Since the U.S. mid-term election brought Democrats to control the Congress, mainstream media have been buzzing with speculation whether the Bush administration will “stay the course” on Iraq or buckle under pressure to “cut and run.”
This is an ominous moment for American foreign policy in and beyond the Middle East. America’s enemies in the region are the foes of freedom, and their ambitions have been greatly reinforced by the whimsicality of American democracy.
It is democracy’s nature to be swayed by tides of public opinion real or manufactured, and to occasionallyhobble its leaders at times of peril and war when the outcome appears unclear.
During Vietnam, the American public opinion was swayed by the consensus that took hold of the mainstream media following the failed 1968 Tet Offensive launched by North Vietnam’s communist regime against Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh City). The media sold the view America had lost in Vietnam because it could not win and, consequently, it needed to withdraw.
The storyline for Iraq over the past two years has been the Bush administration “botched” its liberation with an ineptly run occupation.
The result has been, in this highly slanted view of the mainstream media, the unstoppable horror of a bloody-minded insurgency and the widening spectacle of sectarian conflict making Iraq into a Vietnam-like quagmire for Americans.
Americans and people elsewhere will debate endlessly the nature and outcome of a war launched to free Iraq from a monstrous tyrant in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. But if the freedom Americans brought for Iraqis dissolves due to the bloodshed from insurgency and sectarian conflicts, whose fault will this be?
It is a peculiar sort of narcissism prevalent in the American media that all things good and bad in our world today have American fingerprints on them. This gets echoed around the world, and much more so in the Middle East, swollen with conspiratorial theories spun by its media of how the region and its people have been massively abused by Western imperialist powers and its Zionist offspring, Israel.
But what we have been witnessing in Iraq over the past three years is the unmasked face of much of the Arab-Muslim world, despite its boast of being the seat of a great civilization.
The insurgency and sectarian conflict with rising death toll inside Iraq, fuelled by bigotry and hate of jihadis pouring in from neighbouring countries, display vividly the savagery of an unreformed culture.
The quarrels inside Iraq are mostly meaningless to outsiders and escape the understanding of people in the West. Hence, Arab-Muslim apologists glibly shift responsibility and point out when other instances of cultures descended into their own brand of madness.
Iraq’s misery, however, is not from America’s “botched” effort to plant democracy in the Middle East.
It is the result of a deep-seated malignancy and failure to settle its tribal quarrels that reach back to the killings of Husayn (the prophet’s grandson) and his family in Karbala in 680 and all the unresolved issues accumulated since then.
The deafening silence of the Arab League, of the Organization of Islamic Countries and of Muslims in general as atrocities mounted in Iraq and beyond confirms the obvious. Much of the Arab-Muslim world is stuck in its medieval past that neither a thin facade of modernity nor boastfulness of past glories might hide.
America’s eventual withdrawal from Iraq is a given.When it does, an unreformed medieval Arab-Muslim world will likely need containment by the likes of an Iron Curtain that once kept the Communist East at some distance from the West.