Iraqi Surrender

Gregg Easterbrook has an intriguing piece in The New Republic arguing that a major reason for the insurgency in Iraq was the Saddam’s government never formally surrendered.

First comes defeat, and then surrender; surrenders are essential to the cessation of war. You can’t just beat your opponent: You must make your opponent say, “I am beaten.” One reason the 1991 Gulf War stopped was that Iraq signed a formal surrender agreement, following a conference of U.S. and Iraqi generals and United Nations negotiators. In World War II, after Hitler committed suicide, the Four Powers continued pressing their attacks for eight days, until the German general staff signed formal surrender agreements. Even after the entire Japanese fleet had been sunk and two atomic bombs dropped on Japanese soil, it was the surrender ceremony aboard the battleship Missouri that actually ended the Pacific phase of the war.

In these cases, surrender was not just a formality–it was crucial to the prevention of further deaths. United States forces in Germany and Japan immediately after the war were not shot at nor subjects of any insurgency. To assume control of Japan, MacArthur famously landed at Tokyo in an unarmed plane, while no one fired on any U.S. soldiers inside Germany after the surrender. (Rumsfeld’s claim that Nazi sympathizers staged terror attacks against the Four Powers occupation is wrong; there was no sabotage or insurgency after May 9, 1945, when the last surrender document was signed.) After Iraq’s surrender in 1991, bad things happened, including the suppression of the Kurdish revolt. But no coalition forces were shot at by Iraqi units, and there was no insurgency against coalition personnel.

Of course, our forces almost immediately left Iraq and Saddam’s government was still in power. There was no anti-US insurgency because–news flash–the US wasn’t governing the country. That’s important since, as I’ve noted before, insurgencies are —by definition–against a power in control of a country.

Further, a great deal of the insurgency–and almost all of the terrorist aspect of it–is coming from Islamist groups that have converged in Iraq to fight our forces. They believe are fighting infidel forces that are present on the soil of a Muslim land. The surrender of a secular Iraqi state to the infidel would hardly have dampened their enthusiasm.

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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.