The following series of three columns examines the impact of the Iraq "surge," widely considered a success roaring enough to be replicated in Afghanistan. Since it ran in papers across the country over the last three holiday weeks, I thought I'd put them all together here for the record.
The "Surge" and "Success," Part 1
The main reason the "surge" in Afghanistan is on is because the
conventional wisdom tells us the "surge" in Iraq "worked."
The problem is, the Iraq surge did not work. Yes, the U.S. military
perfectly executed its share of the strategy -- the restoration of
some semblance of calm to blood-gushing Mesopotamian society -- but
that was only Step One. The end-goal of the surge strategy, Step Two
was always out of U.S. control -- a fundamental flaw. Step Two was up
to the Iraqis: namely, to take the opportunity afforded by U.S.-
provided security (see Step One) to bring about both "national
reconciliation" and, as the powers-that-were further promised, the
emergence of a U.S. ally in the so-called war on terror.
Step One worked. Step Two didn't. The surge, like an uncaught
touchdown pass, was incomplete. The United States is now walking off
the battlefield with virtually nothing to show for its blood,
treasure, time and effort. In fact, another "success" like that could
Take the state of post-surge U.S.-Iraq investment lately in the news.
Remember "blood for oil," the anti-war mantra of the Left? "Blood not
for oil" is more like it. Not only did Paul Wolfowitz's prediction
that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction with oil revenue never
come true; not only did the United States never get to fill up one
crummy Humvee for free; but when Iraq staged one of the biggest oil
auctions in history last week, U.S. companies left empty-handed.
Russia, China and Europe came out the big winners.
"Strange," said industry experts, which is one word for it. What's
also shocking is Iraq's apparent willingness to denigrate the United
States by showing favoritism to hostile nations (that sacrificed
nothing in Iraq's war), and disregard for American interests in the
war's (supposed) aftermath.
Such benefactor-abuse fits a pattern of what you might call Iraqi de-
Americanization. At the big Baghdad Trade Fair in November, for
example, the United States was "not much evident among the 32 nations
represented," the New York Times noted. In fact, of the 396 companies
represented, only two or three were American -- "but I can't remember
their names," the fair company director said. As the newspaper summed
up: "America's war in Iraq has been good for business in Iraq -- but
not necessarily for American business."
Leading the field is United Arab Emirates with investments in Iraq
amounting to $31 billion, mostly from the last year, "compared to only
about $400 million from American companies when United States
government reconstruction spending is excluded."
U.S. government reconstruction spending, of course, equals taxpayer
dollars. Beyond our incredible largesse -- which (not including the
astronomical cost of the war itself) comes to $53 billion, much of
which is headed down the drain as Iraqis show little capacity to
maintain U.S.-provided public works projects -- one market analyst
told the Times, "U.S. private investors have become negligible players
in Iraq." Meanwhile, Turkey, the nation that prevented U.S. troops
from transiting through during the initial invasion, has become a
major commercial player in Iraq. Likewise Iran, the nuke-seeking,
genocide-promising nation that fomented much of the war, particularly
the IED war, on U.S. forces in Iraq.
The sour experience of FedEx is revealing. This fall, the shipping
company announced it was suspending operations to Iraq. "The reason is
that Iraqi officials gave RusAir, a Russian airline, exclusive rights
to cargo flight," the Times reports. "FedEx was one of the very few
American businesses that braved the risks of working not only on
American bases but also in the Red Zone, back when it was particularly
dangerous to do so. Now that the danger is much less, its business is
being thwarted by an upstart Russian come-lately."
Emphasis on "Russian." And, with the oil auction, emphasis on
"Chinese." "We all know that China is on track to become a major
economic as well as technological power," an Iraqi oil ministry
spokesman told the Washington Post.
And the United States? More like an old shoe now than anything else.
Which reminds me: After that Iraqi "journalist" threw his shoes at
then-President Bush, The Scotsman newspaper reported that the Istanbul-
based shoe manufacturer received orders from around the world,
including an incredible 120,000 orders from Iraq.
