Iraqi Insurgency Versus the Al Aqsa Intifada

Jim Henley observes that, “during the Al Aqsa Intifada in 2002-2003, there were bombings from every few days to a couple of times a month. I don’t recall the ‘good news’ crowd urging us not to overemphasize the violence then, even though surely there were new-painted schools somewhere in Israel and people went to work every day.” He correctly notes that, “the fact of urban guerrilla war across ethnic and sectarian lines, with frequent attacks on civilians, was what mattered at that time, not the fact that ‘life went on.’”

No argument there. Obviously, the murder of dozens of people a week deserves coverage and speaks volumes about what’s going on in Iraq.

Here’s the difference, though: During the Al Aqsa Intifada, few serious people were arguing that Israel was in a civil war, that it had been a mistake for Truman to recognize Israel, or that the experiment with democracy in Israel had failed. (Except me. But I was kidding.) We argue for perspective now because it is sorely needed.

None of that is to say, I hasten to add, that the current Iraqi government is as stable as the Israeli government was then or that the long term success of Iraqi democracy is as likely now as Israel’s was then. That’s decidedly not the case. But constant talk of defeat can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. M1EK says:

    The proper analogy would be those who would have asked us to keep pointing out how many people in Lebanon went about their daily lives during the 1980s and 1990s (because, frankly, there’s only so long you can avoid it). Lebanon must have been a great place to live if so many people were still buying food and going to school, right?

  2. Noumenon says:

    There is something really positive about the civility and cogency of this argument but I’m not sure whether it’s you for writing it or Jim for linking it. All I know is I wish more blog posts came with their own links to contradictory truth.

  3. matthew hogan says:

    “None of that is to say, I hasten to add, that the current Iraqi government is as stable as the Israeli government was then or that the long term success of Iraqi democracy is as likely now as Israel�s was then. That�s decidedly not the case.”

    And that decidedly is why Jim H’s argument is more valid than yours.

  4. Jim Henley says:

    Thanks for the link, James.

    But constant talk of defeat can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    This may be true. But I bet that, as many instances of “self-fulfilling defeat” as you may find in history, you’ll find many more cases of

    a) leaders deluding themselves into thinking a war was not already lost by refusing to hear bad news;

    b) leaders deluding themselves into losing a winnable war by refusing to hear bad news.

    Obviously I think we’re more A than B (your option would be C), and obviously I Could Be Wrong. I’m only pointing out that “critics are harshing the country’s mellow” is only one of the things that could be going wrong. “Supporters are willfully blinding themselves” must logically be considered as an alternative.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Jim,

    Either A or B could prove correct. Clearly, things are going much worse in Iraq than most supporters would have predicted would be the case three years after the invasion.

    Still, as in the Intifada example, a focus on only the murders obscures reality. I’m not calling for the press to ignore the violence in Iraq or even some quota whereby every report of a bomb blast is leavened by a heartwarming story of kids going to school. I would just like to see more perspective.

    This criticism applies domestic news coverage as well, with people thinking violent crime, airplane crashes, and corrupt politicians are much more prevalent than they really are.

  6. Jim Henley says:

    James, your post put me in mind of that Jack Nicholson movie, “As Good As It Gets.” Meaning, what if what you’re getting is the perspective? 😉

  7. James Joyner says:

    Jim: Could be, I suppose. Still, guerrillas and terrorists can make a lot of mess, as they did in Israel, and yet still lose. Conversely, the public’s slow victory is rather hard to capture for the television camera.

  8. tequila says:

    Here�s the difference, though: During the Al Aqsa Intifada, few serious people were arguing that Israel was in a civil war, that it had been a mistake for Truman to recognize Israel, or that the experiment with democracy in Israel had failed.

    Actually, no. The difference is that Henley is contrasting the differing emphases of right-wingers (violence in Israel vs. reconstruction in Iraq), while you are actually trying to compare the conflicts. No one was talking about civil war in Israel or the failure of Israeli democracy because it was obvious there WAS no civil war in Israel, but rather a war between Israel and the Palestinians. The failure in that case was of the Oslo peace process.

    Now if religious Sephardi Israelis had won a majority in the government and were faced with a deadly revolt of secular Askhenazi Israelis employing suicide bombings and IED attacks, and then responded by purging secular Ashkenazi from security and military posts and turning to religious militias and Egyptian- and Syrian-backed death squads in the security services to crush said insurgency while Israeli Arabs carved out their own separate statelet … then you’d have a decent parallel. And you know what, if that had actually happened I think you’d have LOTS of people talking about an Israeli civil war, the failure of Israeli democracy, etc.