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Mogadishu, Revisited

November 24th, 2003 - 12:04 am

You’ve probably read this already:

Iraqi teenagers dragged the bloody bodies of two American soldiers from a wrecked vehicle and pummeled them with concrete blocks Sunday, witnesses said, describing a burst of savagery in a city once safe for Americans. Another soldier was killed by a bomb and a U.S.-allied police chief was assassinated.

As Ralph Peters has noted in several columns and articles (collected here), many Arabs fear their culture is simply unready for decent government. It’s a case of cultural low-self esteem — they see the West and all its marvels, while they, for all their oil wealth, can’t compete with even Thailand. Outbursts like yesterday’s barbaric atrocity (let’s not mince words; it was a barbaric atrocity), are manifestations of their fear of failure.

In Iraq, Araby now has a chance to gain a little confidence, a little experience, a little self-esteem. Iraqis have lost their fear of Saddam, but they have yet to lose their fear of failure.

Unfortunately, we’ll see many more events in Iraq (and elsewhere) like yesterday’s, before we see a civil society. If ever.

So would an Iraqi failure to build a decent society mean our invasion was a failure? No, I don’t think so. Our goals, among others, were to get rid of an old enemy, rattle our other enemies, and set the stage for decratization in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world. All we can do is set the stage — they have to put on the play themselves.

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