Rules of war with the islamist

Victor Davis Hanson:

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1. Political promises must be kept. Had the United States postponed the scheduled January elections in Iraq — once the hue and cry of Washington insiders — the insurrection would have waxed rather than waned. Only the combination of U.S. arms, the training of indigenous forces, and real Iraqi sovereignty can eliminate the vestiges of hard-core jihadists and Saddamites.

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2. Any warnings to use force — much less unfortunate unguarded braggadocio — should be credible and followed through. The efforts of the terrorists are aimed at the psychological humiliation and loss of face of American power, not its actual military defeat. Appearance is as often important as reality, especially for those who live in the eighth rather than the 21st century.

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3. Diplomatic solutions follow, not precede, military reality. Had we failed in Afghanistan, Musharraf would be an Islamic nationalist today, for the sake of his own survival. Withdrawing from Iraq in defeat would have meant no progress in Lebanon. Some hope followed in the Middle East only because the Intifada was crushed and Arafat is in paradise. The Muslims scholars of Iraq talk differently now than a year ago because thousands of their sympathetic terrorists have been killed in the Sunni Triangle. The would-be Great Mahdi Moqtada Sadr is more buffoon than Khomeini reborn since his militia was crushed last year.

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4. The worst attitude toward the Europeans and the U.N. is publicly to deprecate their impotent machinations while enlisting their aid in extremis. After being slurred by both, we then asked for their military help, peace-keepers, and political intervention — winning no aid of consequence except contempt in addition to inaction.

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5. Do not look for logic and consistency in the Middle East where they are not to be found. It makes no sense to be frustrated that Arab intellectuals and reformers damn us for removing Saddam and simultaneously praise democratic rumblings that followed his fall. We should accept that the only palatable scenario for the Arab Street was one equally fanciful: Brave demonstrators took to the barricades, forced Saddam’s departure, created a constitution, held elections, and then invited other Arab reformers into Baghdad to spread such indigenous reform — all resulting in a society as sophisticated, wealthy, free, and modern as the West, but felt to be morally superior because of its allegiance to Islam. That is the dream that is preferable to the reality that the Americans alone took out the monster of the Middle East and that any peaceful protest against Saddam would have ended in another genocide.

Ever since the departure of the colonials, the United States, due to its power and principled support for democratic Israel, has served a Middle Eastern psychological need to account for its own self-created impotence and misery, a pathology abetted by our own past realpolitik and nurtured by the very autocrats that we sought to accommodate.
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