The March/April issue of Foreign Policy magazine asks, “Who Won in Iraq?” A listless, torn Iraqi flag serves as the backdrop for the cover—and an indication of the grim and gloomy analysis that awaits the reader inside.
For the record, Foreign Policy’s winners are:
10. Israel, which effectively lost two enemies after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime—Iraq and Libya. “Saddam was one of only two Arab leaders who called for the elimination of the state of Israel, the other one being Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya. Luckily for Israel, the Iraq war has proven to have taught Colonel Qaddafi a lesson through intimidation.”
9. Old Europe, which “argued for restraint and warned of the dangers that would follow from a rush to war.”
8. The UN, which benefits from the death of “delusions of an invincible superpower.”
7. The Price of Oil, which has more than doubled since the spring of 2003. “Go to Dubai, Qatar, or any of the city-states of the Gulf and the thing that most catches the eye is the amount of construction going on: gleaming skyscrapers, holiday resorts, opulent apartment buildings, desalination plants, and more. The reason for that massive buildup is that the Gulf states are enjoying an economic boom. Why? Because George W. Bush invaded Iraq.”
6. Arab Dictators, who “rest easy” because “the failure of U.S. policy in Iraq has provided autocratic regimes in the Middle East a reprieve from the pressure to democratize.”
5. The People’s Republic of China, which is using Washington’s preoccupation with Iraq and foundering global standing “to build up a positive image in Asia and beyond…The Bush administration’s mismanagement of the occupation turned out to be a godsend for China.”
4. Samuel Huntington, “the man who envisioned a clash of civilizations…Thanks to the bloody clashes that have exploded in Iraq, more Americans today view Islam as a violent faith than immediately after terrorists killed 3,000 Americans in Islam’s name.”
3. Al-Qaeda, which “was on life support after September 11—until a new front opened in Baghdad and revived its mission.”
2. Moqtada al-Sadr, who “can now plausibly claim to be the most powerful man in the country.”
1. Iran, which “has emerged as the biggest winner of the United States’ war. There is little stability or democracy in Iraq to impress Iranians. Conjuring more fear than hope, the war did nothing to loosen the grip of clerical rule over the country... Iraq has strengthened Iran and weakened the United States.”
The Iraqi people didn’t make FP’s Top Ten. They should have. Despite the horrors of Iraq’s postwar war, they are free—and they say they prefer freedom over Saddam’s tyranny. They have defied mass-murder and mayhem, terror and torture, to vote. In 2005 alone, they held three nationwide elections, including elections for the interim government, a referendum on the constitution and elections for the constitutional government. And they earned back their sovereignty far sooner than postwar Japan or Germany.
Nor, according to FP, has the U.S. military won in Iraq. But it pays to recall that U.S. forces took down Saddam’s beastly regime in 21 days and replaced it with a pro-Western, popularly-supported government. That government, quite unlike virtually all of its neighbors, operates under the rule of law, as prescribed by the most progressive constitution in the Muslim or Arab world. As Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has observed, U.S. troops are preventing “a renewed civil war—renewed because there has already been a civil war in Iraq. For 35 years, Saddam and his Baath Party made war on the Iraqi people. The liberation of Iraq ended that civil war.”
Nor, according to FP, did the American people win in Iraq, though the vignette on Israel concedes there are some side-benefits to ousting Saddam’s thugocracy. “There’s no telling how far Qaddafi would have taken the [WMD] program, or whether he would have ever attacked the Jewish state with nuclear materials. Thanks to the use of force against Qaddafi’s Iraqi counterpart, Israelis will never have to find out.” Indeed, we should never forget that Libya’s preemptive surrender of its WMD arsenal in late 2003 came after Saddam’s capture.
In addition, if we consider what dispassionate men like Charles Duelfer and David Kay have concluded, the American people are indeed safer now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in control of a regime with the proven capacity to build and deploy WMDs—and a clear intention to rebuild and redeploy those weapons as soon as the world lost interest.
