June 26, 2005

IT'S NOT ABOUT WINNING, BUT DYING:

The Good News and Bad News: This is the picture in Iraq: A conflict that the United States cannot easily lose, but also cannot easily win. (Fareed Zakaria, 7/04/05, Newsweek)

I don't see how Iraq's insurgency can win. It lacks the support of at least 80 percent of the country (Shiites and Kurds), and by all accounts lacks the support of the majority of the Sunni population as well. It has no positive agenda, no charismatic leader, virtually no territory of its own, and no great power suppliers. That's why parallels to Vietnam and Algeria don't make sense. But despite all these obstacles, the insurgents launched 700 attacks against U.S. forces last month, the highest number since the invasion.

Since when has the impossibility of winning ever limited an isms willingness to expend the lives of its adherents? The pace of attacks will slow when we leave. Until then we just keep kiling them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 26, 2005 1:46 PM
Comments

I find it annoying that people judge the Iraq war based on the number of insurgent attacks or on the number of US casualties. It's totally superficial and ahistorical. Folks, the Japanese and Germans inflicted more casualties in 1944 than they did 1942. The Germans (at least) also had better weapons. That didn't mean we were losing. We also inflicted more casualties on them, and had better weapons of our own.

We are clearly winning, though it's not an instantaneous process. And we are also learning valuable lessons about fighting this kind of war, which means we'll do better the next time.

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 26, 2005 1:58 PM

I didn't read the article but the increased number of attacks makes sense if a) the insurgency was in its last desperate days and b) the insurgents were from Syria, Saudia Arabia, and elsewhere where there is stronger resistance to a democratic Iraq than in Iraq itself.

Posted by: AWW at June 26, 2005 1:59 PM

Rumsfield today said that he thought the insurgency could go on for up to 12 years, and that it would be the responsibility of Iraqis to defeat it. I think they're laying the groundwork for major troop reductions after the general elections in December.

Posted by: djs at June 26, 2005 2:17 PM

And just how would the hand-wringers react if Bush said "wouldn't it be nice if we could just kill the 5000 or so bad guys tonight?"?

I can hear Durbin (and Voinovich) already....

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 26, 2005 3:05 PM

I'm not as confident that the pace of attacks will diminish when we leave. All else equal, the jihadis will want to destroy our legacy there. Of course, the Iraqi government will be ruthless in defending itself.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 26, 2005 3:11 PM

Hitler had no trouble putting down an insurgency in Warsaw. Bureaucratic paralysis is our weakness. Our vanity is that you can fight a dirty opponent without getting mud on yourself. At this point we don't want to win in Iraq badly enough.

Posted by: at June 26, 2005 4:49 PM

It's a problem we aren't Hitlerian?

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2005 5:37 PM

Hitlerian? We aren't even Shermanesque.

But then, I guess, OJ you live under a delusion where it is possible to ignore the last 1400 years of world history and believe contrary to all evidence that it is possible for Muslims to live in peace with their non-Muslim neighbors.

It also doesn't help matters when our President's family is dependent on largesse from the nation which is the world's primary supporter of international terrorism, Saudi Arabia. An 'anti-terrorism' policy that ignores the role of the Saudi royal family in financing, promulgating, planning and providing the philosophical underpinnings of international terror is about as useful as fighting brain cancer with leeches.

Posted by: bart at June 26, 2005 6:25 PM

Bart, I may have said this before, but I seriously doubt Bush is "ignoring" the Saudi role in all this. Despite the lefty caricature of Bush as an out-of-control warmonger, I think his actions are ultimately aimed directly at the Saudis, and they know it. He hopes that a democratized Iraq will force the Saudis, Iranians, and Syrians to clean up their act. It might not work, but it's worth a try, before we try to conquer Saudi Arabia with armed force.

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 26, 2005 6:41 PM

Saudi Arabia can be conquered by a boyscout troop.

Posted by: obc at June 26, 2005 7:00 PM

bart, That's some statement. The president's family depends on the largesse of the Saudi's. You mean Laura, the girls, mom and pop are all dependent on Saudi charity? That makes no sense.

Posted by: erp at June 26, 2005 7:09 PM

Especially when everyone knows they're owned by the Jews.

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2005 7:18 PM

We've lived together in peace for nearly all of those 1400 years.

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2005 7:19 PM

Hunh?

Posted by: joe shropshire at June 26, 2005 7:23 PM

Even if true, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

Posted by: joe shropshire at June 26, 2005 7:37 PM

The Invisible Man, supra, has it rightly. The reason the Baathist werewolves are more of a problem than the Nazi werewolves it thay we haven't properly prepared them for surrender. We don't need to be Hitlerian, merely Rooseveltian and Trumanesque.

That's why there is no timetable here. This sort of thing can sputter along indefinitely: Israel has been dealing with it for over 50 years.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 26, 2005 8:09 PM

the Baathists will finish the war not having killed as many Americans as died in the pening hours of the war in Europe--the comparison is silly.

