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Iraq Post-Mortem

Iraqis will soon vote on a constitution that enshrines medieval Islamic Shariah law as the source (or perhaps, merely the main source) of Iraqi law, and denies women basic human rights (except where they don’t conflict with medieval Islamic Shariah law), and US influence over the Iraqi government has dwindled to impotent diplomatic protests. After more than two years of occupation which has left Iraqis free of Saddam - but arguably worse off than they were before the war - I think it’s safe to say: We lost Iraq.

No, you say. That can't be true! President Bush offered such a smorgasbord of shifting rationales for invading Iraq. Surely we succeeded at one of them. Well, let's take a look:

Destroy the WMD/terrorist nexus in Iraq

We now know it never existed.

Regime change

Success! But. Is an Islamic fundamentalist, pro-Iranian regime an acceptable outcome? Wasn't replacing corrupt, autocratic regimes with anti-American Islamic regimes the goal of Osama bin Laden? Who is the winner here?

You might argue that a freely elected, anti-American, pro-Iranian Iraqi government that strips women of their rights and imposes harsh religious law is good for... well, somebody. But it's not good for America.

Create a stable democracy, inspiring democratic reformers throughout the Middle East

Evaluating success here is a little less clear cut. There was a lot of ballyhoo over Libya's renunciation of WMD, Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution", and Palestinian elections, but it's unclear how much, if any, credit can be given to President Bush's invasion of Iraq.

It's hard to conceive how Syria's decision to assassinate Rafiq Hariri, the catalyst for Lebanon's anti-Syrian revolution, had anything to do with Iraq. Similarly, it's doubtful Yasser Arafat keeled over because Bush took Baghdad. And the Libya deal had been in the works since the Lockerbie bombing, apparently the result of crushing sanctions rather than fear of US military intervention at a time when the bulk of US combat troops are bogged down in Iraq for years to come.

More disturbingly, in Lebanon and Palestine, the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas are poised to take control through free elections. In the case of Palestine, the ruling Fatah Party even suspended democratic elections for a year to forestall the country's takeover by Hamas.

If you look at reform movements in other parts of the Middle East, you find they're doing worse now than before the war. In Saudi Arabia, clerics calling for a constitutional monarchy were jailed - even after an appeal by Condoleezza Rice. In Egypt, President Mubarak just made it impossible for opposition parties to get on the ballot without the approval of the regime they're opposing.

And in Syria, opposition leaders are actually supporting Bashar Al Assad's regime. "This is the dilemma," says Omar Amiralay, a prominent Syrian filmmaker and opposition leader. "Between wanting the regime to end, and, on the other side, fear of repeating the catastrophe in Iraq."

Strike a blow against terrorism

If you get beyond the fact that there were no terrorists in Iraq before the invasion, you find that - according to the CIA and State Department - the Iraq invasion is actually attracting thousands of new al Qaeda recruits. Iraq has become a classroom where apprentice international terrorists get trained, then span the globe carrying out attacks.

You often hear President Bush claim we're fighting them in Iraq so we don't have to fight them over here. Whatever the reason we haven't seen another attack on US soil, it has nothing to do with Iraq - as was made clear in Madrid, Bali, Egypt, and London. While terrorists are obviously having a field day attacking US troops and collaborators in Iraq, to insist that Iraq is drawing 100% of terrorist attacks is to live in a fantasy world of spin.

Conclusion

All in all, President Bush's Iraq gambit has been a magnificent failure. The only bright spot is the downfall of Saddam Hussein - and even that achievement is marred by the fundamentalist, pro-Iranian regime with which he's been replaced. And the most frustrating part is, there just isn't any way to turn this debacle into victory. With the Pentagon dragging its heels getting Iraqi security forces trained, terrorists operating at will, the Iraqi government unwilling to disarm their militias, and the distasteful nature of the new government itself, I just don't see a scenario in which we clearly win.

To make matters worse, if insurgents are still carrying out attacks when President Bush pulls out the troops and declares victory (assuming the country doesn't explode into civil war first), it will ring as hollow as President Nixon's "peace with honor" retreat from Vietnam. From our enemy's point of view, Iraq will be a bigger victory than Reagan's retreat from Lebanon and Clinton's retreat from Somalia.

Posted by American Pundit at August 16, 2005 9:28 AM