How is the insurgency faring as a political entity, and what are their chances at defeating the democratically elected government and driving the Americans from Iraqi soil? Last weekend the New York Times published an article by James Bennett titled “The Mystery of the Insurgency” which asserts the Iraqi insurgency has no real political base and is making a grave mistake by dispensing violence alone. The entire article can be summarized in the second paragraph:
The insurgents in Iraq are showing little interest in winning hearts and minds among the majority of Iraqis, in building international legitimacy, or in articulating a governing program or even a unified ideology or cause beyond expelling the Americans. They have put forward no single charismatic leader, developed no alternative government or political wing, displayed no intention of amassing territory to govern now.
Mr. Bennett also looks at the various disparate groups fighting in Iraq, whose varied goals are often in conflict:
But insurgents in Iraq appear to be fighting for varying causes: Baath Party members are fighting for some sort of restoration of the old regime; Sunni Muslims are presumably fighting to prevent domination by the Shiite majority; nationalists are fighting to drive out the Americans; and foreign fighters want to turn Iraq into a battlefield of a global religious struggle. Some men are said to fight for money; organized crime may play a role.
I had considered writing about this article but begged off as I did not believe it added to anything stated here or elsewhere about the chaotic nature of the insurgency and how their lack of a unified political message bodes ill for their chance at attaining the goals of thwarting democracy and driving the US out of Iraq (my friend Chester can attest to this, we discussed this earlier in the week). A read through The Fourth Rail’s Iraq category will reveal numerous documentation on the brutality of al Qaeda against the local Iraqi population, how the insurgency has failed to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, the affects the election has had on the morale of the Baathist and indigenous elements of the insurgency, the fracturing of the insurgency amongst the various local and foreign fighters (al Qaeda), the will of the Iraqi people to fight back, the importance of Iraq shouldering its own security and how Iraqis continue to flock to join the fight against the insurgency, the successful operations carried out by Coalition forces, how Iraq is crucial to the War on Terror geographically and geopolitically, how the war in Iraq has drawn in al Qaeda and forced them to fight America on their own soil, and how al Qaeda is failing.
Last December I discussed how the insurgency somewhat resembled Che Guevara’ foco insurgency. At the end of April, Donald Sensing looked at the insurgency and asked if they were taking a page from the Cuban guidebook called Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla, written by Carlos Marighella, which I followed up in a post titled An Empty Insurgency. There is no such thing as perfect historical analogy but there are marked similarities between the Che/Marighella models of insurgency and what is occurring in Iraq.
Joe Katzman reminds me that I should indeed have addressed Mr. Bennett’s article, and provides roundup of the blogosphere’s reaction:
During and after Operation Matador in northern Iraq, Bill Roggio and I have been joking lately about “al Qaeda’s ‘hearts and minds’ strategy.” Whatever you may think of Allied abilities in this area, it’s becoming very clear that our enemies’ gift for pissing off the Iraqi population is extraordinary. Megan McArdle of Asymetrical Information has an interesting post chronicling just how extraordinary – their tactics are the exact opposite of conventional guerilla warfare’s requirements.
Heretical Librarian adds some relevant links, then offers a thought: “the terrorists feel betrayed.” Marginal Revolution chimes in with some thoughts on what the insurgency might be trying to do, drawing on game theory et. al… Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye recommends it highly. His take on which of those goals fit the insurgency? “All of the above.”
Each of the posts Joe links to are well worth the read. Again, the lack of support for the terrorist’s tactics, and not car bomb attacks, are the real story in Iraq. This is a story the media cannot seem to grasp, except at the margins.
Another story that is marginalized by the media is the abject cruelty of al Qaeda in exploiting the weak. Strategy Page (May 19 update) reports that at least three suicide bombers had Down’s Syndrome (I posted about an incident during the election in Iraq):
Autopsies of suicide bombers has revealed that three of them had Downs Syndrome (a genetic disorder that results in mental retardation). Islamic countries tend to keep the mentally ill at home, living in extended families. Those who are able to get about, can come and go as they please, and some have apparently come to Iraq to die for Islam. This apparently explains the suicide car bombs that have been set off by remote control, even though a suicide bomber was at the wheel.
Window on the Arab World, and More! documents further evidence that the Iraqi people are not the only ones disillusioned with the methods of the terrorists (read the entire post, including kirk’s spot on conclusions). Some of the wide eyed foreign recruits pouring into Iraq are becoming jaded as well. Two Saudis wished to participate in armed resistance, only to be told that suicide bombers, and not fighters are needed. This is the height of desperation, a tacit admission the insurgency cannot be won via military means. Note the young Saudi’s reaction:
After a few days, the boys were received by the ‘leader’ of the fighters and they requested of him that he send them to Falluja. But he rejected this, excusing this by saying that the way was difficult and full of dangers ‘At that point the leader of the group suddenly showed them the truth regarding which the young men felt the strongest bitterness. So then he said: We have a group of automobiles ready to perform suicide operations. The young men almost lost consciousness from the terror of the shock. And they said to him: how our coming to Iraq has come to this end in a suicide operation with such ease! He answered them indifferently: this is what we have now, and if you want you may look elsewhere! At that moment they decided to return to their country, and completely changed their minds about participating in what they thought was resistance in Iraq.’
We saw a similar reaction from Pakistanis eager to fight in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Many Pakistanis were encouraged by their clerics to cross the border and fight the American infidels during the invasion of Afghanistan. They were provided poor leadership, arms and training, and were butchered when faced with superior American firepower. Those who survived were aghast at the loss of life and the utter disregard the Taliban and al Qaeda had for them.
Al Qaeda has a knack for poisoning the hearts and minds of those disillusioned enough to support them, and this is clearly exposed on the battlefields of Iraq as it was in Afghanistan.
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