Ralph Peters argues that, despite outward appearances, things are going phenomenally well for our forces in Iraq. Events like yesterday’s bombing of the UN heaquarters demonstrates the weakness of the enemy, not our failure:

Our enemies’ initial “Mogadishu Strategy” – based on the faulty notion that if you kill Americans they pack up and go home – was a disaster for them. Our response devastated their already-crippled organization. Now, with reduced capabilities and decayed leadership, they’ve turned to attacking soft targets. It’s the best they can do.

It’s ugly. But it’s an indicator of their weakness, not of strength.

Demoralized by constant defeats, our enemies have become alarmed by the quickening pace of reconstruction. Consequently, we will see more attacks on infrastructure, on international aid workers and on Iraqis laboring to rebuild their country.

We’ll also see al Qaeda and other terrorist groups become the senior partners among our enemies, as Ba’athist numbers and capabilities dwindle. There is more innocent blood to come.

Yet the bombing of the U.N. headquarters at the Canal Hotel was a self-defeating act. Even if it frightens the U.N. off (and it just might accomplish the opposite) the attack reminds the world yet again of the savagery of radical Islamic terrorists and the brutality of those whom we deposed in Baghdad.

Peters is right as far as it goes, but there are a couple of rather important caveats: Yes, when an enemy has to resort to asymmetrical attacks, it is a sign of his comparative weakness. It does not, however, follow that his defeat is imminent. These attacks are substantially more than a nuisance, as they undermine our attempts to rebuild the infrastructure and gain the confidence of the people. And they’re not going to go away any time soon. Second, I don’t think those who opposed the war are going to change their minds because of the actions of the other side. For one thing, all but the lunatic fringe already understood that Saddam was a tyrant and that murdering civilians was horrible. For another, until and unless we find WMD, the emphasis on that rationale for entry is going to be enough to fuel their opposition to our mission there.

This is an interesting analysis, too:

Why attack the United Nations? Other than the ease with which it could be struck? Several reasons.

First, the U.N. dealt a blow to the hardliners when the Security Council recently recognized the legitimacy of Iraq’s Governing Council. Second, the Ba’athists will never forgive the U.N. for its support, no matter how lukewarm, for sanctions and weapons inspections in the past – or for failing to restrain coalition forces last March.

And for al Qaeda and associated terrorists, the United Nations is a Western-dominated tool of Christians and Zionists – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We are not facing reasonable men. They have a deep and furious need to hate.

The attack on the U.N. headquarters also was an effort to undercut reconstruction efforts. Our enemies hope that, by attacking aid workers, they can prevent other international agencies from coming to Iraq, that they can drive a wedge between the coalition and the Johnny-come-latelies nudging their way into reconstruction programs.

This will be a moment of truth for the United Nations. America and its partners have demonstrated that we will not be deterred by bloodstained bullies. Will the U.N. honor its dead by showing some backbone? Or will it flee Baghdad, handing the terrorists a real, if minor, victory? If the United Nations discredits itself by running away, it will hasten its long decline. If it takes a stand against terror and goes right back to work in Iraq, it may regain a good bit of its faded luster.

The truck bomb didn’t simply attack the U.N. – it struck at the U.N.’s idea of itself. The lesson the U.N. must take away is that no one can be neutral in the struggle with evil.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, , , , , ,
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.


  1. Paul says:

    all but the lunatic fringe already understood that Saddam was a tyrant and that murdering civilians was horrible.

    The problem as I see it, is that the “lunatic fringe” is now no longer the fringe. There is a mainstream acceptance by many on the left that Saddam should still be in power. Indeed, many of them are running for President and getting much support.

    These poeple will use any event no matter the cause or scope as evidence that we should not be there. Hell, when we got Uday and Qusay, people said that was another reason for us not to be there. (huh?)

    These people have lost the ability to reason. For all of Mr. Peter’s arguments -and he makes many good ones- there is a group of people that is unwilling to accept that the United States will be better off by stopping murderous dictators ESPECIALLY when they threaten us.

    If they were the lunatic fring it would be one thing. But when they have a real chance of getting the Dem nomination it quits being funny.



  2. James Joyner says:


    I dunno. Most Democrats seem to be saying that they’re glad we got rid of Saddam, they just opposed the war. Now, granted, we’d not have gotten rid of Saddam minus a war. . . .

    It’s also true that we had many of these anti-tyrant, nation building wars during the Clinton administration that were opposed by Republicans. And me, for that matter. So I’m wondering how much of this is simple rank partisanship rather than ideology.

  3. John says:

    It’s the strategy of destroying international alliances, treaties and organizations that I have a huge beef with. Saddam was a brutal asshole who deserved to die. The Iraqi people deserved to get rid of him.

    You know, I can keep in my head the fact that “you” on the right actually have a soul and don’t see things the same way as I do, and I try really, really, REALLY hard to not pigeon hole you into convenient traps. People like Paul seem to be complete robots, who don’t seem to have the capability of seeing someone else’s position unless it’s viewed through the filter of Rush Limbaugh. It’s amazing! This “Black n’ White”, either-or thinking is completely bizarre for me to witness. There can be absolutely no discussion while the “right” (note the quotes) consistently and deliberately distorts and makes up positions about the “left” which absolutely don’t exist – except maybe as extreme fringes. I’m going to start categorizing all those on the “right” according to the thoughts and beliefs of the KKK or the Christian Militia movement. That’s pretty much what “Paul” is consistently doing – and most of the “right wing” narrative – about the left. I understand it plays really well to the cheap seats, but unless it stops, this country is going to remain divided and unable to come to some agreement about the future.

  4. Paul says:


    When David Duke is polling at 30% of Republicans you are more than welcome to do that. The Dems are bound and determined to elect someone who wanted us to leave Saddam in power.

    And yeah, I have a problem with that.

    Lemme try these words…

    The days of the Scoop Jackson Dem are over. Today even the “moderate” Dem is far, far left of where they were just 10 years ago. I DON’T need to call these people radical… Their behavior does it all the time.

    (this is the first time I have mentioned this first, I never bring it up)

    Look at Florida. (groan)

    There is no possible way that legally Gore could have won. Even if he won in the supreme court he did not have the votes as documented MULTIPLE times. Yet you and others on the left reject reality and claim Bush was selected not elected. That does not make Bush look bad. That makes the Dems look bad when they say it.

    Tell ya what…

    You don’t need to take my word for it that the Dems are moving too far to the left… Watch election results. The Dems had a strangle hold on power just 20 years ago. Now it is all gone. Did the 250 million or so people all change in just a few years or did the party?

    You really should step back, take a breath and consider if I have a point.

    Yes there are radicals on the right… But they are on the fringe… You guys are taking yours mainstream.

  5. John says:

    I rest my case.