7/17/2006

Sunni's Have Only Saddam to Blame

Many Sunnis now say they need U.S. protection - Africa & Middle East - International Herald Tribune

For twenty-five years Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party ruled a secular Iraq with an iron fist, which is the reason why American policymakers have been reluctant to reach out to Sunni militants, who have shown an almost urgent desire to make peace and begin the healing process. It is hard to argue with US officials who are unwilling to compromise with terrorists, which I believe the insurgents truly are. However, three years on and bombs are still ripping through Baghdad cafes weekly during "peaceful" periods, and daily during times of terror and violence. Unfortunately for the Sunni militants, they bought into Saddam's bullshit, just like the rest of us, and for some reason our three weeks stroll into Baghdad wasn't enough to convince these seemingly reasonable men that they should sell-out the Ba'ath gang and jump on the Allawi-led secular bandwagon.

We in the west seem to have acknowledged the threat posed by radically elected anti-Western governments in the Middle East. What we have remained blind to is the even more disastrous possibility that an absolute majority, Islamic "sorta-fundamentalist" government (much like the current Shia dominated Iraq parliament). Ignorantly complicit in each others tragic miscalsulations, the Sunni-Arab minority and the American diplomatic mission have squandered three years ignoring historical political reality in Iraq and a truly unified interest in Iraq's success.

The are many possible explanations for the lack of intellectual imagination amongst foreign policy officials. My inclination is to think that the Pentagon has been doing most of the negotiating with the Sunni militias, and Marines aren't exactly known for their persuasive negotiation tactics. Marines are the finest killing force the world has ever known, and for three years the reality has been (despite whatever Hardball, Tucker, Katie Couric, Tim Russert, Rep. Murtha, etc...would like you to believe) the Marines have been killing and capturing Sunni "insurgents" with no formidable resistance. Most coalition casualties have come from random acts of terrorism in the form IEDs and kamakazi pawns strapped with C-4. Marines will always do their job, but politicians often fail to even realize theirs. Vietnam was a war against an ideology, so negotiation was never considered until Nixon and Kissinger brought some imagination to US foreign policy.

To be clear, there are absolutely Sunni-Arabs who are truly anti-American Islamic fascists, but Saddam was not one, and I suspect there are a great many Sunni's who flourished under Saddam's government because of their savvy, secular worldview which helped them understand the practical nature of government administration. Ihad Allawi, formerly interim-Prime Minister- was a man who understood this reality. This was not understood in Washington, but we have to play with the card we have been dealt. It is going to be years before a political system can be established which truly reflects our potential as a driving force for political freedom in the Middle East.
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