What's that old Middle Eastern saying -- The shoe of my enemy's enemy
is my shoe?
So much for the lack of post-surge U.S. business benefits in Iraq, as
I wrote last week. Now, what kind of post-surge ally is Iraq?
I write in wonder that the ultimate failures of the surge strategy --
which include the failure of anything resembling a U.S. ally to emerge
in post-Saddam Iraq -- have never entered national discourse. Rather,
the strategy that "won Iraq" has been mythologized as a "success" to
be repeated in Afghanistan.
It's not that there aren't hints to the contrary -- as when U.S.
ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill arrived at the Iraqi parliament in
early December and "some deputies," the New York Times reported,
"demanded he be barred from the building." Or when 42 percent of
Iraqis polled by the BBC in March 2008 still thought it "acceptable"
to attack U.S. forces. Or when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, as U.S.
forces transferred security responsibilities to Iraqi forces in June,
obstreperously declared "victory" over those same U.S. forces! Such
incidents convey hostility toward the United States inside Iraq, but
there's more. Of greater consequence are the positions against U.S.
interests Iraq is taking in world affairs.
Take the foundational principle of freedom of speech, continuously
under assault by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in
the international arena. The OIC includes the world's 57 Muslim
nations as represented by kings, heads of state and governments, with
policies overseen by the foreign ministers of these same 57 nations.
Describing itself as the "collective voice of the Islamic world," the
OIC strives to extend Islamic law throughout the world, and to that
end, is the driving force at the United Nations to outlaw criticism of
Islam (which includes Islamic law) through proposed bans on the
"defamation of religions" -- namely, Islam. This is a malignant thrust
at the mechanism of Western liberty. Where does post-surge Iraq come
down in this crucial ideological struggle?
An OIC nation, Iraq is, with other OIC nations, a signatory to the
1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. This declaration
defines human rights according to Islamic law, which prohibits
criticism of Islam. Indeed, Iraq's U.S.-enabled 2004 constitution
enshrines Islamic law above all. Little wonder Iraq consistently votes
at the United Nations with the OIC and against the United States on
this key ideological divide between Islam and the West, most recently
Then there's Iran.
Iran may be a menace to the West, but it is also Iraq's largest
trading partner. Heavily involved in Iraq's reconstruction, Iran has
masterminded extensive loan, tourism and energy programs in Iraq while
maintaining close connections to Iraq's dominant Shiite political
parties. This disastrous fact should dampen -- at least enter into --
assessments of the surge strategy's "success."
But it doesn't. Not even the fact that Bank Melli -- the Iranian
terror bank outlawed by the U.S. Treasury as a conduit for Iran's
nuclear and terrorist programs -- operates a branch in Baghdad gives
pause to one-surge-fits-all enthusiasts. The Bank Melli example is
particularly egregious because the bank funds Iran's Revolutionary
Guard Corps' Qods Force, which is responsible for innumerable American
casualties in Iraq -- American sacrifices on behalf of Iraq. Guess
we're supposed to look the other way. But that's like applauding the
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United States and Iraq
without noticing that the agreement prohibits the United States from
attacking Iran (or any other country) from Iraq.
Iraq's pattern of hostility to U.S. interests continues vis-a-vis
Israel, a bona-fide U.S. ally against jihad terror. Whenever Israel
strikes back at jihad -- whether at Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in
Lebanon -- post-Saddam Iraq is quick to condemn the Jewish state,
which, not incidentally, it also continues to boycott with the rest of
the Arab League.
Additionally, Maliki's public refusal even to criticize Hezbollah in
2006 prompted Dan Senor, a former Bush administration advisor in
Baghdad, to write in the Wall Street Journal: "It wasn't supposed to
be this way. We had thought that a post-Saddam Iraqi government would
be less susceptible to Arab League pressure. ... This change of tone
was to be a model for the region."
And why did "we" ever think this? Such was -- and is -- the deceptive
power of the see-no-Islam fantasy.
