Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why the Iranian And Al Qaeda Approval of The Elections Matters

The elections of Tuesday were hailed in Iran, and by Al Qaeda in Iraq head Abu Hamza al-Muhajir. Much harruphing has ensued.

Had a post at an internet forum I frequent that got me thinking. Editing out the profanity, the name calling, the naked trolling (trolling = making comments to upset people on purpose), and editing to fit Roberts' Rules of Order, here is the "Resolution":

RESOLVED, That Iranian Government and Al-Qaeda In Iraq approval of the recent elections should have no bearing on our strategic choices in the coming months in Iraq.

Like most internet forum debates, this rapidly devolved into a text version of The Argument Sketch.

The advocates state that simply because the terrorists and terror-sponsoring states approve of something doesn't make it automatically bad, and that they weren't terror supporters for agreeing with the outcome (and supporting removal of troops).

The opposition to the Resolution centered around the concept that the election results, at least in the eyes of those ideologically opposed to the US as well as its current policies, constitutes aid and comfort to the enemy based on the statements of our enemies themselves. There was a bit in there about one side or the other being lying gasbags spouting talking points and responses about the dubious parentage of one side or the other, but such is the course of most Internet debates.

Now, my buddy Shimmy over at Disturbingly Yellow, one of my favorite blogs, has wisely cautioned against taking everything the various flavors of Islamists say at face value -- part of their strategy, he notes, is to sow domestic dissent. It's one of the vulnerabilities of a democracy, after all, something that the hierarchical command structures of Al Qaeda and the Islamic Republic of Iran are not particularly subject to -- for instance, did Osama lose his office after being chased out of Afghanistan and losing the majority of his command structure? No.

After considering both sides, I rise in opposition to the Resolution. Here's my statement on the question before the House:

This is an ideological battle. We need to find, and then support, people that are offering a governance and economic system that in Arab minds is superior to what the Sunni-Taliban-Al Qaeda axis are offering, and also superior to the Shi'a-IRGC axis is offering. These would be the moderates we keep hearing about.

It's pretty apparent that the Sunni and Shi'a extremists have the means to argue in other than rhetorical terms that life will be worse under any governance structure other than their own narrow view, namely by blowing up things around the country and executing people until their opponents see the logic of their arguments. It's not apparent now that the elected, and for the Middle East, relatively moderate government is capable of articulating a policy in the same terms, and until that's the case we're abandoning the field of argument -- as well as those "moderates" that are so important -- when we pull out. If you'll remember, the last time Baker, Gates, et al were in charge at the White House we encouraged the Shi'a and Kurds to fight and then sat on our hands and did nothing while Saddam's troops slaughtered them from helicopter gunships. Mixed signals don't win you friends. Either we support the government the Iraqis elected until it can stand on its own two feet, or we need to simply formally announce to all moderates in the Middle East that they're on their own. Democracy is great if you can get it on your own, we say, but it's not so good that we'll actually help you get it, or keep it.

The subtext of this message is that you're an idiot if you're a moderate waiting for economic or political freedom. We're not willing to put anything out for it, and neither should you. Best of luck with it, but you're probably smarter looking over the literature of your local radical group if you want to make a difference.

Of course we need to leave at some point, and if we are to have permanent bases in Iraq they need to be like our permanent bases pretty much everywhere else -- leased, and with the consent of the governed. When the politics of the Phillipines went against US bases there, we abandoned a major naval base as well as an enormous airbase, and likely multiple smaller Army facilities as well. We DO leave when we're not wanted.

This comes down to a Sunni vs. Shi'a fight in Iraq, and as Voltaire observed, God is on the side with the largest divisions. Iraq will be immensely more peaceful when the Sunni leave the country. Sad, but true.

And of course the terrorists see this as a win, because it validates one of their main principles -- that the United States can't stay in a fight. The warrior spirit of the jihad will overcome technological superiority, and given enough time they will come close enough in technological partiy that their superior martial spirit will carry the day in any battle. What they've been saying all along, that the US is a paper tiger, is being proven true. It's not that our soldiers are wimps or cowards, I would have to say that the jihadis by now know better than to have a stand-up fight with the US Army or Marines. They just know where the weak points are, and the weakest point is the civilian hand that directs the military. They don't have to defeat the US military, the largest impediment to their eventual goal of a restored caliphate. They just have to get us to vote to make them go away, and the battles that they would continue to lose simply never happen.

Absolutely they're happy. And if we leave before the moderates are capable of ariculating a policy in military and security terms and are eventually defeated, well that's just another pennant to add to their battle flag, and yet another warning to any moderate in the Middle East -- the US will embolden you, and then abandon you. If you confront us, you'll lose -- your country, your family, your head.

The approval of the terrorists doesn't make things automatically right or wrong, but in this case if we leave Iraq unstable and vulnerable in the interest of domestic politics we will have done ourselves a generations-long disservice. The Islamist principles are foolish on the face, until we go and prove them right. At that point they don't need to burnish their reputation in the Muslim world -- we will have done it for them.

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