Nor did FP’s Top Ten offer any asterisks about al Qaeda’s Musab Zarqawi, who once conceded, “Our field of movement is shrinking and the grip around the Mujahidin has begun to tighten…Our enemy is growing stronger by the day…This is suffocation.” If as most war critics constantly say, Iraq is gripped not by foreign jihadists but by sectarian war, then al Qaeda is not the problem in Iraq. (Tell that to Zarqawi’s thousands of victims.)
In truth, jihadists of all stripes are being drawn to Iraq like moths to a light. That is not all bad for America. After all, the enemy is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent; he must pick his battles. As historian Paul Johnson has observed, “America obliged the leaders of international terrorism to concentrate all their efforts on preventing democracy from emerging in Iraq.” Fresh from Iraq, Gen. Barry McCaffrey reports that the U.S. has killed 20,000 armed fighters in Iraq and arrested 120,000. In other words, the enemy is fighting and dying over there rather than over here, as the U.S. continues what American troops call their “away game.”
Zarqawi was once the most dangerous man in Iraq. He is now dead. As for al-Sadr, the Shiite leader may or may not be the most powerful man in Iraq. After all, he fled to Iran ahead of the U.S.-Iraqi surge. And as of this writing, he still has not shown his face in Iraq.
Nor did FP’s list of winners note that Old Europe’s (and the UN’s) way of dealing with what the UN Charter calls “threats to the peace” is failing in Iran—again—just as it failed in Saddam’s Iraq and the Taliban’s Afghanistan, in Srebrenica and Mogadishu, in Rwanda and Darfur. For two years now, the UN and its agencies have been warning Tehran about warnings. It calls to mind the 16 UN resolutions Saddam’s Iraq flouted, punctuated by Resolution 1441, a resolution that took eight weeks to approve and basically demanded that Iraq comply with existing resolutions. Once it passed, half the Security Council refused to enforce it. Winston Churchill, a founding father of the UN, worried about such mischief at the UN. “We must make sure that its work is fruitful,” he warned in 1946, “that it is a reality and not a sham, that it is a force for action and not merely a frothing of words.” More than six decades later, we still haven’t succeeded.
Speaking of Iran, it may not be the “winner” in Iraq for long. From their proxy wars in Iraq and lower Lebanon, to their nuclear brinkmanship with the U.S. and EU, to their hostage-taking in Iraqi waters, couldn’t the mullahs that run Iran be overplaying their hand? After all, Iran is surrounded by religious and ethnic and political adversaries. In fact, some critics of Washington’s hard-line policy with Iran point to these very realities to rationalize or justify Tehran’s misconduct. At some point, the U.S. and its allies will leverage these realities—the restive populace and distrustful neighbors, the exposed flanks and front, the numerous entry points for invasion or destabilization, the countless air corridors—to remind Iran who really holds the cards. The mullahs could end up controlling the Sadr City slums and a mayor’s office in Basra—and losing everything inside Iran.
Indeed, it pays to recall that less than two years ago, as the Purple Thumb Revolution in Iraq gave way to the Cedar Revolution in nearby Lebanon, many in the foreign-policy establishment were talking about the “autumn of autocrats” and raising their eyebrows (and scratching their heads) over the dramatic changes unleashed by Washington’s post-9/11 words and wars. Two years before that, as the statues came tumbling down in Baghdad, more than a few cynics declared, “We’re all neocons now.”
In other words, tomorrow’s geopolitical landscape may not resemble today’s. Things are never quite as good or bad as the first drafters of history claim. The editors of FP should know this. After all, on the very same webpage that FP hails all the “winners” of the Iraq war, we find a smirking critique of predictions that never came to pass—in the 1960s, it was the existential threat of overpopulation; in the 1970s, it was global cooling; in the 1980s, the ascendance of Japan and decline of America.
In a few years, perhaps we will add the March/April issue of Foreign Policy to that list.
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