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Is There an Iraq?
Townhall.com ^ | September 11, 2007 | George Will

Posted on 09/11/2007 4:07:00 AM PDT by Kaslin

WASHINGTON -- Before Gen. David Petraeus' report, and to give it a context of optimism, the president visited Iraq's Anbar province to underscore the success of the surge in making some hitherto anarchic areas less so. More significant, however, was the fact that the president did not visit Baghdad. This underscored the fact that the surge has failed, as measured by the president's and Petraeus' standards of success.

Those who today stridently insist that the surge has succeeded also say they are especially supportive of the president, Petraeus and the military generally. But at the beginning of the surge, both Petraeus and the president defined success in a way that took the achievement of success out of America's hands.

The purpose of the surge, they said, is to buy time -- "breathing space," the president says -- for Iraqi political reconciliation. Because progress toward that has been negligible, there is no satisfactory answer to this question: What is the U.S. military mission in Iraq?

Many of those who insist that the surge is a harbinger of U.S. victory in Iraq are making the same mistake they made in 1991 when they urged an advance on Baghdad, and in 2003 when they underestimated the challenge of building democracy there. The mistake is exaggerating the relevance of U.S. military power to achieve political progress in a society riven by ethnic and sectarian hatreds. America's military leaders, who are professional realists, do not make this mistake.

The progress that Petraeus reports in improving security in portions of Iraq is real. It might, however, have two sinister aspects.

First, measuring sectarian violence is problematic: The Washington Post reports that a body with a bullet hole in the front of the skull is considered a victim of criminality; a hole in the back of the skull is evidence of sectarian violence. But even if violence is declining, that might be partly because violent sectarian cleansing has separated Sunni and Shiite communities. This homogenization of hostile factions -- trained and armed by U.S. forces -- may bear poisonous fruit in a full-blown civil war.

Second, brutalities by al-Qaeda in Iraq have indeed provoked some Sunni leaders to collaborate with U.S. forces. But these alliances of convenience might be inconvenient when Shiites again become the Sunnis' principal enemy.

Congressional Democrats should accept Petraeus' report as a reason to declare a victory, one that might make this fact somewhat palatable: Substantial numbers of U.S. forces will be in Iraq when the next president is inaugurated. The Democrats' "victory" -- a chimera but a useful one -- is that Petraeus indicates there soon can be a small reduction of U.S. forces

To declare this a substantial victory won by them requires Democrats to do two things. They must make a mountain out of a molehill (Petraeus suggests withdrawal of only a few thousand troops). And they must spuriously claim credit for the mountain. Actually, senior military officers have been saying that a large drawdown is inevitable, given the toll taken on the forces by the tempo of operations for more than four years.

But Democrats cannot advertise a small withdrawal as a victory without further infuriating their party's base, the source of energy and money. The base is incandescent because there are more troops in Iraq today than there were on Election Day 2006, when Democratic activists and donors thought, not without reason, that congressional Democrats acquired the power to end U.S. involvement in Iraq.

A democracy, wrote the diplomat and scholar George Kennan, "fights for the very reason that it was forced to go to war. It fights to punish the power that was rash enough and hostile enough to provoke it -- to teach that power a lesson it will not forget, to prevent the thing from happening again. Such a war must be carried to the bitter end." Which is why "unconditional surrender" was a natural U.S. goal in World War II, and why Americans were so uncomfortable with three "wars of choice" since then -- in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.

What "forced" America to go to war in 2003 -- the "gathering danger" of weapons of mass destruction -- was fictitious. That is one reason why this war will not be fought, at least not by Americans, to the bitter end. The end of the war will, however, be bitter for Americans, partly because the president's decision to visit Iraq without visiting its capital confirmed the flimsiness of the fallback rationale for the war -- the creation of a unified, pluralist Iraq.

After more than four years of war, two questions persist: Is there an Iraq? Are there Iraqis?


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 110th; georgewill; iraq; patraeus

1 posted on 09/11/2007 4:07:01 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

No there are not any iraqis. Only tribes and sects of a fallen idol. It’s not a modern society.


2 posted on 09/11/2007 4:10:59 AM PDT by gotribe (I've been disenfranchised by the GOP.)
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To: gotribe

The question is not, if there are any Iraqis. They could be in any country. The question is if there is an Iraq


3 posted on 09/11/2007 4:13:54 AM PDT by Kaslin (The Surge has worked and the li(e)berals know it)
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To: Kaslin
The Washington Post reports that a body with a bullet hole in the front of the skull is considered a victim of criminality; a hole in the back of the skull is evidence of sectarian violence.

Petraeus was asked about this yesterday and said plainly this is not true. This is very sloppy on the part of Will. Taking "evidence" from the media is not wise, and George Will so very much wants to be thought of as wise.

Then again, maybe he is so anxious to prove his point that he doesn't care if he uses facts to do it.

