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Unexamined Premises

In the Middle East, the End of the Beginning

June 12th, 2014 - 1:40 pm

For a veteran of the fighting there—and proponent of the counterinsurgency strategy that provided a chance for the country to stabilize—watching the recent unraveling of Iraq has been disheartening but not surprising.

Thus speaks John Nagl, a veteran of both Iraqi campaigns, writing in the Washington Post:

I returned to a Pentagon that was in denial, but I found a few who believed that a new strategy of building Iraqi forces to take over the fight could eventually succeed. We struggled to provide trainers and equipment and to find ways to partner with our Iraqi comrades but managed to succeed in the nick of time, pulling Iraq into a possible win. That was the surge. Then, by declining to provide a long-term security assistance force to an Iraq not yet able to handle the fight itself, we pulled defeat from the jaws of victory and increased the peril our Iraqi friends would face…

This is not the end state my friends fought for and died for.

Indeed not. But such an outcome was dictated the moment the first president Bush stopped short of total victory in the Gulf War and left Saddam Hussein in power. And it was guaranteed by his son’s second inaugural address of 2005, which ought to live in infamy as a triumph of soft-headed sentimentalism over the brutal reality of power politics in a non-Western culture:

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty – though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it…

In America’s ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character – on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people.

What’s happening now in Iraq is not just ISIS, the latest in a long line of jihadis that reaches back in Victorian times to the Mahdi’s dervishes at Khartoum, who first needed to slaughter the infidel Turks based in Cairo before encountering Kitchener and his guns at Omdurman, at which point the Arabs  got the message that (in Belloc’s famous couplet) the West had the Maxim gun, and they had not. Rather, it’s the collapse of the Three Cups of Tea school of foreign relations and military doctrine, the bastard idiot child of the “hearts and minds” philosophy that lost the Vietnam War. In that sense, poor Bowe Bergdahl is the perfect face of the modern American military: wan, weak, foolish and lost. Not to mention a likely deserter and a possible traitor — which of course only endears him to the Left, which views any form of self-defense as morally illegitimate.

bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

‘bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim’

So here we are, in the ruins of a bipartisan Middle Eastern policy whose intellectual and moral bankruptcy is now playing out from the shores of Tripoli to Mesopotamia to Afghanistan. Thousands of American dead, many more maimed, the longest war in our history — and for what? By toppling Saddam, the first Bush administration let the genie out of the bottle; by not finishing it, Bush and Clinton gave rise to bin Laden and al-Qaeda; by restarting it after 9/11 — when the clear enemies were Saudi Arabia and Iran, not Iraq — Bush II ensured that Islamicism would wax, not wane; and by hampering our troops with metrosexual rules of engagement overseen by a purged general staff, Obama has guaranteed defeat in this particular round of the longest conflict in human history, one that dates back to the eighth century.

So what’s the favor? The favor is this: we now can see clearly that there are no real nation-states in the Islamic world, only the ummah, of which the caliphate for which ISIS and other groups are fighting is its political expression. We can no longer hide behind legalistic fictions that render us helpless in the face of continuing attacks, because we cannot find the “government” responsible. At last we have met the enemy, and he is the same enemy he has always been. Some things never change:

Then and now

plus ça change…

His goals are clear. Are ours? Obama likes to boast that he ends wars. But wars only end when one side gives up.

 

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Top Rated Comments   
In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle.

Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex and he [Mohammad] declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion [Islam, not "radical Islam"], against all the rest of mankind.

Between these two religions [Christianity and Islam], thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus.

- John Quincy Adams
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yep. It's us or them. It's just a matter of time before we must decide to either destroy them or be destroyed by them; there will ultimately be no coexisting.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The enemy is Islam - that is the vital - all else is incidental.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (69)
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I've started thinking something based upon these posts. Who among us thinks that FDR's b*lls were bigger than Churchill's? Nobody. A fairer comparison, at least, would be Churchill to Truman. I have a point to this...

It takes Churchillian will, a will that we currently don't have. But that isn't the ball game. No sirree. A leader can, and probably will emerge. Would be lovely if that leader were an American, to be sure. Would make me feel better about this country's future, certainly. But, that leader doesn't have to be an American.

