The distinguished historian Bernard Lewis, writing for the Wall Street Journal, surveys the situation in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. He finds it surprising that things are going much better in Afghanistan than in Iraq, and attributes this to the fact that “in Afghanistan there is an Afghan government, while in Iraq there is an Amreican adminstration.” He recommends that the U.S. “hand over [control], as soon as possible, to a genuine Iraqi government.
I don’t think anyone would take issue with this recommendation. But the rub comes in giving content to the phrase “as soon possible,” and Lewis seems overly optimistic in assessing when that might be. He thinks that “the nucleus of [a genuine Iraqi] government is already available, in the Iraqi National Congress, headed by Ahmad Chalabi.”
Without intending to disparage Chalabi, I don’t see the merit of turning any control over to him in the near future. It seems to me that causes of instabilty in Iraq are: (1) the desire of the Baathists to drive the U.S. out regain power, (2) the desire of international terrrorists to inflict defeat on the U.S., and (3) the desires of Iran and Iraqi Shiites to advance their interests, sometimes the same and sometimes different. Under these circumstances, the U.S. clearly can’t disengage, as Lewis seems to acknowledge in a section of his piece about how militant Islam still is not convinced that the U.S. has the resolve to effectively fight them over the long haul. And I don’t see how turning any degree of control over to Chalabi while we’re still around would help. The Baathists would still want to take back power, the Al Qaeda types would still want to kill and humiliate us, and I don’t think the Shiites see a Chalabi government as the answer to their prayers.
Lewis’ fallacy, I think, is to assume that misguided, but good faith resentment about our role is contributing significantly to the violence in Iraq. Those who are engaging in the violence are misguided only to the extent that we prove able to destroy them.
DEACON adds: Perhaps Lewis believes that Iraqis would cooperate more with an Iraqi adminstration than with an American one, thus improving the quality of intelligence about the insurgents and terrorists. However, I would be skeptical of such a claim, particularly to the extent that the Iraqi administration is one imposed by the U.S. I suspect that the level of cooperation any administration obtains in this type of situation is largely a function of the populace’s confidence in that adminstration’s prospects for long-term success
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