4 posted on 09/11/2007 4:18:57 AM PDT by Bahbah
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To: Kaslin

I love how the elite East Coast writers like will and NRO think they are so smart when what they really are is smug. They miss the point that 911 is not about nuclear or WMD but about a bunch of crazy people that can’t get along with each other and they want to kill us too. We are now in their countries and we will make sure that they stay out of our. We are giving them a visual picture of what will happen if they do something foolish on our soil again.


5 posted on 09/11/2007 4:21:16 AM PDT by q_an_a
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To: Kaslin

A silly piece by George Will imho. He even parrots a proven leftist lie told by the WP about the bullet holes, etc.
That was struck down by Petreaus and Corker yesterday during the report to Congress.


6 posted on 09/11/2007 4:21:36 AM PDT by penelopesire
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To: Kaslin

Same difference the way I see it. For instance, being a person in America doesn’t make me an American. There’s an identifiable cultural cohesion required. Same as in iraq. So...no “iraqis” = no iraq.


7 posted on 09/11/2007 4:22:14 AM PDT by gotribe (I've been disenfranchised by the GOP.)
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To: Kaslin; Allegra
More significant, however, was the fact that the president did not visit Baghdad.

A FReeper predicted the other day that this argument would appear in the MSM, noting that if the President had gone to Baghdad, he would be criticized for not going to Anbar. There's no satisfying the neo-press in their endless, juvenile game of "gotcha."

8 posted on 09/11/2007 4:52:15 AM PDT by JennysCool ("The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." -Mencken)
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To: Kaslin
“More significant, however, was the fact that the president did not visit Baghdad. This underscored the fact that the surge has failed, as measured by the president’s and Petraeus’ standards of success.”

Can anyone figure out what the hell he means by this?

Bush has already been to Baghdad twice and, according to the WH, went to the other city to underscore the surge’s success in a Sunni stronghold.

9 posted on 09/11/2007 5:06:11 AM PDT by Smartaleck
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To: Kaslin
Will has got a bee in his bonnet.

The answer is, who cares?

More precisely, it's a technical question, whatever it is in that area, nation or arbitrary boundaries drawn around barbaric tribes, we neutralize it, enlist it, or garrison it. I agree with Dubya that deep down under that filthy crust of Islamic barbarism there's a hunger for freedom and responsibility. But feeding that hunger can wait if it must. We have to defeat this enemy decisively or we are toast -- and all the code pinks, and Democratic senators and arrogant adolescents in need of a strong dose of reality will be bowing toward Mecca or pushing up daisies.

10 posted on 09/11/2007 5:39:17 AM PDT by Mad Dawg (Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.)
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To: Kaslin; JennysCool
“More significant, however, was the fact that the president did not visit Baghdad. This underscored the fact that the surge has failed, as measured by the president’s and Petraeus’ standards of success.”

What a steaming pile.

People on the ground can most definitely see that the surge has had significant results. And it's not done yet.

11 posted on 09/11/2007 5:55:59 AM PDT by Allegra (Turning Vanity Threads Into New Socks Threads at Every Opportunity)
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To: gotribe
You are part right and part wrong. There is a country called Iraq and people that consider themselves Iraqi. Tribes are very important in the Middle East and Arabic society. It is true that the Islamic culture lacks many of the attributes of modern society. Islam still needs to go through the Enlightenment.
Iraqis of all kinds fought for their country against Iran and would do so again. I lived in Saudi Arabia for five years and agree that the nation states of the Middle East do not compare with those in places like Europe, the Americas and East/South Asia. Americans are fortunate that one of the first nation states to emerge from the dark ages was England, which later as Great Britain passed on its legal and democratic traditions to the USA (and we improved and advanced those).
The Middle East is compounded by the Islamic religion which dominates the culture. Islam is essentially a spin off of Judaism and Christianity, with an aggressive element and many influences from the Arabian desert.
Muslims believe in fate much more than the rest of the World: “It is written.” Still, even the Kurds have been a part of earlier caliphates and countries that were largely based in Iraq. Iraqis are divided by religion (Shia and Sunni) and ethnicity (Kurdish, Turk-omen, etc.), but there is a history of a country there despite the centuries of Ottoman domination, etc.
Iraq is not a modern society in our sense, that we respect other faiths, and generally believe in science, reason and rationality. Iraq is not exempt of those things, but sometimes they are subsumed by other more primitive instincts. You can still go to Bavaria or Switzerland and people will tell you of the German or Helvenic tribe that they belong to, but it has little meaning in their lives. Not so in the Middle East. Family is also very, very important there, especially since people often marry distant family relations. Religion dominates the culture there, but it does not eliminate the fact that Iraq is a country and there are Iraqis that do not want to be dominated by Iranians, Saudis, Turks or anyone else.
12 posted on 09/11/2007 5:59:00 AM PDT by GeorgefromGeorgia
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To: Allegra
Yes. Scribes in their well-appointed dens with a snifter of brandy and a deadline know so much more than those actually there.

