Hearts and Minds: Winning or Losing?

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"Under the present situation, I cannot think of defending the United States," says Ahmed Kamal Aboulmagd. "I would not be listened to… To most people in this area, the United States is the source of evil on planet earth. And whether we like it or not, it is the Bush administration that is to blame."

Not so, says Pipes: "Just as the intense emotions of October 2001 are now forgotten, so will those of this moment probably be fleeting. A U.S. victory in Iraq, this means, will protect more than it harms."

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  1. “Does he have an explanation for a decade’s worth of terrorism prior to Bush?”

    As both the excerpted quotation and the entire article make obvious, he is referring to public opinion, not to terrorism. In fact, terrorism is not discussed at all in the article on Aboulmagd. I may have inadvertently given a different impression by yoking this article with Pipes’, but his meaning should be clear enough from the cited passage.

  2. Without reading the article, it would seem that the point still remains that it seems highly absurd to single out W. Bush for the blame that “To most people in this area, the United States is the source of evil on planet earth,” whether or not the article was addressing terrorism per se — IF one’s point is to nitpick.

    The larger point is that Arabs are pissed at us, and I agree with Bill that U.S. student forgetfullness about the 2000 eleection is not much of a gauge, and I disagree with Pipes that just because Arab demonstrations over Afghanistan have subsided that this somehow proves that Arab anger has too. Hell, people have to move on with their lives, they don’t have the time for sustaining street protests. But that doesn’t mean that the attitudes that produced the demonstrations have gone away.

    Still, Afghanistan probably had a net positive effect on limiting terrorism for some of the reasons I supported that action. Afghanistan under the Taliban was an al-Qaeda breeding ground, and our action there was one of self-defense. Therefore, it produced desired effects, while many in the Arab world likely recognized its neccessity, sooner or later.

    Iraq is a different story. As we all *should* know, there was no evidence either that Hussein had a hand in 9-11 or was plotting any future violence on US soil or citizens. Therefore, the practical purposes accomplished in Afghanistan are not present, while there is much less to mitigate Arab resentment. Can you imagine how moderate Arabs must feel now if they had told their brethren that Afghanistan would not the tip of an iceberg?

    Anyway, having said all that, a speedy return of Iraqi rule to Iraqis, as was accomplished in Afghanistan, will likely help to mitigate Arab anger, at least to some degree….

  3. We have dropped thousands of bombs on every government and administrative building in Iraq. Does anybody have any idea how order (property rights and the rule of law) will be restored with all of the records destroyed?

  4. >>Does anybody have any idea how order (property rights and the rule of law) will be restored with all of the records destroyed?

  5. I imagine we, on the whole, spared city hall. Anyway, it is questionable whether “order” as defined by property rights and rule of law have recently existed in Iraq to restore. Arguably, property belonged to the possessor, and rule was by men rather than laws.

  6. Bill,

    “They are neither pro or anti american. They are simply against the policies of the current administration.”

    Good one. Thank God they are so reasonable. American’s should take a lesson.

    You realize that your defense of the European public’s (and elites’) patently absurd rejection of the current eminently reasonable American policies at issue is rooted in anti-Americanism itself, don’t you?

    Don’t you?

  7. I think we have overestimated the control of Saddam over the personal lives of the average Baghdad citizen. In a city of 5 million, twice as big as Houston, billions of transactions occur every month yet we’re led to believe that Saddam personally approves (or disapproves) each one. This is a little much, of course, for even Saddam but is probably fueled by the Iraqi expatriots living here in the U.S. that want there stuff back.

    My suspicion is that unless one of these average citizens in Iraq raises his head above the parapet in a political way, he generally goes about his business of making a living unmolested. He could get picked out at random for harrassment but the odds, I would think, are that he wouldn’t get hit very often.

    Of course, all this is upside down with the war and when the dust settles he must go to the government he spent his life avoiding to establish title to his property before some thug beats him out of it. Many government and business records are now destroyed and he better hope he kept his receipts.

    The new administration does not have an enviable job, in my view. If I were the U.S. I would gladly hand this over to somebody else to take the heat.

