The New Strategy: No More Mr. Nice Guy (?)
From top: Bush telegraphs the taking off of gloves at his January 10 Address to the Nation; Bush and Maliki come to an understanding; Iraqi soldiers take up positions 20 miles northeast of Najaf, yesterday.
At dawn On Monday in Iraq (late last night/early A.M. in the Western Hemisphere) Iraqi soldiers-- backed by U.S. tanks, helicopters, and British jets-- wrapped up 24 hours of fierce fighting outside the city of Najaf that left 200 Shia cult members dead, wiping out the terrorist enclave that was planning mischief for the holiest day on the Shia calendar.
Five Iraqi soldiers were killed in the battle, as were two U.S. servicemen whose helicopter crashed.
And today, in Washington, President Bush said that "we will respond firmly" if Tehran continues its military meddling in Iraq and endangers American forces or Iraqi citizens.
In the commentary section of the January 14 post "Republicus Returns" (in a discussion with guests Phelonius and Kelly), Republicus wrote:
I agree with both you. However, I think this "surge" will also entail taking the gloves off. Expect a steep spike in bilateral violence--and shrieking, anti-war hysteria--when our soldiers start behaving like soldiers and not Peace Corps volunteers.
And it's about time.
The more aggressive approach, it is clear, has been greenlighted and set in motion even ahead of the planned reenforcements.
The president telegraphed as much on January 10 (a not-too-subtle-hint as received by Republicus) in his Address to the Nation (bold added):
Tonight in Iraq, the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror - and our safety here at home.
The new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.
Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons:
There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.
Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes.
They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work...and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.
I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people - and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this.
There you have it. And the Prime Minister--a Shiite- just yesterday saw to the liquidation of a belligerent Shia sect, surely a sign that he has heard the President and the increasingly impatient American people loud and clear?
Some skepticism is called for:
One of the factors that have contributed to the difficulties in the post-bellum reconstruction phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom may have to do with the conundrum of democracy, that is, does the majority "Will of the People" de facto vote for the Right Candidate and/or Good Party (in this case, "Right" and "Good" as far as the goal of electing a constitutional government determined to attain a multi-factional yet united and functional Iraq is concerned) every time and in every place and at every occassion?
As demonstrated in the Palestinian territory-- and here with the election of Democrats, heh-- no.
The United States of America is the best model--ever-- for what a functioning and thriving democracy should look like (with room for improvement, to be sure), but the Founding Fathers themselves--no less an anti-Federalist like the Constitution's author himself, Madison--understood the unread and unruly mob mentality and foreboded the political empowerment and ascensions of demagogic mob manipulators (as well as having discerned the problem of the provincial interests of more populous states domineering--or at least overlooking-- the interests of lesser ones), and so established a constitutional republic (as a prudent alternative to pure democracy by plebiscite), a system that would temper and moderate the unbridled passions of hoi polloi (and a system vilified and vociferously condemned by the unbridled mob of Bush-haters when Bush lost the popular but won the electoral in the election of 2000--a condition allowed by the Constitution), the point here being:
Did a majority within the majority population of Iraq (who are Shia) vote with national harmony and constitutional integrity in mind--i.e. multi-factional Law & Order--or narrowly, with, for example, incompatibility with--if not ill-intent for-- Kurdish and Sunni interests?
If the latter is reflected in the character of the elected candidate, is Prime Minister Maliki truly destined to be Iraq's own George Washington (if not Abraham Lincoln)...
...or will he become a succesful Aaron Burr (who connived to establish a rival republic in the American southwest) or Jefferson Davis (who presided over a seceded South)?
With his apparent determination to now confront the destabilizing elements of Iraqi unity, it seems he's gotten the message and is not discriminating between radical Sunni and Shia elements...
...or was the Shiite Jund al-Samaa sect conveniently expendable as but a show of indiscrimination?
The liquidation of the sect--described as an "apocalyptic cult" with its own messianic leader--does not address the greater need to confront--and coerce to co-exist and cooperate or be subdued--the far larger Shia problem of militias that are radicalized, have infiltrated the military and police forces, and are populous enough to have formed voting blocs that the prime minister feels beholden to.
[We see before us yet another conundrum of democracy: Along with the risk of a gullible population being manipulated into an emotional mob by a demagogue and so empowering a scoundrel, we have the possibility that some cultures are simply unfit for democracy due to the character of the populations themselves and so are forever doomed to theocracies and/or dictatorships. That seems to be a premise of the non-intervensionist camp of the anti-war movement, intellectually spear-headed by paleo-conservative realists like Pat Buchanan, as opposed to the President's humanitarian--if not naive--premise that "All people have a desire to be free and to live in peace with their neighbors"--or something very much to that effect].
Maliki's credibility--and independence from radical (and murderous) Shia elements--would best be demonstrated on whether he goes after the capo cleric Al Sadr and disarms his militia, the Mahdi Army.
It has been reported (reported, mind you) that--just as they did in Fallujah-- the Mahdi soldiers have scattered ahead of the surge (to live and undoubtedly fight another day)...
...and that the Maliki government (which owes much--if not all-- of its election to Al Sadr) assisted their escape.
Not only that, but it has also been reported that the Mahdi Army's arms have been stashed to avoid confiscation...
...as allowed by Maliki.
Republicus is as willing as the President to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt, but Al Sadr is one bad actor, and Maliki is suffering by association.