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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Dan Drezner On The UN Attack In Baghdad

He has lots of links, and says this:

So the question is, what group is nihilistic enough to see victory in the mass immiseration of fellow Arabs and the destruction of international support agencies?

While the B'aathists are contemptible, while in power they were always clever enough to play the United Nations off the U.S. and Great Britain. This attack has the feel of someone incapable of making such distinctions yet willing to hit soft targets. In other words, an Al Qaeda subsidiary. So, my money's on Ansar al-Islam.

I'll back that.

And how should the US respond?

From "No Time to Lose in Iraq", by Tom Friedman:

Everyone has advice now for the U.S.: bring in U.N. peacekeepers, bring in the French. They're all wrong. There are only two things we need: more Americans out back and more Iraqis out front. President Bush needs to give the U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer III, more resources to get basic services here running and Iraqis in charge as fast as we can. This is not Germany 1945. America is much more radioactive in this region. We don't have infinite time.

Which is also why we need Iraqis out front — fast. They need to be seen to be solving their own problems. They need to be manning the checkpoints because only they know who the good guys and bad guys are, and they need to be increasingly running the show so attacks on Iraq's infrastructure are seen and understood as attacks on Iraqis, not on us.

And, most important, we need them out front because the Iraqi silent majority is our only potential friend in this whole neighborhood. Everyone else wants America to fail. But we have not empowered that Iraqi silent majority enough, and it has been too timid and divided to step forward yet.

And Jessica Stern, in a gloomier assesment, reaches a similar conclusion:

...the best way to fight [the terrorists] is to ensure that they are rejected by the broader population. Terrorists and guerrillas rely on getting at least some popular support. America's task will be to restore public safety in Iraq and put in place effective governing institutions that are run by Iraqis. It would also help if we involved more troops from other countries, to make clear that the war wasn't an American plot to steal Iraq's oil and denigrate Islam, as the extremists argue.

The goal of creating a better Iraq is a noble one, but a first step will be making sure that ordinary Iraqis find America's ideals and assistance more appealing than Al Qaeda's.

UPDATE: Thanks very much to Doc. Drezner, who honors me with the company in which he puts me.

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