Frederick Kagan this week at NRO mans the battlements in defense of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. More on his arguments (What do you mean Gen. McChrystal is politically correct?) another time. Meanwhile, there is a point in passing that requires comment because, while made in passing -- while always made in passing, tossed off as a given, an objective fact -- it is the faulty fulcrum of the entire nation-building argument. The point in question is that "surge" strategy in Iraq was a success, and that Iraq was a success.
I don't agree. As I've noted in "All Those Boots on the Ground But No Imprint" and elsewhere, the surge in Iraq left little more impression on the sands of Mesopotamia than the receding tide:
This, to clarify, is not the antiwar Left writing. I am writing from a pro-military, anti-jihad point of view that has long seen futility in the U.S. nation-building strategy in Iraq, and now sees futility in the rerun in Afghanistan. Problem is, the same blind spot afflicts both strategies: the failure to understand that an infidel nation cannot fight for the soul of an Islamic nation. This, in essence, is what President Bush and now President Obama have ordered our troops to do.
I don't suggest these missions are ever considered in such terms, which implicitly acknowledge intractable differences between Judeo-Christian-based Western cultures and Islamic cultures. Doing so, of course, is a taboo thing -- a grievous violation in the PC realm where decisions are made. But the omission helps answer my opening question. I seriously doubt Americans would approve of re-running the surge in Afghanistan if there were an honest reckoning of the religious, cultural and historical reasons why the surge failed to achieve its promised results in Iraq.
This is not to say the U.S. military failed. On the contrary, the U.S. military succeeded, as ordered, to bring a measure of security and aid to a carnage-maddened Islamic society. Given U.S.-won security, surge architects promised us, this same Islamic society was supposed to then respond by coming together in "national reconciliation." They were wrong. Not only did Iraqis fail to coalesce as a pro-American, anti-jihad bulwark in the Islamic world (the thoroughly delusional original objective), they have also failed to form a minimally functional nation-state. And the United States is now poised to do the same thing all over again in Afghanistan.
In other words, the surge strategy was a two-part deal. indeed, Part One was supposed to serve as the catalyst for Part Two. Part One, the part entrusted to the US military, was a success. But Part Two, the part entrusted to Iraqis -- indeed, the endgoal of the strategy -- was a flop.
As a result, six years, untold billions, and immeasurable effort in Iraq did not "get" the US anything -- unless, that is, just another lousy Arab state (OPEC-participating, Israel-boycotting, Hezbollah-sympathetic, Iranian-riddled state we can't even launch anti-jihad attacks from) counts as a prize package. And that description doesn't even consider what is worst about the US effort in Iraq: It was all, in effect, to stand up a sharia state marked to this day by extreme religious persecution, as perusing the 2009 report on Iraq by the US Commission of International Religious Freedom confirms.
I did just that this morning, having missed the release of the report when it came out in May of this year. Murder, forced conversion, assassination, destruction of churches, violence against religious minorities, homosexuals, women, professors ... lovely US-sponsored "ally" we have there.
Among the commission's recommendations to remedy the situation are several suggested amendments to the Iraqi constitution, including:
- deleting sub-clause (A) in Article 2 that no law may contradict "the established provisions of Islam" because it heightens sectarian tensions over which interpretation of Islam prevails and improperly turns theological interpretations into constitutional questions;
- revising Article 2's guarantee of "the Islamic identity of the majority" to make certain that this identity is not used to justify violations of the individual right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief under international law;
- making clear that the default system for personal status cases in Iraq is civil law, that the free and informed consent of both parties is required to move a personal status case to the religious law system [sharia], that religious court rulings are subject to final review under Iraq's civil law, and that the appointment of judges to courts adjudicating personal status matters, including any religious courts, should meet international standards with respect to judicial training; and
- removing the ability of making appointments to the Federal Supreme Court based on training in Islamic jurisprudence alone, and requiring that, at a minimum, all judges have training in civil law, including a law degree.
In other words, for religious freedom to become possible in Iraq, it is necessary to remove the sharia from the Iraqi sharia state.
Lots of luck with that. But the point here is how does fighting for, dying for, supporting, enriching, encouraging, enabling such a state help the United States of America? And how does doing all of those things constitute a US win? And not just a win, but a successful strategy to be replicated elsewhere?
I don't entertain the fantasy that the Obama administration will retool foreign or war policy to achieve what could be understood as traditionally pro-American goals. These are questions for conservatives to consider, and with an eye toward the next power cycle.