Matt Yglesias misunderstands the basic point about winning hearts and minds in Iraq that I make below:
One stable [sic] of “Iraq’s all good, man” commentary has been to note that Muqtada al-Sadr is very anti-American while Ayatollah Sistani is not a fan of al-Sadr. Since Sistani is a very influential figure, this could be good news indeed. Good news, that is, if the fact that Sistani is a Sadr opponent implied that he was a fan of the American occupation. But it doesn’t and, in fact, he isn’t. So we’re screwed either way. Less screwed, admittedly, under a scenario where we undercut Sadr military and Sistani undercuts him politically than we would be under the alternative, but still screwed.
The fact that Sistani’s “no fan of the occupation” means nothing. Heck, George Bush is no fan of the occupation – what sane person would be? What matters is that Sistani does not appear to be supporting attacks on coalition troops or on his fellow Iraqis, and for the moment he doesn’t appear to be pushing a jihadist theocracy.
Remember: the war for “hearts and minds” isn’t about making them love us; it’s about making the Iraqis and others in the Arab and Muslim worlds take responsibility for their own back yards, stop blaming us for everything and stop encouraging and assisting people to try to kill us . . . just because the Germans don’t much like America doesn’t mean we didn’t win the “hearts and minds” war after World War II. Iraq for the Iraqis is good news for us.