  8. Pipes couldn’t be more wrong. First off, Afghanistan isn’t all wine and roses. There defiantly were legitimate defense reasons for the U.S. to attack it, and also quite clearly short term benefits from having done so. However, it’s well to remember that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were made possible by our meddling during the 80s it will take another 20 years to know all the consequences of the 2002 Afghan war.

    Iraqi gratitude – I’m not seeing it. Far from “being like a carnival” it looks to me like our troops are being greeted by the same resigned affection bestowed on the Nazis in Paris.

    Casualties – Arab television has been reporting large numbers of civilian casualties. Even American Arabs believe the US media is covering up this story.

    Islam – Who are you kidding. We don’t know the first thing about “Iraqi ways” and have never even pretended that we care. Certainly the Bush administration has made no effort in this area. He once referred to this war as a crusade. While he apologized for it later, he continues to speak as though he is God’s chosen representative, and all the killing is the Lords own work.

    Oil – US companies have already been tapped to reap the spoils

    Imperialism – In what universe does the US ever withdrawal its forces, much less with “alacrity”. We are there for the long haul and won’t leave till we are driven out.

    Strong Horse – No matter how much someone respects strength, he will never support a horse that he believes is going to trample him.

  9. Well, this is Pipes’ plan, so why the hell would he criticize it? He’s been calling for the invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein for quite sometime, so why he’s even considered a remotely objective voice on these matters is beyond me.

  10. “Well, this is Pipes’ plan, so why the hell would he criticize it? He’s been calling for the invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein for quite sometime, so why he’s even considered a remotely objective voice on these matters is beyond me.”

    All true, but he’s an intelligent commentator, and it’s only reasonable that he should be part of the spin machine-and be paid some mind-when his big idea is being put into action. Unlike the Post, however, I believe it’s also fair to cite his comments in tandem with those of Mr. Aboulmagd’s very different opinion.

    Allowing ideas to be debated openly by both their proponents and their opponents is central to a free republic. You’ll recall how, prior to attacking Iraq, President Bush made sure to obtain a formal declaration of war from the Congress, as is required under the United States Constitution. Or maybe you don’t remember that, but it’s the thought that counts.

  11. You’ll recall how, prior to attacking Iraq, President Bush made sure to obtain a formal declaration of war from the Congress, as is required under the United States Constitution.

    A formal declaration of war hasn’t been issued (or sought) in over 60 years. Have all deployments of the military since that time been unconstitutional?

    WSJ piece on legality of Iraq war….

  12. “A formal declaration of war hasn’t been issued (or sought) in over 60 years. Have all deployments of the military since that time been unconstitutional?”

    Oh, OK, I forgot that if a clause in the constitution is ignored for more than 60 years it becomes null and void. I’ve read the WSJ defense and countless others like it. The constitution says congress has the power to declare war and issue letters of marque and reprisal. It does not say congress has this power except when an adversary is in breach of United Nations resolutions, or when CNN/Gallup polls indicate that a majority of respondents support a war, or when the President has the support of a coalition of more than 50 willing nations, or when administration wonks are able to redefine a hostile deployment of US military forces in deadly combat against a clearly defined enemy as something other than a war, or when a pre-existing war on terror has already been not-quite-declared by a previous vote in congress, or when the congress repeatedly cedes its constitutional responsibility to the executive branch.

    This may sound like quaint constitutionalism, but there is a real question here: If the invasion of Iraq-which was a war of discretion, for which there was no time crunch, which had the apparent support of the popular majority, and which involved no imminent threat precluding constitutional scruples-was not considered amenable to a declaration of war, will any conflict ever meet this simple standard? If not, and since so many parties (the pusillanimous congress most of all) seem to be comfortable with this situation, why don’t we have the decency to amend the constitution, and just give the president the power to declare war without consulting anybody?

  13. tim,

    Oddly enough, since the justification against such declarations is that they are too time consuming (which is really a canard, given that it took the US, what twenty-four hours to declare war on Japan?), the war on Iraq – because it was debated so damn much – was a perfect case for actually using the power Congress has to formally declare war.

