Are the so-called terrorists winning in Iraq? Maybe. But before exploring that, I’d like to explore my use of the adjective “so-called”. Americans have been adamant that the strikes against the U.S. forces in Iraq are acts of terror. To the extent that many victims have been Arab, yes, these are acts of terror – toward them. It’s not clear that an occupying military force can claim retaliatory strikes against them to be acts of terror any more than they would like to be considered terrorists for having invaded in the first place. Tactically, there is no line between guerrilla warfare and terrorism. The distinguishing factor is the target. If the target is military, then it’s warfare. Remember that Bush declared the hostilities over, but Iraq never formally surrendered. It’s reasonable to think that many of them rightfully feel they are still at war. I know if the U.S. were under control of an occupying army, I’d sure be out conducting stealth warfare. I wouldn’t consider myself a terrorist.
Now, to the question of whether or not the insurgency is having an effect… I’m thinking it is. The Italians are discouraged. The Red Cross is discouraged. Few other countries are eager to engage. And now the U.S. announces it is accelerating its timetable for returning control to the natives. In other words, we’d like fewer of our guys in harm’s way as well. Certainly an understandable strategy. But it’s hard to look at that and not think that it is in no small part motivated by the attacks on American troops and the resultant decreasing popularity rating at home.
But we need to be careful here. The attackers have already demonstrated their willingness to attack Arabs they believe are pro-American. Clearly the new Iraq soldiers and police officers will be perceived as being American pawns. Yet these people have to go home at night. They will be enormous targets. Once enough soldiers and police are killed, who is going to want that job? Or worse yet, what if those folks sell out and become double-agents of sorts. Pacifying America so that it loosens its grip and weakens its presence until the old regime (or a similar new one) can sweep in and (re)emerge.
It’s not so far fetched. I may disagree with how we got here, but we could double our stupidity if we do a careless job getting out. We are still in Germany, Japan, and Korea after half a century. We need to brace for the fact that we are going to be in Iraq for that long as well. It would behoove us to recognize that we are still at war in Iraq, and we should conduct ourselves accordingly. At this juncture, it’s our fastest road to peace. The citizens of Iraq are not yet ready to manage themselves. We need to get them there. But merely changing timetables doesn’t alter the culture and nurture the skills, patience, and determination of the people. That stuff takes time, and a lot of it.
The world seems determined to make us lie in the bed we made for ourselves. And well they should.