April 10, 2004


I should confess that what's happening in Iraq is a bit scarier to me than I've let on the past few days. I have a good reason, though, for resisting the temptation to wring my hands in public. We need to keep in mind, always, the objective of terrorism. It is to terrorize. It's an overblown cliche to say giving in to fear means the terrorists win. Sometimes, however, it's true.

It's helps to keep some perspective. Let's say we are totally routed in Iraq. That would be a disaster. But we also need to remember that it wouldn't be a disaster for all of us personally. I'll still have my wife, my house, and my job. My neighborhood, my city, and my country will endure. I won't be frog-marched into an Iraqi dungeon. And, unless you're an Iraqi, neither will you.

The steel nerves of some people impress me. It's relatively easy for me not to give in to fear. I live in Portland, not Baghdad. So who am I, really, to lecture anyone about keeping their cool about this?

Let me quote at length instead from Alaa, who does live in Iraq and whose life and limb depend on the endgame of the current violence sweeping across his country.

I hope you all realize that a major objective of the enemy is to produce defeatism in the U.S. and allied nations home front, counting on the democratic process to force the hand of policy makers. The War in fact never stopped from the first day of the fall of the Icon. All the events you have witnessed are part of a sustained and escalating campaign by all the forces opposed to the “Project”. I don’t presume to be able to give a knowledgeable critique about U.S. and Allied strategy, like everybody seems to be fond of doing nowadays (and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of Gurus of the subject). Firmness would have been much easier to apply at a much earlier stage. When I say “Firmness”, it must not be construed to mean brutality. Nevertheless, and undeniably, the use of force is part of the thing, but it must be precise, measured and proportionate. This, of course, is almost stating the obvious.

One thing is fundamental though: Once you start exercising firmness it will be disastrous if you falter and show weakness again. Diplomacy and politics are essential of course, but the arguments of the strong are always much more convincing.

In any case I ask all our friends not to be too emotional and weak stomached, and above all not to help the enemy in what he is desperate to achieve, i.e. defeatism and despair.

For those of you following what's happening in Iraq, Alaa should be on your daily reading list. He lives there, he knows what's happening, he knows why it's happening, and he has a far better idea how any given action or lack thereof will effect the so-called Iraqi "street."

UPDATE: See also David Brooks in the New York Times.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 10, 2004 2:05 PM
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