Hope in Iraq

Andrew Sullivan

If you look dispassionately at the events of the last few months – even the last few bloody weeks in Iraq – you can see why. In several major theaters of war, the West has made enormous progress. The Taliban no longer exist as a regime and al Qaeda has been damaged severely. One of the most destabilizing forces in the Middle East – the disintegrating regime of Saddam Hussein – has been removed. The most aggressive terror-state of the previous two decades, Libya, has come in from the cold. The younger generation in Iran is risking their lives and limbs for change.

And the possibility of a representative, pluralist government in a critical Arab state is now in reach for the first time – and that possibility offers the only, yes, the only, chance for real and lasting progress against the forces of Islamo-fascism. All the news out of Iraq these past couple of weeks has been hyped into a message of despair. But in fact, something quite remarkable has occurred. The most dangerous representative of Islamicist theocracy in Iraq, Moqtadr al Sadr, facing the prospect of a moderate government, decided to play his only card and seize power by force. He was routed by American forces and isolated by moderate Shiites. He has now essentially surrendered any possibility of future power in the new Iraq and will be lucky not to be in prison before too long. Meanwhile, the Sunni Baathists remnants, joined by a variety of terrorists from around the region, stepped up their assaults in the city of Fallujah. They tried to piggy-back on al Sadr’s revolt to create the appearance of chaos and precipitate an American withdrawal.


And that, of course, was the week’s coup de grace. Bin Laden offered a truce. And who offers truces? People who are losing the battle. The reason Bush and Blair are still together is that they can see the distant, still perilous, but tangible prospect across the horizon. It may take many more setbacks. It may not prevent future atrocities. But in the events of the last few weeks, they can begin to see that success is not impossible. It may even, if we keep our nerve, become a reality.

All hopeful signs, to be sure. The downsides are that 1) Osama is still around to make these announcements and 2) the establishment of a functioning democracy in Iraq is far from a foregone conclusion. The odds are, of course, greatly enhanced with Saddam in custody, but there are still many things that could go wrong.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Iraq War, Middle East, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hal says:

    Uh, the Taliban are dangerously close to regaining control of Afghanistan. Even if we win out there, there’s nothing like a functioning democracy in the warlord ruled land. We’re leveraged down in Iraq. The only hope we have is in the person who believes in a fundamentalist Islamic state – hardly a democracy by our standards (or the standards we were led to believe by the whole pro-war side). Well, we have one other hope in Chalabi, but considering what he’s turned out to be, I think that’s a laughable point.

    We now have the conjoining of Hamas and Iraq, which is something that didn’t exist before and now is going to cause us unknown amounts of pain.

    And as to the “truce” and whether this signals weakness in Al Qaeda, I think that it’s pretty clear that it was meant as a warning – especially after the Madrid bombings. Can anyone say 2004 Olympics?

    I would say that this whole exercise is one of grasping at straws. It’s a pile of crap and at best there is the hope that 20 years down the road we will have done some good. But in the short term (5-6 years) we’ve done nothing but create far more terrorists than we have killed, instilled the muslim people with a distinct hatred for our country, and to top it off we’re bargaining and having a great time with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – hey, loved watching Woodward last night on 60 minutes.