There's at least one more aspect to consider when appraising the past
six years in Iraq climaxed by the "surge." This would be the indirect
effect of "reflected glory," if such a quaint term applies, and has to
do with the sort of state the U.S. helped create in Iraq.
I don't know how to candy-coat reality: Post-surge Iraq is a state of
increasing repression, endemic corruption, religious and ethnic
persecution and encroaching Sharia. Recent media reports flag just
some of these glaring truths that American elites, civilian an
military, seem to shy away from.
In October, from AsiaNews, came the latest news of, to quote the
headline, "Sharia Slowly Advancing in Najaf and Basra, for Non-Muslims
Too." Here, the Sharia (Islamic law) is invoked to ban alcohol sales
and consumption by non-Muslims -- namely, Christians, given the
eradication and dispersal of Iraq's ancient Jewish population -- "on
the grounds that Iraq's constitution," as Ahmad al Sulaiti, deputy
governor of Najaf, notes, "'bans everything that violates the
principles of Islam.''" More on that below.
In November, Reuters highlighted the government crackdown on the media
via lawsuits against criticism, and laws enabling the government to
close media outlets that "encourage terrorism, violence," and --
here's a handy catch-all -- "tensions." There are new rules to license
satellite trucks, censor books and control Internet cafes. "The
measures evoke memories of ... the laws used to muzzle (journalism)
under Saddam Hussein," Reuters writes.
In December, the British paper The Observer reported that hundreds of
Iraqi police and soldiers descended on Baghdad's 300 nightclubs where
they "slapped owners' faces, scattered their patrons and dancing
girls, ripped down posters advertising upcoming acts and ordered
alcohol removed from the shelves." The official reason? No licenses.
But, the paper reports, "the reality is that a year-long renaissance
in Baghdad's nightlife may be over as this increasingly conservative
city takes on a hard-line religious identity." As one club owner said:
"This is a political decision with a religious agenda. (Prime Minister
Nouri al-) Maliki needs the votes of religious parties ... They (the
government) supported us and gave us incentives to reopen the clubs,
then when it suited them, they sold us and themselves out to the
There's a lot of that "selling out to the fundamentalists" going
around post-surge Iraq, where, it must be faced, one particularly
shocking, unintended consequence of U.S. involvement has been the
religious "cleansing" of Iraq's ancient Christian populations. In
2003, 1 million Christians lived in Iraq. Six years later, after
successive waves of violence and intimidation largely unchecked by
either Iraqi government action or U.S. intercession, more than 500,000
Christians have fled the country. It is a crisis that inspired
Christian leaders to assemble in Baghdad in December for a conference
piteously titled: "Do Christians Have a Future in Iraq?"
This anti-Christian persecution is a large part of why the U.S.
Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended in December
2008 that the State Department name Iraq a Country of Particular
Concern (CPC) -- its dread Saddam-era designation. (Recommendation
denied.) In May, to strengthen human rights in Iraq, the commission's
Iraq report included suggested amendments to Iraq's constitution,
which, not incidentally, boil down to abolishing the constitutional
supremacy of Islamic law. (And yes, U.S. legal advisers helped write
this same Sharia-supreme governing document.)
For example, the commission suggested deleting the line in Article 2
that says no law may contradict "the established provisions of Islam."
It suggested revising the "guarantee of `the Islamic identity of the
majority' to make certain that this identity is not used to justify
violations" of human rights. It also suggested that "the free and
informed consent of both parties (be) required to move a personal
status case to the religious law system," and "that religious court
rulings (be) subject to final review under Iraq's civil law." Another
suggestion was to remove "the ability of making appointments to the
Federal Supreme Court based on training in Islamic jurisprudence alone."
Good ideas -- if religious freedom is the objective. But it is not the
objective in Iraq, or in other Islamic countries. Which should make
the United States, founded and defined by such freedom, look before
nation-building, and ask: Do we really want Americans to "surge" and
risk death to build nations such as this to stand as monuments to