Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 18, 2005
WAR: The Saudi Insurgency

Christopher Hitchens (via Vodka), Megan McArdle and Tyler Cowen all ponder a New York Times article noting that the insurgency in Iraq isn't following any of the traditional patterns for an insurgency, in the sense of (1) trying to build popular support or (2) having a comprehensible set of goals or demands. Hitchens - whose column is a must read - notes the obvious: the "insurgents" are basically Zarqawi's organization and the former Ba'athists. Zarqawi's group is part of Al Qaeda and composed of non-Iraqis; their behavior is precisely in line with Al Qaeda's MO and stated ideology, and they are no more an Iraqi "insurgency" than Al Qaeda in the United States is an American insurgency:

The Bin Laden and Zarqawi organizations, and their co-thinkers in other countries, have gone to great pains to announce, on several occasions, that they will win because they love death, while their enemies are so soft and degenerate that they prefer life. Are we supposed to think that they were just boasting when they said this? Their actions demonstrate it every day, and there are burned-out school buses and clinics and hospitals to prove it, as well as mosques . . .

Then we might find a little space for the small question of democracy. . . . As for the Bin Ladenists, they have taken extraordinary pains to say, through the direct statements of Osama and of Zarqawi, that democracy is a vile heresy, a Greek fabrication, and a source of profanity. For the last several weeks, however, the Times has been opining every day that the latest hysterical murder campaign is a result of the time it has taken the newly elected Iraqi Assembly to come up with a representative government. The corollary of this mush-headed coverage must be that, if a more representative government were available in these terrible conditions (conditions supplied by the gangsters themselves), the homicide and sabotage would thereby decline. Is there a serious person in the known world who can be brought to believe such self-evident rubbish?

On many occasions, the jihadists in Iraq have been very specific as well as very general. When they murdered Sergio Vieira de Mello, the brilliant and brave U.N. representative assigned to Baghdad by Kofi Annan, the terrorists' communique hailed the death of the man who had so criminally helped Christian East Timor to become independent of Muslim Indonesia. (This was also among the "reasons" given for the bombing of the bar in Bali.) I think I begin to sense the "frustration" of the "insurgents." They keep telling us what they are like and what they want. But do we ever listen? Nah. For them, it must be like talking to the wall. Bennet even complains that it's difficult for reporters to get close to the "insurgents": He forgets that his own paper has published a conversation with one of them, in which the man praises the invasion of Kuwait, supports the cleansing of the Kurds, and says that "we cannot accept to live with infidels."

This point is underlined by a recent Washington Post analysis pointing out the high proportion of young Saudi jihadists in the "insurgency". These are reckless, frustrated young men, in their teens and early twenties, who desire martyrdom. Not only are they foreigners whose only interests are harming America and bringing death on themselves, but the fact that they have no plan or program for the future of Iraq is about as surprising as the idea that a 15-year-old boy who gets his girlfriend pregnant has no long term plan for fatherhood.

Then there's the Ba'athists; Hitchens again:

[W]hy would the "secular" former Baathists join in such theocratic mayhem? Let me see if I can guess. Leaving aside the formation of another well-named group - the Fedayeen Saddam - to perform state-sponsored jihad before the intervention, how did the Baath Party actually rule? Yes, it's coming back to me. By putting every Iraqi citizen in daily fear of his or her life, by random and capricious torture and murder, and by cynical divide-and-rule among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. Does this remind you of anything?

. . . Having once read in high school that violence is produced by underlying social conditions, the author of this appalling article refers in lenient terms to "the goal of ridding Iraq of an American presence, a goal that may find sympathy among Iraqis angry about poor electricity and water service and high unemployment." Bet you hadn't thought of that: The water and power are intermittent, so let's go and blow up the generating stations and the oil pipelines. No job? Shoot up the people waiting to register for employment. To the insult of flattering the psychopaths, Bennet adds his condescension to the suffering of ordinary Iraqis, who are murdered every day while trying to keep essential services running. (Baathism, by the way, comes in very handy in crippling these, because the secret police of the old regime know how things operate, as well as where everybody lives. Or perhaps you think that the attacks are so "deadly" because the bombers get lucky seven days a week?)

I can understand why people objected, early in the insurgency, to calling the perpetrators of a guerilla campaign that then had some modicum of popular support "terrorism," although the main motive for the objection was to deny any connection between Iraq and the larger war. At this point, however, it requires a fairly powerful desire to flee reality to keep treating these guys as anything but nihilistic, jihad-oriented terrorists.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:58 AM | War 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

I guess it makes you pro-war types happy, but generalized platitudes about "the terrorists" in Iraq being psychotic Islamofascists smacks of a subconscious need to justify the unjustifiable reasoning behind the US occupying Iraq.

The resistance is largely decentralised, localised and acephalous. According to the CIA, the average resistance fighter is a nationalist offended by the presence of coalition troops, and will generally have had direct or indirect experience of violence and maltreatment at the hands of US troops. Local cells operate largely independently of one another, although there are tacit agreements and there is often improvised cooperation.

The resistance generally does not target civilians . The overwhelming bulk of attacks are directed at coalition troops, as drawn from various statistical studies.

Its a horrific experience for anyone, troops and locals alike, to be subject to violent guerilla campaigns. And I suppose -- although I am not an expert and I don't think Christopher Hitchens or the blogger is either -- it could be said that Iraqi resistance is not following "traditional" development of an insurgency. There are myriad reasons for that possibility, although that kind of thing is always said about new insurgencies, see Vietnam, Morrocco, etc.

The reality is that the conditions of the current occupation have created unyielding violence, and it looks less and less like that will end anytime soon.

Posted by: adwred at May 20, 2005 12:53 PM

The resistance generally does not target civilians

You're kidding, right? No attacks on Iraqi police recruits, on infrastructure, no car bombs in packed streets? C'mon.

The reality is that the conditions of the current occupation have created unyielding violence, and it looks less and less like that will end anytime soon.

Yeah, the Baathists never used random violence against civilians before we invaded. Zarqawi's camps were full of peaceful rug-weavers. Whatever.

Nobody could be dumb enough to not realize that, if the insurgency ended tomorrow, the US would rapidly begin drawing down its troop presence in Iraq. Attacking the coalition to make the US leave is like putting something in the freezer to make it warmer.

Posted by: The Crank at May 20, 2005 1:04 PM

The position of the insurgents in Iraq is laid out in drama-theoretic (rather than game) at the drama theory forum

A far better analysis of the situation, I'm sure you'll agree. It's particularly weird when people repeat the claim that

"More generally, the insurgency does not appear to have put forward any program or unifying vision"
(Marginal Rev.)

What? The insurgents all want US forces to leave Iraq. They say so themselves, loud & clear.

Posted by: Saul at June 4, 2005 8:22 AM
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