Bush Iraq Policy, Flawed as It Is, May Still Succeed
public support for the Iraq war, there's reason to think President
Bush's policies just might work. Americans of all parties should
pray that they do.
Bush has this much right: Iraq is now a central front in the war
on terrorism. If we lose, the terrorists win - big.
be discredited, all right, and probably go down as a failed president.
Democrats might even win the next election. But defeat, accompanied
by the wholesale slaughter of Iraqi "collaborators,"
would be a humiliation for the United States as a whole and would
embolden its enemies all over the world. Al Qaeda, Iran and North
Korea all would think they had the United States on the run. The
enterprise of spreading democracy through the Islamic world -
advanced by Democrats as well as the Bush administration - would
suffer a mortal blow.
are right to say that Iraq wasn't a central front until Bush decided
to invade. Since then, Iraq has become a magnet for Islamic jihadists,
led by Jordanian Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi.
doesn't try to make the argument that he cleverly invaded Iraq
so as to attract and concentrate terrorists where we could destroy
them. The case for war was based on the false assumptions that
Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that
Iraqis would quickly embrace democracy, serving as a model for
the rest of the Middle East.
critics certainly are right to say that the immediate post-war
administration of Iraq was botched. We had too few troops. We
allowed massive looting and destruction of key infrastructure.
We mistakenly disbanded the Iraq army. We allowed Hussein's henchmen
to constitute a vicious insurgency, equipped with vast quantities
of unsecured munitions.
U.S. deaths, a scandal over treatment of Iraqi prisoners and constant
bloody attacks against Iraqis have dispirited the American public,
60 percent of which now wants to withdraw American troops.
Democrats are both feeding and feeding off public dissatisfaction,
branding Iraq a Vietnam-style "quagmire" - implying
it's a lost cause - and demanding that Bush unveil a "plan"
Democrats almost sound as though they're rooting for a U.S. defeat
because it would mean vindication for them and discredit for Bush.
all his errors, Bush may emerge successful in Iraq with a stable
almost-democracy in place, an Iraqi military capable of fighting
insurgents and the framework set for gradual U.S. withdrawal.
not so that the president has no strategy. Saturday's constitutional
elections were a definitive step in the political phase of that
strategy: inclusion of more and more Sunnis in the political process.
vote in large numbers. Even if most of them voted "no"
on the constitution, they nonetheless voted. One Sunni party supported
the draft constitution and, owing to a deal brokered by U.S. Ambassador
Zalmay Khalilzad, Sunnis have every incentive to participate in
the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.
parliament will establish a commission to continue work on the
constitution. If Sunnis want a voice in that process, they'll
have to vote.
mean that the insurgency will end? Certainly not. But the trial
of Hussein on massacre charges should help expose Baathist fighters
for the monsters they are, reducing Sunni support for the insurgency.
according to retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, just back from
Iraq, the Sunni insurgency is no longer capable of even platoon-sized
attacks on U.S. forces.
they can do is plant roadside bombs and fire rockets," Scales
said in an interview. As one major sign of progress, he said,
the formerly impassable highway from Baghdad International Airport
into town is now well-guarded and clogged with traffic.
insurgents know they cannot defeat us on the battlefield,"
he said. "Their target is our will back here. They think
that if they can inflict enough casualties, we will pull out."
said that Zarqawi's jihadists no longer are capable of attacking
Iraqi police stations, but are confined to suicide bombings against
civilians, mainly Shiites, in hopes of inciting a civil war. Not
only has civil war not broken out, but al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman
al-Zawahiri, has urged Zarqawi to stop slaughtering Shiites, at
least for now, because it gives jihad a bad name around the world.
for optimism is that Iraqi security forces are increasingly capable
of engaging in combat. Democrats loudly seized upon the fact that
top U.S. commanders testified that only one Iraqi battalion is
capable of independent fighting. But Lt. Gen. David Petraeus,
formerly in charge of training Iraqis, clarified the situation
by saying that while only one battalion can operate completely
without U.S. support, 36 can "take the lead" in combat
with U.S. assistance and 40 more can fight alongside American
clearly is for U.S. forces to phase increasingly into an advisory
and training role, allowing for eventual withdrawals.
In an intercepted
letter to Zarqawi, al Qaeda's Zawahiri optimistically forecast
that the United States might quit Iraq just as it did Vietnam,
allowing for a jihadist takeover and use of Iraq as a base for
attacks elsewhere in the Middle East. Al Qaeda clearly is hoping
to win on the battlefield of American politics. No responsible
American can let that happen.
Kondracke is the Executive Editor of Roll Call.