The War We're Losing
June 28, the day in 2004 that the Americans transferred sovereignty to
Iraqis and proconsul Paul Bremer hastily departed Baghdad, is a day freighted
with historic significance.
On June 28, 1914, 90 years before, Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip fired the
shots that killed the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and led, five weeks
later, to World War I.
On June 28, 1919, German representatives, their country under an Allied
starvation blockade, prostrate before a threat by Marshal Foch to march on
Berlin, signed the Versailles treaty that ended World War I and set the stage
for Hitler and World War II. Seen as an Allied triumph in 1919, Versailles
proved a disaster.
Thus, it is a good time to attempt to draw up an interim profit-and-loss
statement of what President Bush has accomplished in what he calls the "War on
Terror." Who is winning this war?
To answer that question, we must first ask and answer antecedent questions.
What is the war about? What are we fighting for? Who, exactly, is the enemy in
this war? What is he fighting for?
Since 9-11, the president's objectives have been to exact retribution for the
massacre, overthrow the Taliban enablers of Osama, run al-Qaida out of
Afghanistan, remove Saddam, disarm Iraq and defend America. He has attained
them all. Yet, 54 percent of Americans believe invading Iraq was a mistake.
The nation understands that something has gone wrong.
The nation is right. For what this war is really about is who shall rule in
the Islamic world. Will it be the men who share our views and values? Or will
it be True Believers who will purge that world of what they see as our odious
and corrupt presence?
What our enemies seek in the great Sunni Triangle from Rabat to Chechnya to
Mindanao is what the Iranian Revolution achieved: to be rid of the Americans
and of rulers that they view as vile puppets of the United States, to purify
their societies and to unite their world against the West.
If this is indeed the ultimate goal of the radical Islamists, the U.S.
invasion of Iraq was a strategic victory for the enemy.
Consider what has happened as a result of our war on Iraq. An enemy of Islamic
fundamentalism, Saddam, has been removed. His secular Baath Party is gone. A
vacuum has opened up in Iraq that the Islamists and their allies may one day
fill. The Arab world has been radicalized and supports the Iraqi resistance in
its drive to defeat and expel the Americans.
The destabilization of the Saudi monarchy through terror has begun. Rulers in
Arab countries have been forced to distance themselves from the Americans if
they wish to retain the support of their people. Western tourists are staying
away from the Middle East, Western investment is on hold, and Western workers
have begun to depart Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
"There exists today a hatred of Americans never equaled in the region,"
Egyptian President Mubarak told Le Monde. "In the beginning, some people
thought the Americans were helping them. There was no hatred toward Americans.
After what happened in Iraq, there is an unprecedented hatred, and the
Americans know it."
This longtime friend added, "American and Israeli interests are not safe, not
only in our region but in other parts of the world, in Europe, in America,
anywhere in the world." The war on Iraq into which his neo-conservative
advisers prodded the president seems to have ignited the very "war of
civilizations" between Islam and America that the president said he wanted to
Raised to believe in the innate goodness of America and the nobility of her
purposes, President Bush finds it hard to believe the best recruiting tool al-Qaida
and the Iraqi insurgents have is the presence on Iraqi soil of the U.S.
soldiers he sent to "liberate" Iraq.
Of late, the president appears to have begun to understand that our presence
is a primary cause of the war of resistance and that, when this phase ends,
the real war, the civil war to decide which Iraqis rule in Iraq, begins. Will
it be Iraqis who wish to belong to the modern world? Or Iraqis who wish to be
part of the anti-American Islamic revolution?
War, Clausewitz reminded us, is but the extension of politics by other means.
All wars, even wars in which terror is the weapon of choice of the enemy, are
about, as Lenin said: "Who? Whom?" Who shall rule whom? And even in an Arab
world where monarchs and autocrats now rule, the victors will be those who win
the hearts and minds of Arab peoples.
This is the war we are losing. And to win this struggle, the United States
needs to do three things that may go against the political interests of both
parties: Stand up for justice for the Palestinians. Remove our imperial
presence. Cease to intervene in their internal affairs.
We Americans once stood for all that. And if we go only where we are invited,
we would be invited more often to come and help.
© 2004 Creators
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