Limbaugh spelled out for his caller America’s goal in Iraq. “It’s a seven-letter
word,” roared Rush. It “begins with ‘v’ and ends in ‘y.’”
“Define victory,” the caller retorted. Rush went to a break.
Excellent question. How do we know when we’ve won the war in Iraq? How do we define victory?
We know who we are fighting against —Ba’athists, jihadists, unreconstructed
Saddam-loyalists, America-haters. But what are we fighting for?
“Freedom,” comes the retort, “democracy.” But Iraq is already free of Saddam.
And what do we mean by democracy? If it means one-man, one-vote majority
rule, Iraq will be governed by a Shi’ite majority that looks to Iran for
inspiration and guidance.
Is that worth $87 billion and a daily toll of American dead?
Some of us would settle for an Iraq free of nuclear, chemical, and biological
weapons, where no attack on America is planned and no terror plot by al-Qaeda
is tolerated. But it now appears—after four months of inspections by a 1,400-man
Anglo-American team—that that is what we had under Saddam Hussein.
What the enemy is fighting for seems far less gauzy. His goal: expel the
Americans from Iraq. If we cannot define victory, our enemy can. And it is
a sobering thought that no Arab or Islamic revolution that fought hard to
expel a Western power has been defeated in 60 years.
The French were run out of Algeria after an eight-year war, and the allies
they left behind were slaughtered. The Russians were expelled from Afghanistan
after an eight-year occupation by an Islamic jihad and nationalist
uprising. The Israelis abandoned Lebanon after an 18-year occupation, unwilling
to pay the continuing cost in Jewish blood of battling Hezbollah guerrillas.
Moreover, pro-Western monarchs in that part of the world—King Farouk in Egypt
in 1952, King Feisel in Iraq in 1958, King Idris in Libya in 1968, Emperor
Haile Selassie in Ethiopia in 1975, the Shah of Iran in 1979—have all been
overthrown in anti-Western coups.
Thus, while there are many models for how a Western power can be driven out
of an Arab country, or a Western vassal overthrown, where is the model for
an enduring Western victory in the Arab and Islamic world—in the last 50
Kuwait, 1991, appears the best example. What were the elements of the triumph
of Bush I in Desert Storm? First, his goal was to liberate an Arab nation,
Kuwait, from an invading power. Second, he had the support of almost all
Arab regimes. Arab troops from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria even fought
alongside Americans. Yet, even then, the “Arab Street” seemed to side with
Saddam. In this new war, however, Bush II suffers drawbacks his father did
First, America has never been so widely hated in the Arab world.
Second, the U.S. war on Iraq is seen in the Islamic world as a war of aggression
waged on falsified charges that Saddam’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction
and played a role in Sept. 11.
Third, where the U.S. was on the offensive in Desert Storm and in Operation
Iraqi Freedom, we are now on the defensive. It is we who are the occupying
power. Ours is the detested presence in an Arab capital.
Moreover, the tactics being used by the enemy are the same tactics used against
the French in Algeria and the Israelis on the West Bank. Assassinate collaborators
with terror attacks, such as on the UN headquarters and Jordanian embassy.
Sting and infuriate the occupier by killing his soldiers, provoking him into
lashing out and wounding and killing non-combatants, or even allies, like
the Iraqi police in Fallujah. Thus, radicalize the people and polarize the
nation between collaborators who side with the Americans and patriots and
nationalists who gravitate to the resistance. Thus do we convert a terror
war into a guerrilla war into a people’s war. And down that long bloody road
lies victory: the expulsion of the Americans and a regime of their own choosing.
It is the formula used by anti-colonial and anti-imperial movements from
the Irish in 1919-1921, to the Irgun in Palestine, to the Mau Mau in Kenya,
to the FALN in Algeria, to ZANU and ZAPU in Rhodesia, to the ANC in South
Africa, to Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Hamas on the West Bank. The only way
such movements have been defeated—in Puerto Rico in the 1950s and El Salvador
in the 1980s—was when the Western power was able enlist nationalism on its
In Iraq, we have not yet done that. Indeed, we appear to be losing the battle
for hearts and minds. Nonetheless, to quote Dean Rusk, “We are there and
we are committed.”
First published in the October 6th issue of the The American Conservative.
Reprinted by permission. Pat Buchanan, advisor to three presidents,
is editor of The American Conservative and hosts MSNBC's Buchanan & Press.