Thursday, November 29, 2007
Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club compares the American counterinsurgency in Iraq to Russia's war in Chechnya, and wonders if the Americans have done better because we offer a better vision for the future:
Although it is fashionable in certain "sophisticated" circles to deride it, one of the key American success factors in Iraq may be the policy to "bring freedom" -- political empowerment -- to the Middle East. Rather than being a naive emotion at odds with "adult" foreign policy, the idea of politically empowering a population may actually have great practical value. This is not to say that the Russian campaign in Chechnya has been without result, but a straighforward comparison between the two campaigns against a Jihadi foe shows that the American campaign has been surprisingly effective.
Read the whole thing, and compare to my post on "victory conditions" in the wider war, also published at the Belmont Club.
And then, of course, release the hounds.
There is little doubt that the ordinary Iraqi, insofar as anyone can tolerate a foreign army, is quite tolerant of US troops. Certainly Russian attitudes toward Chechens do not engender love, nor do the Russians care, for a number of reasons we won't go into here.
The critical matter is whether this, or any US govt., can actually say clearly that Islamic viciousness is inherent in the Koran and that only when Muslims decide to override the brutal parts of the Koran (using whatever religious justification they wish) will it be possible to trust an Islamic government.
Since it is doctrinally commanded in Islam (doctrine of taqqiya) to lie about peaceful intentions until it is possible to be openly hostile, and since it is commanded to kill, enslave or place into dhimmitude all who are not Muslims there is no actual modus vivendi with Islam.
Paradoxically, only as a nation such as Iraq becomes more and more secular (apostate in the eyes of true Muslims) can it be trusted to retain some capacity for civilized behavior.
I know of no examples to the contrary, and don't bother bringing up Turkey, which is holding onto its non-jihadi outlook by the figurative skin of its teeth.
Wretchard's post and also many of the comments are well worth reading.
The problem of failed nation-states and regions of the world (and places such as Chechnya that are part of 'nations' , but chaotic) is not going away.
As much as some people hate GWB and our policy in Iraq, this problem and others in the world will not disapear just because we ignore it or wish to keep our hands off.
We can let the Russians do what they do best (as in Chechnya and Afghanistan, in the '80's) and kill people and destroy property wholesale, and their likely successors, the Chinese (who will be resource hungry in the years to come), or we can try to follow on to what we've learned in Iraq.
But the truths in Iraq and about Iraq will be clouded for years to come. Because that's the way people here and in Europe want it to be.
If only things were that simple...
In fact, the seemingly clear picture of two different political systems fighting the same foe of 'radical Islamism' conceals so many contradictions as to make the comparison meaningless.
First, let's remember that Stalin easily found enough troops to ship the whole Chechen population into exile, while still fighting Hitler in WWII. So modern Russia is not as capable of systematic effective brutality as the USSR once was.
Incidentally, American troops in Iraq also fight much less brutally
than they used to in WWII. So the whole world softened a bit.
Second, the US is a stable and mighty country with a real powerful and well organized military and modern Russia is not any of the above.
By the onset of the First Chechen War in 1994 Russia just emerged from collapsed USSR and was on the verge of disintegration. Russian Army was almost non-existent. There was chaos, disobedience, wanton slaughter and abject surrender day in and day out. Russians troops were loosing platoons in single engagements, raping and pillaging civilians (including native Russians living in Chechnya), shelling cities, running from guerilla or surrendering en masse. There wasn't enough rifles and bullets to arm all the soldiers. There was only a small number of professional capable troops. Recently, Putin admitted how they had 'to send conscripted boys to the front lines' without any training at all.
Very slowly there was some improvement. There is more professional troops now, better organization and better discipline... still a long cry from the US army but at least not a wild horde.
I think Candide is correct here. There are so many differences between the two cases that there's no basis for honest comparison, any more than there is between the Iraq conflict and the Vietnam conflict, or the Russian invasion of Afghanistan v. Enduring Freedom.
Even the basic premise of the conflicts are radically different; the Russians intend to prevent secession of a province, (deny them sovereignty) and we meant to liberate and then liberalize a strategically important enemy nation. (teach them what to do with their new sovereignty)