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Iraq: Winning on the Home Front By: Dinesh D'Souza
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Dinesh D'Souza gave the following address at the invitation of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The speech took place at the Four Seasons Hotel on February 7, 2007. -- The Editors.

David, thank you very much.

I have been dodging a few bullets of late; lately this kamikaze strike by the New York Times. I'm reminded of something that Winston Churchill said during the Boer War. He said, "There's nothing so exhilarating as to be shot at, without result." So, I feel pleased just to be standing here.

 

Anyway, we were having this interesting debate in America about Iraq reconsidering Bush's policy toward Iraq. I think that we need to go a little further back and reconsider 9/11, because our American understanding of the War on Terror emerged almost immediately in the aftermath of 9/11. There developed almost instantly a kind of left-wing and right-wing analysis of the nature of the enemy. And it is to that analysis, I think, that we need to return.

 

For example, we've been talking for five years about the War on Terror, the war against terrorism, but I don't think we're fighting a war against terrorism any more than in World War II America was fighting a war against kamikaze-ism.

 

In World War II our enemy was the army of Imperial Japan. Kamikaze-ism was merely a tactic employed by the adversary. Similarly, now the war isn't against terrorism, it's the war against a certain species of Islamic radicalism or fundamentalism.

 

But again, when I use these terms I kind of catch myself short. "Fundamentalism," as we know, is a term out of Protestant Christianity. It has somewhat limited utility when you project it abroad. You know, you turn on CNN these days, you'll see a retired military analyst or a professor of romance languages at Bates College saying something like, "The Muslim world is divided between the liberals and the fundamentalists."

 

Now, I don't know if its news to you but there are no "liberals" in the Muslim world. We can find isolated individuals here and there – Salman Rushdie and Irshad Manji – but they have no constituency within the House of Islam.

 

Somebody said to me the other day, "but aren't some Iranians secular and feminist and believe in gay rights?" And I said, "Yeah, but, they live in L.A., not in the Muslim world.”

 

Now, fundamentalism in Christianity refers to a certain kind of Biblical literalism. You don't accept the Bible allegorically or in parables but see it as a literal rendition of the word of God.

 

By that definition, every living Muslim is a fundamentalist because every Muslim believes the Koran is the Word of God: unadulterated, literal, not just inspired but dictated in the Arabic language to the Prophet Mohammed. If you don't believe that, you're not a Muslim.

 

So, my point is not that all Muslims are extreme, but that "fundamentalism" is not a useful term of classification or distinction in the Muslim world.

 

Now, as I mentioned a moment ago, we've got this sort of left-wing and the right-wing analysis of why we have this powerful current of anti-Americanism coming at us from the Muslim countries.

 

From the Left, for example, we hear things like "the Muslims are upset because of the United States' terrible history of overthrowing elected leaders like Mossadegh in Iran, and this has created discontent among the radical Muslims.

 

A little peek at history will show you that this is actually nonsense. Mossadegh was elected by nobody. He was, in fact, appointed by the Iranian Parliament, put in place by the Shah. Shortly upon being appointed he got into a power struggle with the Shah, dissolved the parliament that had appointed him, and began to suspend all civil freedoms. And, yes, at that point the CIA came in, orchestrated a coup, got him out, and restored the power of the Shah.

 

I went back and read an interesting book called The Collected Sermons of Khomenei, which actually goes back to the 1940s and '50s. Khomenei preached three sermons actually saying how happy he was that Mossadegh had been removed. And if you think about it, it's pretty clear why: Mossadegh was a secular socialist. The radical Muslims were delighted to see him go. So, this analysis of the contemporary roots of Muslim rage seems to be quite deficient.

 

Or you'll see today on the left-wing websites "the radical Muslims are upset because the United States, even today, supports unelected tyrannical regimes in the Middle East.

 

But if you think about it, this cannot be a very plausible source of Muslim anger – that we support unelected, despotic, tyrannical regimes in the region – since there are no other kinds of regimes in the Middle East. Not counting Israel, tyrannical despotic regimes are all you have over there.

 

Bin Laden's argument has never been that we support tyranny. His argument is that we support the wrong kind of tyranny. We support, in his view, the tyranny of the infidel - secular tyranny. He thinks we should be supporting the tyranny of the believer.

 

But now I turn very briefly to the conservative side because I think with equal confidence we have had assertions that try to explain what's going on in the Muslim world.

 

The radical Muslims are against modernity. They're against science. They're against democracy. They're against capitalism. President Bush says "They hate us for our freedom." I think that these claims are equally questionable.

 

First of all, the radical Muslims are not against science. Most of them are, in fact, scientifically trained. If you think about the suicide attackers – not just at 9/11, but the London bombing, the Madrid, or the Bali bombing – how many of these suicide attacks have been done by mullahs? By my count, not one.

