Politics & Policy

A War of Cultures

Shame and honor, as always.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the Nov. 24, 2003, issue of National Review.

Most Iraqis recognize that they owe a debt to the United States. They have never been so free and prosperous, and they expect things will get better still. There’s been banking and currency reform, with lines of credit now readily available. Markets are thriving, property values are rising. Welcome novelties include free speech and almost 200 periodicals; Internet cafés, bloggers, and cellphones are everywhere. About 90,000 Iraqis are policemen or soldiers, a number growing all the time. In spite of provocations and opportunities, communal violence has not occurred, even when an Iraqi politician or a prominent ayatollah was murdered. The Iraqi Provisional Government is gradually acquiring power and capabilities, and one day in the not so distant future will become independent.

This pretty solid performance of peace-keeping and nation-building is called into question by hit-and-run attacks now numbering around 30 a day. As we see, a shoulder-fired missile is enough to bring down a helicopter over the village of Hasai, killing 16 soldiers and wounding another 20. Other attacks have hurt people or institutions whose work normalizes the situation, including Iraqi police posts, the United Nations, and the Red Cross.

Saddam Hussein has gone to ground but those committing these violent acts are still loyal to him. All of them have been dispossessed. Their only hope of recovering the absolute power and privilege they lately enjoyed lies in engineering a chaos so ugly that American public opinion comes to insist on stopping Operation Free Iraq and withdrawing the troops. They have to wage a war of cultures, and fast.

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David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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