Bush This Step in the Right Direction Could be his Last Chance

-By Warner Todd Huston

“Imagine this war as a sort of grotesque race. The jihadists and sectarians win if they can kill enough Americans to demoralize us enough that we flee before Iraqis and Afghans stabilize their newfound freedom. They lose if they can’t. Prosperity, security and liberty are the death knell to radical Islam. It’s that elemental.”
—Victor Davis Hanson

A “new plan” for Iraq, at last some sense… Bush’s plan revealed

Bush finally acts as if he truly wants to win this battle to give Iraq a chance to stabilize its foundling government by desiring to send in 20,000 more troops to “clear, hold, and build”, as the phrase has it. Clear out the insurgent and terrorist’s cells, hold the territory taken and then give the nascent Iraqi government a chance to establish itself as well as give the common Iraqi citizen the feeling of safety that befits a civilized society.

Sadly, Bush should have done this at least two years ago. In fact, many said from the beginning that we hadn’t enough troops to win the peace from the beginning. Those who made that claim were 100 percent right. But, that he has seen the sense of it and is proposing it now is a good thing. Better late than never.

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

Not just for the safety of the USA, Mr. president, but for the very lives of the people in Iraq for whom we have accept charge. And this is the one area that unfeeling Democrats and Paleocons wish to ignore. What happens if we precipitously leave Iraq? A blood bath as Iran tries to seize control (using the Syria/Lebanon model) and then fights with Al Qaeda and Saddam loyalists for territory. But, Paleocons and leftists have already decided that Iraq’s citizens are not worth their effort to care about, they have already written the Iraqi people off. (And, were I a Paleocon, I’d feel very uneasy about being on the same side as the anti-American left and leading Democrats)

It is also good that Bush is focusing on the region around Baghdad. If the Iraqi government cannot hold their own capitol, they have an immediate face of weakness. Baghdad must be cleared and held.

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq’s sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

Bush goes on to explain what will be different this time.

Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents — but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods — and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

Here is the “clear, hold, and build” strategy I was referring to in the first half of this analysis. We have cleared out the insurgents many times in various places in Iraq. But, since we never had the troop strength to hold the area, we left as soon as the immediate mission was accomplished — and it was usually pretty quickly accomplished. However, clearing them and then leaving the area was counter productive. When you turn on the lights in a cockroach-infested kitchen, for instance, you see, the roaches scamper away, but the second the light is off again, they come out once more. Similarly, by clearing and leaving we allowed the cockroaches to come back as often as we left. This prevents any stability from visiting the area and keeps the local populace on the side of the insurgents and terrorists.

Here is the single most salient point the president made.

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy — by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom — and help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.

When this war first began many of us, myself and the president included, wanted to steer as far clear of the talk of the “clash of civilizations” business as possible. We aren’t at war with all of Islam, we stressed. It is still true that we aren’t at war with Islam per se. But it is gallingly obvious that we are, indeed, in a clash of civilizations. On one hand is western liberty, democracy and freedom led by the USA and on the other is oppression, murder, and anti-modernity represented by radical Islam. The key problem is that the so-called moderates in the Islamic world are not opposing radical Islam. In fact, many of these moderates give tacit support to the radicals imagining that it merely won’t hurt the moderates to turn from their responsibilities of peaceful conduct and give a wink and a nod to the radicals. The moderates console themselves that the radicals are going after the west and just might leave them alone. It is a mistaken conception.

Yet, what reason besides a basic responsibility to a greater humanity compels moderates to speak out against the radicals? Should they do so, will they get the support of the west? It seems no is the answer to that. America stands alone in giving succor to any moderate who might find it in his soul to work against radicals and if we falter we offer moderates no support at all and leave them naked to radical aggression. We but show them it’s best to keep their heads down and hope the storm passes them by.

It will not pass them by without American opposition. The president knows that and I predict he will go down in history as one leader in the west who was right about what we face.

In one of his closing paragraphs, Bush said the following:

From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories, millions of ordinary people are sick of the violence, and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children. And they are looking at Iraq. They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists — or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?

I add this. Democrats and anti-Americans are not “sick of the violence”. They could not care less about “the violence”. If they were truly sick of the violence they’d want to find a way to stop it. But, they only care about defeating the GOP and bringing down Bush’s administration and they merely want the USA out of the Middle East entirely quite without any consideration of the consequences. The violence that would escalate after we leave is of no interest to them. The violence that would engulf the entire Mideast is not something they care anything about.

Theirs is an inhumane, narcissistic blindness to the lives of millions of Middle Easterners.

But, they’ll suddenly scream bloody murder if they find their oil spigot turned off and waves of suicide bombers appearing on our shores trained and equipped in the lost regions of the Mid East that they advocated we leave, wouldn’t they?

Naturally, they’d blame everyone else, too.

Still, this is probably Bush’s last chance to make Iraq work. And the way the left is lining up to defeat even this attempt to solve the issues facing Iraq it may come to pass that he waited too long to propose this. Bush has a fight in Congress before the first boot touches the ground in Iraq and, for all our sake; I hope it is a battle he wins quickly and decisively.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001