Hope you're keeping notes for your book!

13 posted on 09/11/2007 6:04:29 AM PDT by JennysCool ("The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." -Mencken)
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia
Islam still needs to go through the Enlightenment.

What makes you think that what you call the "enlightenment" is something that Islam needs or wants?

14 posted on 09/11/2007 7:09:22 AM PDT by Jim Noble (Trails of troubles, roads of battle, paths of victory we shall walk.)
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To: gotribe

“No there are not any iraqis. Only tribes and sects of a fallen idol. It’s not a modern society.”

bump


15 posted on 09/11/2007 8:39:05 AM PDT by KantianBurke
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To: JennysCool
Hope you're keeping notes for your book!

The media's probably going to be mentioned so often in my book that I'll have to pay a lawyer to read the manuscript first to make sure there's nothing in there that will get me into trouble. ;-)

16 posted on 09/11/2007 9:00:36 AM PDT by Allegra (Turning Vanity Threads Into New Socks Threads at Every Opportunity)
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To: Kaslin

One thing to keep in mind about Will. He is the original hater of all things Bush aka Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Going back all the way to Bush senior, Will has never had a good thing to say about the Bush family.

I don’t know what caused this Bush Derangement Syndrome in Will. Possibly he was ‘dissed’ in his younger years or failed to get a job in Bush I administration.


17 posted on 09/11/2007 9:26:08 AM PDT by wildbill
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia
George, I agree with most of what you said. But I have trouble accepting this: Iraqis of all kinds fought for their country against Iran and would do so again

Iraqis didn't willingly fight Iran. They had the option of either fighting the enemy [Iran] or be shot in the back by Saddam's security. Few (like myself) managed to slip out of it altogether. Also, I am not so sure if sunnis and shias really believe in their respective sects. If you ask 10 shias what is shiism is all about, I am sure you would get 10 different answers! They just happen to belong to their sects. Most ordinary people are not really sectarian. The trouble is that the current political leadership is exploiting sectarianism for their own short term gains. The current political vacuum is very much the results of Saddam's long period of repression. In the last elections, most people voted along sectarian lines because they were unsure if their vote for a 'secular' group would be in support of the 'other side'. But now I hear most people are very much disappointed with their sectarian leaders and may well change their voting pattern. I believe that there is 'an Iraq' and two examples of recent events proved it; one is the Iraqi winner of the Arabic equivalent of 'star academy' and the other is Iraq's win in the Asian Cup. It was evident that Iraqis were united in celebrating these events and am sure if security allows, there would be more things to celebrate.
18 posted on 09/11/2007 10:34:46 AM PDT by Mr_Tiki
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To: Kaslin

Of course if the President had, once again, flown into Baghdad, twits like Will would castigate him for staying in the “Green Zone”. If he walked the streets they would say his security detail was too large, like when Senator McCain went.


19 posted on 09/11/2007 11:59:22 AM PDT by Dilbert56 (Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war.")
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To: Mr_Tiki

All good points. I am sure that many Iraqis were not so happy about Saddam’s war against Iran, and that a bullet in the head if they tried to desert was a factor. Stalin treated Russians that way in WWII, but many Russians fought for the Rodina as well.

Saddam’s legacy will weight heavily for some time. I hope that Iraqis have seen the light of freedom and don’t let it slip through their hands.


20 posted on 09/11/2007 1:02:35 PM PDT by GeorgefromGeorgia
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To: Jim Noble

I think that the rest of the World (outside of Islam) has passed through this phase. There have been times in history when some Islamic countries showed signs of this, as in Spain during the middle ages. When you speak of “Islam” think about people speaking of an entire faith in general. Christianity in general, encompasses many branches of the faith from Roman Catholicism, to the mainstream Protestant faiths, Orthodoxy, Mormons, and many others. Some Christians believe that the Bible states the exact meaning of creation, and that the everything was created in less than a week, others believe that could mean millions or billions of years. The Old Testament refers to Polygamy, which was practiced centuries ago, but now it is extremely rare.


21 posted on 09/11/2007 1:10:30 PM PDT by GeorgefromGeorgia
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To: 3D-JOY; abner; Abundy; AGreatPer; Albion Wilde; alisasny; ALlRightAllTheTime; AlwaysFree; ...

PING to George Will.

Personally, I hope we win. If the government then falls apart after we leave, then there may really be no hope for them.


22 posted on 09/11/2007 5:03:10 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Naomi Hunter Petrie: 1913 - 2007. Rest in peace, Grandma.)
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia

That’s interesting. I appreciate your perspective from having actually lived over there. So it’s partly a modern state with a lot of historical forces pulling hard at it. I guess we were fortunate to have been a refuge in large part from other nation’s similar perils.


23 posted on 09/11/2007 5:16:26 PM PDT by gotribe (I've been disenfranchised by the GOP.)
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