Don't be surprised if a western leader emerges from a country that has been dealing with the threat of islam a lot longer than us. Think WWl and WWll. In either instance we were pulled in. Being proactive in a "big way" hasn't really worked for us. There is a sort of alchemy to this. Perhaps we are not designed to be the initiators of world changing actions. It's almost as if we can't give ourselves sanction to be the primary instigators of our own destiny as it relates to world events. The whole idea of being architects for a better world seems, at bottom, to be completely at odds with our identity as free,capitalist, moral agents. The freedom we have is the freedom that was made by people who wanted it, not people who ordered it.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
We used to at least set a good example. Not so much any more.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's a good thing. When one sees in full the menace of Islam, and sees that we are not prepared to remove this menace decisively, one understand that to manage this menace, we need to exploit its fissures, the Shia/Sunni being one of them. So supporting the weaker of the two while they fight each other, while protecting ourselves and allies, may be the smart thing to do. So if the Iranians start pushing back at ISIS, per this philosophy it would be a good idea to throw (not too much) help ISIS way. Keeps Iran busy.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
War/Fear makes for strange bedfellows - http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/13/us-iraq-security-iran-idUSKBN0EO0QH20140613

Who'd a thunk it? Certainly not me!

Personally I'm for letting this thing play out - anything that is coming Iran's way is well deserved. And long overdue.

19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Europe's soft underbelly.
Soon Iran will pass out portable nukes to groups throughout the regions.
Europeans will submit.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Real nation states" is a slippery term. They tend to coalesce out of war and with a linguistic/ethnic base, not religious. In opposition to that, empire, sometimes religious, tends to act against a linguistic/ethnic base and use only war. Europe has mostly settled its borders.

The middle east has yet to settle theirs. It's doubtful there is anything like an empire-builder or that nations in the middle east will form around religion. Despite its reputation as a shi'ite state Iran mostly came to be as an ethnic/linguistic anti-Arab anti-colonial pushback.

I think the middle east is fairly settled. The reason you're seeing this in Iraq is not because of a caliphate but because it is the last large Yugoslavia-type model to fold. There may be one last large adjustment in regard to the Kurds and some minor adjustments in Syria and Jordan in a linguistic/ethnic model.

When it comes to sheer empire-building, the map of the middle east would look far different had it been allowed. Iraq and Iran would probably share the Gulf States between them, but America has not allowed that. Empire-building will not be allowed as long as there is oil.

Other than a possible split in Libya, there's no reason to think N. Africa will change. Sudan has already split, Egypt won't change. Probably the greatest chance of ethnic/linguistic conflict and also empire-building is Africa. I doubt America would seriously challenge such a thing.

Contrary to what people think, most empire-building within Islam itself has been linguistic/ethnic: the Ottomans, the linguistic/ethnic Mamluk Turks of Egypt, the N. African Fatimids of Egypt, the Kurdish Ayyubids of Saladin, the original Arab impetus, the Persian dynasties, the Mughals arriving to India, the Albanian dynasty of Egypt ended by Nasser.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
To be clearer, the idea of a Caliphate where mixed ethnic/linguistic groups lived under the harmony of Islam is a myth, no matter how Arabized and Islamicized they became. There has never existed such a thing. The original Arab warrior/fanatics from the Gulf States conquered, oppressed, enslaved and colonized. Eventually, in every instance, there was rebellion by the conquered ethnic groups, though they may have maintained Arabic and Islam.

There will never be a religious Caliphate in the middle east. The Arab Sunni wahhabis and their extra-national cousins the salafis don't like the Sunni Qutbist Muslim Brotherhood or Egyptian Sunni orthodoxy and vice versa. None of them like Shia. Throw in ethnicity and it's just never going to happen.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
This quote is really succinct and quite perfect. Thank you!
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
If not for O Jihadists wouldn’t be where they at right now. They should make him the vizier of their new caliphate. After a little waffling over whether or not he should take the UN gig I think O would take the job.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sad to see the wreckage continue, the unraveling continue, and the domestic political opposition just starting to wake up.

Regarding Walsh's prescription for Iraq, perhaps dissolution is the best solution, but it hardly looks as clearcut to me.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama is not a muslim.

He is an odd mix. Half of him is an African, defeated by colonialists and suffering a loss of pride and desire for exaltation. the other half is a white armchair philosopher with a desire for exaltation.

But this desire for greatness and the fantastically high self opinion should surprise no-one, I mean he is an academic and a politician. I dont get this narcissist stuff that clogs the rightist blogs. And he can't be a muslim because there is literally no room in his head for another god.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Much harder to say what he is, rather than what he is not.

Colloquially, "he ain't from here."
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Until we properly identify the guy in the White House as a muslim, we will continue to chase our own tail. His goal for America is to become islamicized and we have to fight it with everything we've got. Do not ever underestimate Barack Hussein Obama. He wants a caliphate.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I keep asking the same question in response to some of the more puzzling things that Obama does: If Obama were a muslim what would he have done differently?

I usually get no answer...

19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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