Has America Failed in Iraq?

Who Is Behind the Campaign for Failure?
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
July 20 2005 2:09 PM

Has America Failed in Iraq?

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Larry,

Failure in Iraq would be characterized by any of the following disaster scenarios:

Advertisement

  1. Iraqis' rejection of their democracy.
  2. Democratic institutions scrapped by a strongman ("Saddam lite") or an Islamist radical.
  3. Leaders drastically thrown off their political schedule.
  4. Security training thwarted by intimidation of recruits.
  5. A nation inflamed in civil war.

None of these have occurred. We can dwell on mistakes of the occupation, as you and others have done. Every successful military campaign and postwar reconstruction is guilty of making mistakes. But these do not always result in an overall failure to meet strategic objectives. Yes, the jury is still out on Iraq. Violent hurdles are thrust upon us and the Iraqis every day. But we're nowhere near losing Iraq.

Iraqis have not rejected their democracy—instead they've embraced it by risking their lives to vote. Iraq's first free election did not produce a strongman or an Islamist radical, but rather a leader who is committed to the protections of individual and minority rights enshrined in the interim constitution. Iraqis have not been thrown off their political schedule but have actually met every deadline. Iraqis have not been deterred by the almost daily slaughtering of Iraqi army and police recruits—instead they continue to line up to serve in the face of this violence. And, while there is certainly sectarian tension in Iraq, for the most part it is not being addressed through violence.

Indeed, a promising model for channeling sectarian tensions has survived through all this bloodshed: the evolution of the Sunni political strategy over the past year.

The United States handed over sovereignty to a government that included six Sunnis. Feeling like they had too much to lose in Iraq's first election just six months later, the Sunni political leadership successfully called for a boycott. Thus, no Sunnis were elected. But the Shiites—who won convincingly—produced a government with about one-fifth Sunni representation.

Some of this new momentum was lost when only two Sunnis were chosen for the committee to draft the permanent constitution. But the two sides soon reached a compromise with the addition of a number of Sunni positions and a commitment by the Shiites to approve the new constitution by consensus only. Just this week, two Sunni members were assassinated, but if the last two years provide any guidance, Iraqis will overcome this tragic hurdle, too.

You would be hard-pressed to find another political system in the region where decisions are reached by consensus with minorities. Sunnis are increasingly advancing their agenda through politics rather than violence. Every Sunni political leader I have spoken to over the past two weeks told me that Sunnis will turn out in large numbers in the next election.

In assessing Iraq, it is important to consider just who is behind the campaign for failure. If Iraqis from all walks of life were sympathetic to the insurgency, we would be in big trouble. But the insurgency has virtually no support from the vast majority of the Iraqi people. It is not an indigenous rebellion of the disenfranchised—on the contrary, Iraqis recognize that the terrorists seek to take away their hard-won democratic gains. Unlike Hezbollah and Hamas, which provide social welfare services and have political wings that seek a role in local government, the largely foreign insurgency in Iraq does not even attempt to gain popular support.

This is not to downplay the violent, chaotic, and at times very depressing situation in Iraq. Indeed, I just returned from a trip to Baghdad last night and found all these things to be true. But despite the daily horrors, Iraqis—and American troops—continue to overcome the precursors to failure.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.