Saturday, March 25, 2006

Uncivil War

Why can't we just let Iraq come to closure when it's time to come to closure? This week I was listening to Imus in the Morning. He had the Lardball Chris Matthews on whose cable TV show evidently is the fourth most watched program by Conservatives. I don't know why. The guy is a former Democrat operator who was maybe a little critical of his own party during the licentious Clinton years, but so what. He speaks for conservatives?

He was appallingly off base about Iraq, getting in line with all the others of his ilk in calling it a "Civil War."

Here's an excerpt from a very recent Weekly Standard editorial by William Kristol and Frederick W. Kagan on this subject:

Within hours of the bombing of the al-Askariya shrine in Samarra on February 22, the media were filled with warnings that Iraq was sinking into civil war. Of course, almost any insurgency is, in a sense, a civil war, and sectarian violence has marked this insurgency from the very beginning. But the fact is that we are not facing a civil war in Iraq, with large scale military formations fighting one another along ethnic and sectarian lines. Moreover, we can very likely prevent this outcome, and, even better, make real progress toward victory.

What was striking, following the mosque bombing, was the evidence of Iraq's underlying stability in the face of attempts to undermine it. The country's vital institutions seem to have grown strong enough to withstand even the provocation of the bombing of the golden mosque.

In the wake of the bombing, it is true, militias took to the streets, and widespread sectarian violence occurred, killing and wounding many Iraqis. But not a single Iraqi political leader, including the volatile Moktada al-Sadr, endorsed an expansion of the violence. On the contrary, all joined to condemn it, to support government efforts to curtail it, and called on their followers to stop it. The Iraqi army and police were sent out to enforce curfews and stop traffic in many areas. Even in this crisis, they executed their orders, and shut down the great bulk of the violence within several days. Within a fortnight, Sunni leaders who had boycotted discussions aimed at forming a government reentered negotiations, and Iraqi politics--turbulent and nerve-wracking as it is--began again. This is not the performance of a society on the brink of civil war.

The tenacity of the Iraqi army is particularly notable. Iraqi soldiers are granted leave every month to hand-carry their salaries back home, in the absence of a reliable banking system. Especially for Shiites deployed in the Sunni triangle, this is a dangerous undertaking. Yet every month almost every Iraqi soldier "re-ups" by returning to his unit. This fact speaks volumes about the commitment of those soldiers and their professionalism in the face of the current dangers. If the situation began to spiral into real civil war, these Shiite soldiers would simply start deserting in droves, some of them to join up with Shiite militias. They are not doing so.

But read the whole thing.

Why is it important that we move beyond this rhetoric that Iraq is a civil war from which we should duck and run?

Last week the Wall Street Journal listed all the things that are likely to happen if we were to leave Iraq prematurely, and they are not pretty, in the sense that they were reminiscent of the pre 9-11 days -- days when we were vulnerable to and then recipients of terrorism in our own land.

That's why Chris Matthews' views are disturbing. I know one conservative who won't watch Lardball.

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