Ajami on Iraq

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It took some time in coming, but Fouad Ajami has finally turned the corner on Iraq, writing, in a very pessimistic New York Times op-ed piece commenting on George W. Bush?s speech Monday:

Let?s face it: Iraq is not going to be America?s showcase in the Arab-Muslim world. The president?s insistence that he had sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, "not to make them American" is now ? painfully ? beside the point. The unspoken message of the speech was that no great American project is being hatched in Iraq. If some of the war?s planners had thought that Iraq would be an ideal base for American primacy in the Persian Gulf, a beacon from which to spread democracy and reason throughout the Arab world, that notion has clearly been set aside.

The difficulty of the piece is that Ajami takes an oddly deterministic view of the inability to change the Arab world, without ever addressing how the U.S. can use its substantial power in Iraq to salvage its campaign ? if only fewer mistakes were committed. As such, he is only partly correct in blaming America?s problems on ?difficult lands? like Iraq; somewhere in there he must admit (and did so in an earlier piece in the Wall Street Journal) that the problem must also be sought in American attitudes, and a growing desire to break free from a war that the administration ambiguously defined from the outset.

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  1. Mike H. wrote,”Are we talking specifically about Iraq, or the GWOT here…?”

    According to Dubya and about half the posters here they are the exact same thing.

  2. Ajami needs to go out and have in ice cream sundae or something. Seems to me he’s having a little trouble keeping his blood sugar level up.

  3. A weed-whacker is not the right tool for dandelions. You’ve got to get to the root.
    And, besides, dandelions are a nutritions vegetable.

  4. This will never happen, but someone in government needs to notice the pattern:
    war on drugs
    war on terror
    war on poverty

    Why a war on everything?
    Is military hardware the right tool for the war?

  5. “Why a war on everything?
    Is military hardware the right tool for the war?”

    When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, pretty soon everything starts to look like a nail.

    I’m told that saying actually originated in the Pentagon.

  6. Isaac Bartram,

    McNamara has used that phrase from time to time.

  7. In the interest of full disclosure, it ought to be noted that the wars on drugs and poverty did not result from crackheads and/or transients flying planes into buildings…

    Perhaps sometimes nails really do need to be hammered down?

  8. Saddam flew planes into buildings?

  9. How about a conference on terror? That would be effective!

  10. How about a Walk-a-thon against terror?

  11. Saddam flew planes into buildings?

    Are we talking specifically about Iraq, or the GWOT here…? ‘Cause I coulda sworn the thread started out comparing the war on terror to the wars on poverty and drugs, no?

  12. “… administration ambiguously defined from the outset.”

    Hmmm… it didn’t seem all that ambiguous to me.

    But then, I don’t take cues from politicians, I make up my own mind and then I see what politicos match my stance on each issue.

    Muslim fundamentalists are at war with the entire non-Muslim world. A peaceful democratic Muslim nation in the middle east would help to show Muslims all over the world that democracy isn’t just for Christians.

    What country are we most likely to make this work in? Iraq seemed to be the best available choice.

    I know, some people would prefer to pretend we’re not at war just because this war doesn’t look like the last few wars we’ve fought.

    Well, clue in folks! OBL is smart, and so are a lot of his top people. They know this is a war, and they know that “nations” are almost irrelevant in this war. This is a war between cultures, not between nations.

    If you’re still thinking in terms of nations, you’re years behind the curve.

  13. Iraq is a sad testament to the rarity of democracy, republicanism, or, frankly, a free society. This experiment was based on an assumption that the majority of the Iraqi people would take control of their society, cast out the terrorists and saboteurs among them, and take up the reins of freedom presented to them by the US’s destruction of the tyranny then oppressing them. That appears to have been the reason for the small troop commitment and lax post-war planning. That the Iraqi peopled have failed in this respect, allowing attackers to mix among them, use their women and children as shields, has far greater implications regarding civilization, human nature, and international relations than the future of this administration, which the Leftists, Anarchists, and Pacifists should ponder as they shriek in glee over each new damning revelation.

  14. “A peaceful democratic Muslim nation in the middle east would help to show Muslims all over the world that democracy isn’t just for Christians…If you’re still thinking in terms of nations, you’re years behind the curve.”

    Simply amazing. The defining characteristic of Bush’s anti-terror strategy is to focus on nations, rather than the stateless groups who are actually at war with us, and Will accuses those who oppose this strategy of thinking too much about nations!

    This is the clear, responsible, level-headed thinking I’ve come to expect from hawks.

  15. Good observations, mike.

  16. “The defining characteristic of Bush’s anti-terror strategy is to focus on nations, rather than the stateless groups who are actually at war with us, and Will accuses those who oppose this strategy of thinking too much about nations!”

    The problem with the dove position is that they have no method of dealing with a situation where a guy in Country X takes off a uniform and bombs us. We can’t hold Country X accountable. The stateless entities in question: A) Get support from states, B) hide behind the sovereignity of states, and C) use state resources to hide evidence of their activities.

    It is the same problem in Palestine. Bomb after bomb detonates in Jerusalem, and the dove position is “Oh, well, you can’t use a military against them since they aren’t wearing uniforms.” I often wonder how many bombs in their neighborhood it would take to change that tune.

    I don’t agree with all of Will’s comments, but there is something to the position that creating an environment of no place to hide is better than hoping that a dictator who already hates us will choose to prosecute popular jihadis operating within his borders.

  17. I stopped reading when I realized the writer thinks Afghanistan is an Arab country.

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