08 April 2004

Middle East

I've been going back and forth between a couple of books lately, Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem and Dick Clarke's (no not that Dick Clark) Against All Enemies. Add to these sources all the news coverage about the increased violence in Iraq and the various testimony before the 9/11 comission and I've been thinking a lot about the Middle East lately.

There's obviously way more to digest on the topic than can fit in a bløg post, but a few thoughts:

  • Where the hell do the Iraqi insurgents get their weapons? We're spending billions to equip our guys. How is it that a bunch of civilian militas are able to take control of entire cities and engage us in such bloody battles? Well, to answer my own question, part of it is that we need to simultaneously attack our enemy and endear ourselves to the Iraqi people—we can't exactly bomb the hell out of these places.

  • In that vein, are we doing this right? I disagree with the notion that the war in Iraq is a pointless diversion from the war on terror, but at the same time I wonder whether 150,000 US troops is the right solution. As was clearly demonstrated by the joke of a "war" against Saddam's regulars, our military can crush any organized army we please. But what then? What can we do now that we're being attacked by a bunch of guys in jeans and t-shirts with RPGs and AK47s?

  • The thing I just can't get my mind around is the utter disconnect between certain elements of the Iraqi people and my perception of reality. Moktada al-Sadr is leading a Shiite uprising protesting the American "occupation" of Iraq. To me, the Americans in Iraq are courageous young men and women (two of my closest friends among them) who are not only risking their lives, but leaving their homes and families behind to try to liberate a people they've never met from 20 years of tyranny and genocide. I can conceive of no more admirable undertaking. Still, there are clearly elements in the Iraqi populace who find this to be so awful as to kill and be killed to stop it. Why? And if they really just want to be rid of us, why not promote stability and just wait for 6 months or a year for us to start pulling out?

  • Evidently a group called Saraya al-Mujahideen released a broadcast of 3 Japanese civlians they had kidnapped on Al Jazeera. They threatened to kill them if Japan does not withdraw its 530 troops from Iraq in 3 days. How are these people so out of touch with what they're doing? How can they be so stupid? Japan's post WWII constitution forbids them to engage in any aggressive military activity. Their deployment in Iraq is part of a construction and water-purification effort. These terrorists are trying to become heroes by evicting a bunch of Japanese water-purification engineers?

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