EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the December 31, 2005, issue of National Review.
Hands up, everyone who thinks Iraq’s a quagmire.
Not the Iraqi people: According to the latest polls, 70 percent think “life is good,” and 69 percent are optimistic that things will get even better in the year ahead. For purposes of comparison, they took a similar poll in Europe a while back: In France, 29 percent said they were optimistic about the future; in Germany, 15 percent. Sixty-three percent of Iraqis say they feel “very safe” in their own neighborhoods, which is more than the residents of Clichy-sous-Bois can say.
Well, okay, those cheerful Iraqis are probably Shiites and Kurds and whatnot. How about the Sunnis? For a small minority group that held a disproportionate and repressive grip on power for decades, they’ve been getting a more solicitous press from Western “liberals” than the white Rhodesians or South Africa’s National party ever got. But it turns out, after their strategically disastrous decision to stay home in last January’s vote, the Sunnis are participating in Iraq’s democratic process in ever greater numbers.
Oh, okay, so the Shiites and Kurds and Sunnis are feeling chipper, but in the broader Middle East the disastrous neocon invasion has inflamed moderate Arab opinion against America. Well, it’s true the explosive Arab street finally exploded the other day — with 200,000 Jordanians protesting in Amman, waving angry banners and yelling, “Burn in hell, Rumsfeld,” and, “You are a coward, Bush.” Whoops, my mistake: They were yelling, “Burn in hell, Zarqawi,” and, “You are a coward, Zarqawi.” If you want to hear someone yelling, “You are a coward, Bush,” you’ve got to go to Cindy Sheehan’s stakeout. And, in fairness to the network news divisions, it may be because so many of their camera crews have taken up permanent residence at the otherwise underpopulated Camp Cindy that they were unable to cover what was the largest demonstration against terrorism ever seen on the streets of the Middle East.
Oh, well. So the Shiites and Kurds and Sunni Iraqis and the Arab street are all on board, but come on, what about the insurgents? Everybody knows they’re winning . . . but, er, apparently they don’t. The Baathist diehard insurgents have split from the foreign al-Qaeda insurgents. While the latter denounced the Iraqi election as “a Satanic project,” the Saddamite remnants urged Sunnis to participate and said they’d protect polling stations from attacks by the foreign terrorists so that citizens could vote for their approved candidates (the leftover bits of Uday and Qusay, now running on the Psychotic Dictatorship Nostalgia Party ticket). This division between the foreign nutcakes and the domestic nutcakes is the biggest strategic split over the insurgency since Joe Lieberman respectfully distanced himself from Nancy Pelosi. . .
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