Contrary to the impression you get from reading most U.S. newspapers or mainstream television news programs, victory in the war on terror is within our grasp. How can this be, you ask? Almost daily, we see the carnage unleashed by Sunni insurgent car bombings in Iraq, the so-called improvised explosive devices (IED’s), which target American and Iraqi military, policemen, civilians and politicians. There is no doubt that the overwhelmingly negative news coverage in Iraq has taken a great toll on the patience and fortitude of the American public. Nevertheless, an examination of the larger picture of the war on terror, such as that given by Max Boot in his November 23rd, 2005 article in the Los Angeles Times, Iraq a lost cause? Ask the real experts, helps to clarify and bring context to the dissociated concretes we are fed daily, in mind-numbing fashion, by the mainstream media.
In his article, Boot points to the optimism of those with first-hand experience of the situation in Iraq, specifically, American troops and Iraqi civilians. For example, "in a survey last month from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 47% of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37% who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56% thought things would be better in six months. Only 16% thought they would be worse." Also, "The Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations just released a survey of American elites that found that 64% of military officers are confident that we will succeed in establishing a stable democracy in Iraq. The comparable figures for journalists and academics are 33% and 27%, respectively."
More interestingly, from an economic perspective, Boot notes that a study by the liberal Brookings Institution found that per capita income among Iraqis "has doubled since 2003, and is now 30% higher than it was before the war." Moreover, the economy is projected to grow at 16.8% in 2006. Also, "According to Brookings' Iraq index, there are five times more cars on the streets than in Saddam Hussein's day, five times more telephone subscribers and 32 times more Internet users."
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, has been the growth of Iraq’s independent media. Boot writes, "The growth of the independent media — a prerequisite of liberal democracy — is even more inspiring. Before 2003 there was not a single independent media outlet in Iraq. Today, Brookings reports, there are 44 commercial TV stations, 72 radio stations and more than 100 newspapers."
On the military front, real progress has been made in winning the war against the Sunni insurgency. American and Iraqi forces been successful in wiping out the insurgent presence in numerous towns along the porous Syrian border, the major source of terrorist supplies and funding. Coalition troops are also finally holding those towns against insurgents re-infiltrating previously won territories. The Iraqi people are more and more disgusted with the indiscriminate terrorist attacks. The insurgents are now hated by the very people in the Sunni population who previously supported them just a few months ago.
American military and civilians have successfully worked with their Iraqi counterparts to rebuild decaying and sabotaged infrastructure, to open hundreds of schools, hospitals, and other essential structures, to continuously improve police security, and successfully hold two nationwide elections. American persistence, together with our enemy’s murderous irrationality, has gone light-years towards the establishment of a moderate Iraqi mainstream middle-class.
Nevertheless, important obstacles remain. The most important and urgent is the Shiite insurgency being initiated, promoted, and sustained by the radical Shiite government in Iran. Addressing this dangerous regime is something the Bush administration has failed at miserably. I wrote that victory is within our grasp. However, a lack of courage on behalf of the Bush administration on this issue will be sufficient to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This is an issue that the mainstream media has largely ignored. Unfortunately, the time for a change of direction in our policy in dealing with Iran is growing short. Once the December 15th election puts a Shiite majority at the head of Iraqi government, the danger of Iranian inspired repression against Sunnis, instigated by radical Shiite elements in the new government, will replace and quickly dwarf any remaining danger of Sunni inspired terrorism. Because of this urgently pending situation, now is the time for all Americans, conservative and liberal, to speak up and pressure the Bush administration to change its currently misguided policy towards Iran. We need to stop the growing infiltration of the Iraqi military and police by Iranian security and political agencies. We need to isolate the radical Shiite leader, Muqtada al Sadr and his followers, who just a few years ago were wanted dead or alive by Coalition forces. We need to support a mainstream middle-class Shiite population, who will oppose any efforts by Iran to take over the new Iraqi government. The chances of our success in this effort are high if we take action soon. Iraqi Shiites have no love for the radical Shiite mullahs, who are running Iranian society into the ground. Also, as discussed in James Woosley’s 2004 speech, The War for Democracy, reprinted in frontpagemag.com, the Shiites have a tradition of separating government and Mosque. There are likely many moderate Shiite clerics, possibly including Grand Ayatollah Sistani, with whom we can make some common cause in isolating the Shiite extremists in Iraq. Again, as with the Sunni population, the United States must work with moderate Shiites and promote the politics of freedom, i.e., free speech, free press and freedom of religion, and reject the use of political violence and radical Islamist fundamentalism.
At the same time we are accomplishing this, the U.S. needs to isolate the radical Iranian Shiite government and prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons. This is more easily accomplished once a stable Iraqi democracy is in place. However, we can begin by rejecting the current U.N. capitulation to Iran and Russia's flawed plan to allow Iran to process Uranium on Russian soil. The potential for corruption in this plan is far too great. Iran, an oil rich theocracy, does not need, and cannot be allowed to have, access to nuclear technology. They do not need it, and given their history of radical theocracy since 1979, there is no reason to believe that they want it for peaceful purposes. Perhaps, after a democracy is established in Iran, then they would have every right to have access to nuclear energy if they so choose. But before this happens, the Iranian theocracy must be eliminated, as it is the number one state sponsor of Islamic terrorism in the world today.
Successfully confronting and overthrowing the Iranian dictatorship would be easier than it might seem. This is so because, first of all, so much of the demographically young Iranian population hates the mullah-controlled government. Second, once a U.S. military strike against Iran has begun, collaborating with the Iranian underground would help bring the Iranian government to its knees relatively quickly (within 6 months at most). Timing would be key. We would first need to bring the spotlight on and step up pressure on the Iranian infiltration of Iraq to quickly build the pressure for an invasion.
Next, turning to Syria, the collapse of Assad's regime is all but assured if we keep the pressure on the U.N. to prosecute the figures in that regime responsible for the assassination of the former president of Lebanon. Calling attention to Syria's terrible human rights record would be a huge help. At this point, the collapse of the Syrian dictatorship is very likely to occur through diplomatic pressure alone. The U.S. only needs to persistently apply it.
Having brought democracy to Iraq, Iran, and Syria would be an enormous step in winning the wider war on terrorism. However, this war would still not be won. The radical islamicists in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would still need to be dealt with. In the former two countries, governments currently sympathetic to the United States will be a great help. However, the U.S. will need to step up pressure on these governments, at the appropriate moments, to give up their totalitarian policies. This is very crucial. We cannot abet dictators as allies. We cannot continue to act on the policy of "He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard." This is where the war of ideas is crucial. The United States must have the moral courage to promote and defend the universality of human rights and specifically, as human rights are embodied in its founding documents: the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As pointed out by Jake Wakeland in his article, The Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness, the attraction of these ideas are powerful, and will ultimately overcome the alternative philosophies of death and irrationalism propagated by the Islamists.