 

But, by contrast, most of these guys – 80 to 90 percent – appear to have some kind of scientific training, not to mention a considerable exposure to the West. Bin Laden himself was a civil engineer, his deputy Al-Zawahri was a medical doctor. Ramzi Yousef, who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, was an electrical engineer. Mohamed Atta was an urban planner. The fellow who chopped off Daniel Pearl's head was an attendee of the London School of Economics. And one can go on. They're not against science.

 

You'll find in the literature of radical Islam – which is kind of how I started this book, to study the literature of radical Islam, the thinkers who are shaping minds over there – no condemnations of capitalism. And I think I know why: The Prophet Muhammad was by profession a trader, a merchant; Islam historically has been pretty friendly to capitalism and trade.

 

And what about democracy? Well, this is a little trickier, because historically the radical Muslims have been against democracy. They have taken the view, which Bin Laden himself has expressed: “You cannot allow the will of the people to substitute for the will of God.” That's been the classical view.

 

But, of late, the radical Muslims have had a revelation; and that is "we shouldn't be against democracy because if you have democracy, we can win." They saw this in Algeria in the early 1990s when an Islamic radical group called The Islamic Salvation Front routed the ruling FLN – and the FLN is the liberation group that pushed the French out of Algeria.

 

They were trounced by the radical Muslims. The elections were cancelled. Algeria was thrown into civil war, but the radical Muslims learned a lesson. And they have seen more recently with the victories of Hamas and the success of the Muslim brotherhood in the Egyptian parliamentary election that "look, democracy can work." As one Hamas guy told The New Yorker recently, "we have learned to play the democracy game."

 

Now the reason this is a supreme dilemma for Bush is because Bush has been basically prancing around the globe saying, "We want to have elections all over the world," and the radical Muslims have a knock-down response: "Okay, Mr. Bush, let's have a free election in Saudi Arabia in six months. We'll run the Royal Family against the Bin Laden guys."

 

Now, would the United States foreign policy for one minute consider the possibility that the holy sites and a big fraction of the world's exportable oil will end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda? This would be insane.

 

So, what I'm suggesting is we need to go back a little bit to the drawing board. Now what I want to do, if I can in my brief time, is say a word about the Iraq war and then say a word about the enemy at home.

 

I was on a campus the other day, and I said, "In retrospect I wish the United States had focused on Iran. Why? Because Iran is the one state that has been in the grasp of radical Islam for a generation and the Iranians have been pursuing those weapons of mass destruction with the same zeal and, apparently, greater success than Saddam." But, I said, "Don't be too cocky about this because, frankly, no president ever got to make a decision in retrospect. A statesman is in the moving current of events. You weigh competing risks. You make decisions with the information available at the time. You don't have the benefit of hindsight."

 

But it's reasonable to ask, nevertheless, what is America trying to achieve in Iraq and can this, in fact, be done.

 

To me, what America is trying to achieve is quite simple: If you are an ordinary Muslim in the Middle East – not a radical Muslim, not a Jihadi, just a guy coming out of school or college – if you look at your neighborhood, you see two kinds of regimes, two kinds of governments. You see Islamic tyranny, and you see secular tyranny.

 

What's Islamic tyranny? Well, Iran’s rule of the Mullahs, theocracy. That's kind of the Bin Laden model, loosely speaking.

 

What is secular tyranny? Everybody else. Asad in Syria, Mubarak in Egypt, Abdullah in Jordan, the Gulf kingdoms and so on.

 

So, the Muslim has a pretty sad choice if you think about it: Islamic tyranny or secular tyranny? It's not totally surprising that in that bleak scenario quite a few Muslims think, " If I'm going to have tyranny, why not pick the Islamic variety."

 

I think in Iraq, the United States is attempting – boldly, against history – to put a new card on the table, a new option. Call it Muslim democracy.

 

Again, we should be a little clearheaded about this. The idea here is not to go around the world overthrowing dictators and establishing democracies. We are not the world's policemen. Foreign policy is not philanthropy.

 

In Iraq, we are trying not to impose democracy everywhere but merely to impose it somewhere. The idea being that if it takes root, it offers the traditional Muslims an alternative, a viable third way.

 

Now, what's amazing is that we keep hearing that this war can't be won; in fact, is being lost – or if you believe The New Republic, is already lost. You turn on the television you will see very eloquent people – I saw Congressman Murtha saying in a recent interview, "the Iraqis are very upset that we're over there. The Iraqis resist the American occupation. The Iraqis feel we don't belong there." And this is really amazing. I'm listening to "the Iraqis think this," "the Iraqis feel that," and I'm thinking, "How do you know?"

 

You hear this type of analysis everyday. You hear, for example, "This is becoming Vietnam all over again. America is in a quagmire," and so on. Think about this.

 

First of all, in Vietnam there were a million men on the other side. Iraq is a little different. In Iraq you've got three groups. You've got the Shia, who are the majority (60 percent). You've got the Kurds, who are a minority (20 percent). You've got the Sunnis, a minority (20 percent). The insurgency by consensus is derived entirely from group number three, the Sunnis. The insurgency is not 20 percent; it's a sliver of 20 percent.