    The Congressional Resolution itself is basically a sign of how little substance the seperate of powers doctrine has anymore.

    Oh, and I have no issue with Pipes piping off, but the point is that the man has a significant vested interest in making the war go off flawlessly, so one should take his rosey view with a grain of salt.

  14. “And whether we like it or not, it is the Bush administration that is to blame.”

    Does he have an explanation for a decade’s worth of terrorism prior to Bush?

  15. Excellent point–too much instant analysis is made in the heat of emotion. The post-911 pro-Americanism in Europe is a good example.

    Most of my students, for example, have already forgotten about the 2000 election business in Florida.

  16. I doubt if the arabs will be as forgetful or apathetic as your students.

    No, of course it didn’t all start with Bush. He is just the latest in a long line of meddling fools.

    And what is this “pro-americanism” post 9-11? People in Europe were naturally sympathetic. They are neither pro or anti american. They are simply against the policies of the current administration.

  17. Gary,

    No one doubts that widespread poverty killed many before and after sanctions. Why this should have occurred in a country with greater oil resources than Kuwait is an interesting question.

    Whether 100,000 or twice that figure were killed at the hands of Hussein’s regime, the point is that civilian casualty numbers reported in the Arab and anti-war press are trivial (around 1000) compared to the death toll directly assigned to Hussein’s regime (hundreds of times this number.) If some peaceful method of displacing Saddam had been part of the anti-war rhetoric, such comparisons would have no relevance. Since none exists, casualty figures ten times larger than those we have seen would still reinforce arguments for war.

  18. Arab television has been reporting large numbers of civilian casualties. Even American Arabs believe the US media is covering up this story.

    The key expression in this case is “relatively few.”

    According to antiwar website http://www.iraqbodycount.net/ total civilian deaths to date number 1139. Iraq itself reported a figure in the mid 600’s on April 6. Compare this to the Iraqi-reported figure of 8243 civs killed in ‘Desert Storm.’

    Wartime statistics aside, how about the hundred of thousands believed killed by Saddam’s own security forces per numerous human-rights organization estimates? Or the hundreds of thousands killed by ineffective UN-imposed sanctions? Pipes basis for comparison is the status quo and previous wars. Viewed in these terms, it seems to me that Saddam himself has killed and would continue to kill many more civilians than the current military campaign.

  19. Alex,

    Accurate estimates are that Saddam’s terror-regime killed about 100,000 Iraqis (not including those died in the Iran-Iraq war, or GWI).

    As far as the economic sanctions issue is concerned, they weren’t actually ineffective. Saddam has not been able to re-arm in any significant way, and he has had very little access to advanced weaponry since 1990. I think this is evidenced by how little the Iraqis had to fight a very modern army with. I think the arms embargo has likely been the most successful one ever tried in modern times. As far as the whole starvation issue is concerned, the embargo didn’t create that, it was there before GWI, that is there was massive poverty in Iraq before that war, and thus the sanctions didn’t do much to change that status quo.

  20. “Accurate estimates are that Saddam’s regime killed about 100,000 Iraqis”

    I guess you aren’t counting Kurds or Shi’ia as Iraqis, eh?

  21. NYT piece on Saddam death toll

    “Casualties from Iraq’s gulag are harder to estimate. Accounts collected by Western human rights groups from Iraqi ?migr?s and defectors have suggested that the number of those who have “disappeared” into the hands of the secret police, never to be heard from again, could be 200,000. As long as Mr. Hussein remains in power, figures like these will be uncheckable, but the huge toll is palpable nonetheless.”

    Matt Welch on sanctions-related deaths…

  22. Alex,

    So at best, an extra 100,000 people died during the sanctions period? I don’t think this undermines my point that poverty, disease and the like were rampant in Iraq before GWI. And furthermore it doesn’t address the issue that Saddam was not really able to re-arm in any real or remotely successful fashion. Not that their military was all that good to begin with.

  23. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
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    DATE: 01/20/2004 08:38:59
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