundant revenue that financed more of his palaces and the beginnings of a rearmament program.

That the United Nations was unwilling to discipline Iraq or enforce its own resolutions was due to Saddam having bought off numerous officials and the eagerness of Russia, France and China to resume business with a potentially rich Iraq. So when Saddam threw out weapons inspectors in 1998, the U.N. did nothing, just as the League of Nations failed to act against Germany. The Russians, French and Chinese were actively lobbying to end sanctions against Iraq and return to business as usual. When they succeeded, there is no doubt they would, Iraq would have resumed its weapons of mass destruction programs even if sanctions against importing weapons material remained in place. What, then, would have happened? If Saddam had the weapons and means to deliver them, would he have resumed his aggressive behavior towards his neighbors and sought revenge?

(The United Nations has a history of fecklessness regarding international security issues. It ignored Rwanda. It allowed the massacre of 7,000 people under U.N. care at Sebrenica. While the U.N. does admirable things to help humanity, despite its corruption, nowhere has it effectively maintained or imposed security. And to expect the U.N. to make a stand against Iran's nuclear program is an exercise in fantasy.)

I favored the war with Iraq because I thought that, given enough time, Iraq would present more of a danger than ever. If Hitler had been stopped early, there would have been no second World War. Likewise, if Saddam were stopped, it would prevent an even worse war, one with WMD, in the future. I would have conducted a different strategy in the war, but I thought it was necessary if the international security system was to have any credibility.

The leftists claim that the administration lied about Saddam having WMD, but make no claims about what Saddam might have done in the future. In fact, every knowledgeable analyst thought Saddam had WMD and was successfully hiding them in his vast country. Republicans thought so. Democrats thought so. Our allies thought so. Even the U.N. thought so. After all, even if he wasn't actively manufacturing them, he still had vast quantities unaccounted for, along with both the personnel and the equipment to resume production when sanctions were lifted. To claim that the administration lied about WMD belies the fact that the available intelligence indicated there was an effort in Iraq to hide the WMD and eventually reconstitute their production. What's more, no intelligence analyst could make the claim that Saddam had no WMD because there was no intelligence supporting it.

Moreover, Saddam was starving his people and withholding medicine by diverting "Oil for Food" funds into projects to glorify himself and his cronies. That the left continues to say that the sanctions imposed by the U.N. and enforced by the coalition were responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people is only too typical. How long would the left have let the Iraqi people suffer under Saddam? How many people would be tortured and executed, starved and left to die of illness so that Saddam could continue to build lavish palaces and give his Sunni cronies new Mercedes?

If the U.S. failed to anticipate the chaos of Iraq after the fall of Saddam, it is because of mirror imaging the belief that all people value freedom. The mistakes were many in administering the country, and the situation was not helped by corruption and greed, incompetence and ignorance. Yet, the Iraqis were given a chance to fashion a new country. What emerged was a power struggle.

Aside from Baathists wanting their power back, and Islamic radicals looking to form an Islamic country, you also have the most fundamental clash in any Islamic country. The Sunnis have dominated the Shia and now the Shia are in a position to dominate the Sunnis. Since Shia, sponsored and encouraged by Iran, are considered heretics in the Arab Sunni countries, and no Shias have ever imposed their will on Sunnis (except in southeast Iran), you have a struggle that is of prime importance to Arab Sunnis everywhere, and, of course, vital to Iran. So both the Arabs and the Persians are funneling money, arms and fighters into Iraq to determine whether Sunnis or Shia will control the country. If the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, the struggle would intensify from a proxy war into a civil war.

What may have worse consequences, however, is that Islamic radicals look to the past for guidance. This Salafist doctrine holds that Muslims should emulate the first Muslims of the seventh century and adhere strictly to the words of the Prophet. If only Muslims are worthy enough, then there is nothing Allah won't do for them. So when the Muslim Arabs launched their Fatah out of Arabia in the seventh and eighth centuries, they defeated the overwhelmingly powerful Byzantine armies at Yarmuk and the mighty Persian armies at Qadissiya because, they believed, Allah was pleased with them. Then they went on to spread their conquests as far as southern France, Hungary and northern India, all because they were pure Muslims.

So when the Soviets were driven from Afghanistan, the U.S. withdrew from Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing in 1983, and the Israelis were unsuccessful against Hezbollah this summer, the Muslims' success was taken as a sign that Allah will help them defeat the mightiest armies on earth. For the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq without defeating the jihadists would be taken as yet another signal that Allah favors the overthrow of the United States and its conversion into an Islamic state. That's why the jihadis would eventually follow us back to America.

So what's the solution? I personally think that the Bosnia model is the only way. Bosnia experienced a civil war between Croats, Serbs and Bosniacs (Muslims) and the solution was to form a joint Croat-Bosniac confederacy linked to a Serbian territory, all under a joint federal government. If the Shia and the Kurds were given an autonomous territory to rule as they see fit, and the Sunni were accorded the same provision, all under a joint federal government, I suspect the competition between the Sunni Arab world and the Persian Shia world would subside. That would enable the Iraqi security forces to patrol their own respective territories with their own co-religionists.

Obviously, it's a difficult path ahead. But the present course can't win. It's time to apply a creative solution.

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