Last Chance for Iraq?
A symposium on the war
by Michael Rubin
September 11, 2006
No issue has so shaped
America's recent politics or defined its present role in the world as
the Iraq War. NR asked a symposium of military experts, geopolitical
thinkers, Middle East scholars, and conservative writers the two
paramount questions: Are we winning; and, if not, how can we? Here is
what they had to say.
[Other commentators are:
David Frum, Newt Gingrich, Mark Helprin, Lawrence F. Kaplan, Robert D.
Kaplan, Michael Ledeen, Ralph Peters, Mark Steyn, and Bernard Trainor].
The U.S. is losing in Iraq
because American politicians and the general public have not decided
they want or need to win. Many congressmen look at Iraq through the lens
of the 2006 election: They care neither how their words embolden the
enemy nor how their grandstanding impacts Iraq. Meanwhile, many
commentators have cast accuracy aside to cater to, and cash in on,
Iraqis are now as
pessimistic as they have ever been. Corruption and organized crime run
rampant. True, some metrics are positive: Oil production is on the
rebound, shops are opening, agricultural production is up, and
defense-ministry forces are increasingly trained and competent. But the
corrupt police are running rampant.
While U.S. diplomats have
become masters of their cubicles, Iranians have become masters of Iraq.
We hold sway over the Green Zone; they hold sway over the rest of the
country. Their dominion includes, increasingly, Kurdistan. Why? Because
they have provided overwhelming force, patronage, and staying power.
Militias exist to impose
through force what they cannot win through the ballot box. Iran exerts
its influence through militias, and the U.S. fails to counter them. Left
alone, they metastasize. While USAID takes weeks to allocate a
paperclip, and months more to study its impact, the militias create
elaborate charities to establish themselves in society. Thus Iran is
replicating the Hezbollah strategy. It is no accident that Iran's
current ambassador to Iraq was formerly Tehran's liaison to the Lebanese
How to win? We're suckers if
we trust Iran. In Iraq, we need to cut the supply lines to the militias,
roll up Iranian intelligence, and replace Iranian charities with our own
patronage. We've got to treat the commanders of Iran's revolutionary
guard as the combatants they are. If imposing firm demands pushes Iran
toward a fight, we cannot shrink from it. In the Middle East, projecting
weakness leads to defeat. Unfortunately, the Rice State Department is
all about weakness.
Michael Rubin is a
resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor
of The Middle East Quarterly