Only Iraqis Can Save Iraq

Patrick J. Buchanan

August 27  2003

After the terror attacks of August, the car-bombing of the Jordanian embassy, the blowing up of the oil pipeline to Turkey and the water main in Baghdad, and the truck-bombing of the U.N. headquarters, it is clear that Iraq's fate rests with the Iraqi people.

If 25 million Iraqis are not willing to fight for a democratic future, 139,000 U.S. soldiers cannot win it for them. If President Bush cannot persuade Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to enlist in this guerrilla war which is about their future, not ours he should start bringing the troops home now.

Nor does the president have much time to decide. A Newsweek poll shows 69 percent of Americans concerned we are already bogged down and 60 percent believing the occupation of Iraq already costs too much.

Unless Iraqis stand up against the nationalist guerrillas and Islamic warriors entering from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria to kill our soldiers and disrupt reconstruction, we cannot win this new war and build for them a new nation.

In Vietnam, the Diem and Thieu-Ky governments and the army were with us. Most Vietnamese detested the Viet Cong. After Tet in 1968, the South Vietnamese enlisted, fought and died in the hundreds of thousands alongside Americans.

But if Iraqis are not willing to fight, we should not do their fighting for them. "Who would be free / Themselves must strike the blow," said the poet Byron. Before we undertake a war some predict could last five or 10 years, we have to know if the Iraqis care enough to commit themselves.

Ambassador Bremer and the Pentagon know the level of cooperation we are receiving in the fighting and in running down the Islamic warriors. Perhaps it is greater than some of us, 7,000 miles away, realize. But from this vantage point, it appears the United States has built a fort in the heart of Indian country. Iraqis seem to rejoice in the killing of Americans.

Where were the expressions of outrage by Sunni and Shiite imams over the massacres at the Jordanian embassy and U.N. headquarters? Where are the Iraqi leaders who curse and condemn those who kill U.S. soldiers? Are the media failing to report the cooperation we are receiving?

When guerrillas dynamited the pipeline to Turkey and blew up the Baghdad water main, it was not America they were targeting. They were denying Iraqis the hard cash from their oil resources and denying them water in the heat of summer. Where were the calls from imams to punish the men who had done this?

President Bush may not realize it, but his entire foreign policy is at risk in Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom may be studied in military schools as a textbook example of how to invade a nation with an army inferior in numbers. But it may also serve, as did the Afghan adventure of Brezhnev, as a textbook example of how an empire places an army in an indefensible position in inhospitable terrain amid a hostile population, and is forced to execute a humiliating retreat that destroys its image of invincibility.

Whether one supported or opposed the invasion, a fair accounting would seem to be this: On the credit side of the ledger, Saddam's regime is removed, the threat of its acquiring weapons of mass destruction gone. Friendly nations appear impressed by, and unfriendly regimes intimidated by, the raw display of U.S. power.

On the debit side, North Korea and Iran have not been deterred from seeking nuclear weapons by our invasion, but seem to have been steeled into rushing to complete their nuclear programs. And we have 139,000 U.S. soldiers enmeshed in a guerrilla war, the end of which we cannot see, the outcome of which we do not know.

Before this war, not one act of terror against America was traced to Saddam. But since his regime fell, 60 U.S. soldiers have been killed, with hundreds more wounded, and Iraq has become the main battleground in the War on Terror.

By invading Iraq, as Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution states, we "have done the terrorists a favor by putting 200,000 Westerners within their reach." Now, they are coming from all over the Islamic world to earn paradise by killing Americans in the Great Jihad.

President Bush needs to explain to his countrymen why we must fight, now, with Saddam gone. He needs to determine if the Iraqi people are willing to fight beside us, or if they prefer to be spectators as we fight their war. And he needs to devise an exit strategy if we have now gotten ourselves into yet another unwinnable war.

2003 Creators Syndicate, Inc.





 

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