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2005 8:13 PM

joe:

how many Christians have died in military combat against Muslims in the last 500 years?

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2005 8:14 PM

You really do stink at math. 1400 - 500 = ?

Posted by: joe shropshire at June 26, 2005 8:37 PM

I'm as willing as the next guy to wipe out civilizations and whole populations, unless the next guy is Bart. But, to paraphrase Burke, these sorts of crimes need to be carefully husbanded, to be used only when necessary. Right now, the ratio of Muslims killed by Americans to Americans killed by Muslims is about 20:1. I don't see that we're up against the wall quite yet.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 26, 2005 9:27 PM

Not to mention Muslims killed by Muslims.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 26, 2005 10:08 PM
how many Christians have died in military combat against Muslims in the last 500 years?
Perhaps you could ask the Christians living in southern Sudan. Or Nigeria. Or Indonesia. Or East Timor. Or Beslan. Or the Russian soldiers in Chechnya. Or Armenians. Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at June 26, 2005 10:26 PM

AOG:

Yes, the count is precisely that paltry. The notion of Christendom and Islam locked in eternal combat is lunatic.

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2005 11:17 PM

OJ: 500 years ago was 1505.

The Ottomans had not yet reached the full extent of their European expansion. They conquered Hungary in 1526. They laid seige to Vienna several times during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Ottomans continued to fight in Europe until the 18th century when the Russians pushed them back. But even the in the 19th century, Greek christians rebled aginst them as did Serbs.

Let us not forget the Marine Corps song, the shores of Tripoli are and were Islamic.

The answer to your question is thousands upon thousands.

It was only in the 20th century that Muslim countries became a negligible military factor.

That the Dar al'Islam has bloody borders is a fact, and a meaningful one.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 27, 2005 2:31 AM

To further answer the question, that is despite not "having lived together." The Christian and Islamic spheres have been largely separate.

And we shouldn't forget the near elimination of many Christian communities in Islamic countries.

Robert: well said.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at June 27, 2005 7:57 AM

Robert:

Tripoli is instructive.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2005 8:03 AM

Jeff:

Yes, the separateness is the point. We've established a rather easy modus vivendi. A far more peaceful one than that between Christians and Rationalists over the past Century.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2005 8:04 AM

"The Ottomans had not yet reached the full extent of their European expansion. They conquered Hungary in 1526. They laid seige to Vienna several times during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Ottomans continued to fight in Europe until the 18th century when the Russians pushed them back. But even the in the 19th century, Greek christians rebled aginst them as did Serbs."

True enough, but then what empire out there hasn't tried to steamroller the territory surrounding it?

"It was only in the 20th century that Muslim countries became a negligible military factor."

That's being really generous. The Ottomans in WW1 aside, Muslim power to resist the West had well and truly ended by the time Napoleon rode into Egypt.

"the Christians living in southern Sudan. Or Nigeria. Or Indonesia. Or East Timor. Or Beslan. Or the Russian soldiers in Chechnya. Or Armenians."

And is religion and the desire to make war infidels the one and only relevant motivation for the actions of Muslims in those conflicts or were there other factors like control of oil, nationalism or the desire to hold an empire together?

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at June 27, 2005 10:50 AM

"Muslim power to resist the West had well and truly ended by the time Napoleon rode into Egypt."

Yeah, but they didn't lay down their arms and learn to sing Kumbyah.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 27, 2005 11:19 AM

May as well have. They weren't serious threats.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at June 27, 2005 12:36 PM

Because we had the Maxim Gun, and they had not. Now they do, after their own fashion : Wretchard on The New Arab Way of War. I hope with all my heart that David's right, but they're a serious opponent, let's take them seriously.

Posted by: joe shropshire at June 27, 2005 3:54 PM

Is religion the only reason Muslims make war?

No. Plunder helps.

But it is an all-sufficient reason, proved by a number of facts:

1. That there is no Muslim/infidel border anywhere in the world that is peaceful; and it's not because -- to take an example -- the E. Timorese were bombing mosques.

2. Speaking of blowing up mosques, what's going on in Pakistan?

Muslim military power ended, as an international factor, in 1709. The disparity between the West and Islam was demonstrated at the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798 and at Omdurman in 1898.

Since then the disparity has narrowed a lot -- and not merely with Muslims. The arming of the favelas of Brazil has brought that country to its knees, with hardly a Muslim in the whole place.

The 1,000:1 kill ratios of the 18th and 19th century are no longer to be expected, and that has encouraged the militants among Muslims to break out again, as it encouraged the antieuropean but non-muslim natives in, eg, Vietnam.

The willingness to take casualties differs from society to society.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 28, 2005 2:56 PM

they're all peaceful.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2005 5:37 PM
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