Friday, March 16, 2007

Failure in Iraq?

Our multi-headed National Strategy for Victory in Iraq is organized around "Eight Pillars." These "Eight Pillars" represent distinct strategic objectives, each with a "corresponding interagency working group."

Considering that Islam is defined in large part by a doctrine called "The Five Pillars," I fear it may be difficult to underestimate the negative impact of this verbiage in our battle to win the "hearts and minds" of the Muslim world. Islam, according to Huston Smith, "joins faith to politics, religion to society, inseparably."

Are "The Eight Pillars" of our National Strategy some bit of cultural insensitivity, or worse yet, a sick joke by the planners of this occupation? It would seem, if nothing else, the use of such religiously-loaded language is profoundly unhelpful in the context of a religio-political people under military occupation, as the Qur'an states: "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256).

Imagine how you would feel if a foreign occupation of our country was guided by "The Thirteen Commandments."

Paul Wolfowitz has asserted that our mission in Iraq is "not a crusade," although we can perhaps forgive those in the Middle East who may believe otherwise: our President has himself used that very term, and the Administration consistently frames the violence as religiously-motivated, even as we push our "Eight Pillars" on these people. Our strategy to "isolate enemy elements from those who can be won over to the political process by countering false propaganda" would seem to amount to imposing a heretical doctrine on a subjugated people, while marketing this heresy as salvation.

Although we undoubtedly possess the raw military strength to "bomb Iraq back into the stone age," such a move would be politically suicidal for much of Washington. As General David Patraeus put it, "there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq." At present, we would seem also to lack a viable diplomatic or political approach.

Among the top goals of the National Strategy is the reform of Iraq's economy, "which in the past has been shaped by war, dictatorship, and sanctions." The United States of America is in no small part responsible for the war, dictatorship, and sanctions that shaped Iraq's economy in the past, and we have done almost nothing to bring about meaningful reform. We have only brought more war, caused more damage to Iraq's infrastructure, and propped up a puppet government in a fortress far removed from Iraq's citizenry.

While the politicians in Washington warn us against the risk of failure in Iraq, it is important to recognize that our present conflict is itself an acknowledgment of our previous Iraq policy's failure. This acknowledgment compounds the failure of our previous policy by failing to rectify our previous mistakes.

We need to dramatically alter our direction if we are to stop compounding our own mistakes. Our current policy is simply to add fuel to the fire and stir the pot.

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