Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Iraq: Positive Developments

I struggled to find some good news.

The picture painted by the news stories was bleak: another suicide attack, a shootout with armed militants, soldiers dying in an ambush, a man accused of collaborating with the hated occupiers executed by parties unknown, property destruction causing resentment among the locals, hostile noises from the neighbors, another condemnation from international community, and at home political instability and accusations of corruption at the highest level. There was hardly anything about economy and enterprise, nothing about culture and civil society, barely a glimpse of any positive development or an indication that something, somewhere, might be going right.

After about 10 minutes I gave up trying to find some good news from Israel.

That's the all too apt analogy that Arthur Chrenkoff uses to begin his latest roundup of positive developments from Iraq. Once again, I encourage you to read it. Even in the midst of the terrorist carnage displayed so prominently in the media, progress continues towards building a new Iraq. In the long run, it is precisely this progress that will spell the doom of the Baathists and jihadists:

Must It Bleed to Lead?

In the meantime, of course, the terrorist insurgency in Iraq must be dealt with militarily. Building up capable Iraqi security forces is essential to this task. Fortunately, National Review's W. Thomas Smith Jr. notes that the new Iraqi forces are indeed starting to prove themselves:

The enthusiasm of U.S. Marine captains Thomas "Tad" Douglas and David Nevers can hardly be contained. Their voices, alternately crackling over a weak satellite-phone connection, are heartening as they describe the successes they are witnessing in Iraq. The insurgency is losing ground. Iraqi civilians, feeling less afraid than in previous months, are increasingly coming forward with solid information about the bad guys. And a new Iraqi special-operations force is taking the lead in wiping out guerilla strongholds, south of Baghdad.

From their operating base in Kalsu (so-named for Bob Kalsu, a Buffalo Bills lineman and Army lieutenant who was killed during the Vietnam War), Douglas tells National Review Online, "The Iraqis are performing well-above my expectations. Their strengths are their aggressiveness and mobility, and we are enhancing those strengths."

(emphasis added-DD)

In Their Own Hands

Those who doubt whether success is possible in Iraq need only look at recent events in Afghanistan. Less than three years after the liberation of that country from the barbarism of the Taliban, Afghanistan held its first ever free election. By most accounts, the popular response was overwhelming, and made a mockery of the Taliban's thuggery. Initial claims of vote fraud have been all but refuted. If such things are possible in Afghanistan, why not in Iraq as well? In Monday's Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby makes this very point:

Consider Afghanistan. In many ways, nation-building there has been mishandled. The early peacekeeping effort was restricted to the capital; the resulting power vacuum allowed regional warlords to dig in; the opium trade has boomed, bolstering criminals who work against the state and corrupting government officials. Despite these errors, however, Afghanistan is at least partly a success. Three years ago, the country featured medieval zealots and large terrorist bases. Today it features an enlightened constitution, 3 million exiles who have felt confident enough to return home and an election that attracted a remarkable turnout, whatever the flaws in administering it.

The same is likely to be true in Iraq, if America shows enough determination. Again, there has been no shortage of errors: too few troops, too much delay in empowering Iraqi leaders, the disaster of Abu Ghraib, the hesitation in rooting out insurgent bases in the Sunni heartland. But most of these errors are being addressed. If the United States remains committed to defeating Iraq's insurgents, the country is likely to progress, Afghan-style, toward some kind of imperfect democracy. And that will represent a clear advance -- both for Iraq and for U.S. security.

A Reason to Back the President?
(go to if you need a Post username and password)

In the same issue of the Post, Jackson Diehl notes that our efforts in Iraq, and the Bush Administration's broader campaign for Middle East democracy, are indeed starting to foster reform in the region:

A voice is beginning to emerge that wasn't there before," says Carl Gershman, the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, who attended a meeting of Western and Middle Eastern civil society groups alongside the recent foreign ministers' gathering. "Most of these people are unknown, they are faceless, but there are a surprising number of them, and the number is growing. They see that they have an opening, and they want to take advantage of it."


Such empowering grass-roots rhetoric has never before been heard in the Arab Middle East. If the United States fails in Iraq, it may well be snuffed out. But for now, for those who are listening, it offers reason for hope.

An Opening For Arab Democrats

Success in Iraq is not just possible but likely, provided we show the courage and perseverance necessary to stay the course and defeat the terrorists. We cannot be defeated in Iraq, except by our own loss of will. As long as we avoid this, we can be successful there and make America and the world safer.

(most links courtesy of Watch)


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