 

On the other side, you have the Kurds, who are openly and almost embarrassingly pro-American. You've got the Shia who I would describe as tactically pro-American. I don't mean that they are pro-American by enthusiastic sentiment, but they're pro-American because we put them in power.

 

So here you have a war, the insurgents are pulling from 20 percent. You've got the Kurds and the Shia de facto on our side. Add to this American wealth, American technology, American military training, and American prowess. I mean, who's going to win the war in Iraq?

 

I submit you don't have to be a West Point strategist to see there is no way for America, militarily, to lose that war.

 

Now, having said this statement I retract it in one small but important respect. I think that there is one way for us to lose the war and that is to lose it in the American mind.

 

Military strategists from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz will tell us that force or strength is the product of resources times will. All the force in the world is useless if you don't have the will.

 

Recently Bin Laden's deputy, Al-Zawahiri, issued a very arrogant statement: "Mr. Bush, send the whole military. The dogs of Iraq are waiting to lick their bodies" – something of that nature.

 

What is the meaning of that statement? To me, it implies the smell of victory. The insurgents think they are winning and they are kind of winning. But they're winning not because they are trouncing the American military on the streets of Baghdad. They are winning because they don't have to do that; they just have to hang in there a little longer.

 

Why? Because they know there's this big debate going on in America. And they know even more that besides the legendary impatience of the American people, there is a faction in America, once marginal but now whispering daily into the ears of people like Pelosi and Murtha and Rangel and Kennedy saying "let's get out." So powerful is this Left that it now has the Democratic presidential candidates in a competition to see who can do the most and the quickest to thwart and trip and block Bush's War on Terror.

 

One guy says, "I'll shut down Guantanamo Bay." Another says, "I'll cut off the funding. I'll block the surge." Another says, "I'll withdraw all the troops." And finally, Hillary said, "I'll make sure the Iraq war is done." Done in what way? We get out?

 

And if the American military plus the Iraqi government has its hands full with the insurgents, it's a pretty safe bet what would happen if the American protective hand is withdrawn. Now again, this is not Vietnam.

 

The Iraqi insurgents have already said, "We want to control Iraq." Let's remember that Islamic radicalism for a generation has had so far only one major state, Iran. But Iran is a freak state. By that I mean Iran – the Iranians are Persian in a world that is largely Arab. They are Shia in a Muslim world that's largely Sunni. The Khomeini revolution was inexportable; although Khomeini wanted it to go global, it never did.

 

The Iraqi insurgents are determined that a second major state fall into their hands, ideally to establish a Sunni model for the vast majority of Muslims in the world. And they've already said that if they get Iraq, their next targets will be Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

 

So my point is that for the foreseeable future, we're dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Not only our economic welfare, but our basic security is at stake. In this sense, the Left is the enemy at home. What I mean is that the Left is doing work that the Iraqi insurgents need done but can't do themselves. There's absolutely no way Bin Laden could persuade America to withdraw from Iraq, but to his unbelievable good fortune, there is a huge powerful group in America lobbying for exactly that outcome. That's my point.

 

In a sense, the Left and the radical Muslims, although they have completely opposite agendas; they want to live in two very different kinds of societies. The radical Muslims want Sharia, and the Left wants the permissive society; however, they share a common imperative: to defeat Bush in Iraq. The Left would like to hang Iraq, make it a millstone around Bush's neck. And so, the Left and the radical Muslims are operating like the two prongs of a scissors. They don't talk to each other. They don't conspire. However, they work independently toward the same goal. In a way, the radical Muslims supply the terror and the Left invokes it and uses it to demoralize the American people, saying, "It's just not worth it; let's just move out of there."

 

So, as conservatives – I will end on this note, perhaps. The Bush administration has been fighting – whether it knows it or not – two wars: There is a military war against an enemy abroad, and there is a political war against an enemy at home.

 

As I said when I first wrote this book, the Left was not in power but now its presence is palpable. And so, in a sense, this has moved the Iraq war, one may say, into a terminal ultimate stage. I think in this book I am questioning a lot of orthodoxies not just on the Left, but also a few on the Right.

 

But if you think about it, the reason I think we need this debate is that our conservative strategy of the past five years has not been working all that well. This strategy I would summarize as basically attempting to convince liberals that radical Muslims don't really like you. The idea is that if the liberal only realized this, the scales would fall from his eyes; he would jump on the bandwagon, and we would have a unified War on Terror.

 

I ask you, has this strategy produced a single convert to date? If not, it's time to open up the debate. It's time to think of some new strategies. Ultimately it's up to people in this room, people like us, to make the difference.

 

I want to end with that slogan from the '60s, "If not now, when? If not us, who?"

Thank you very much.

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