November 29, 2005

The Anbar Effect

Hatched by Dafydd

A decade or so ago -- oh wait, it was only last Friday; how flime ties -- I somehow accidentally came up with an idea I think is pretty good: the "Afghanistan Effect." One earmark that I may be onto something is the existence of corollaries. Consider the parallel principle I'll now call the Anbar Effect and its impact on future Iraqi politics.

Currently, most Iraqi politicians still more less hate America. Even the ones who should be grateful: after all, we booted out their quarter-century dictator, handed them their country for free (the politicians didn't have to pay), and we're still fighting the terrorists for them. Nevertheless, they still hate us, even as they grit their teeth and call for us to stay another year.

And it makes sense on at least two levels: politically, most Shiites have a problem with us because we're a secular government and a Christian people; most Sunni have a problem with us because they used to be in charge, and we've forced democracy down their throats; and any politician too heavily associated with the United States stands in danger of being assassinated. Psychologically, what is the most natural human reaction to unearned charity? Hint: it's not gratitude. Any psychologist will agree that when you bail someone out when he has done nothing to solve his own problems, the normal reaction is that he will resent and despise you, especially if he's still a beggar and must publicly thank and praise you.

So we're going to have to live with that infuriating irritation... for now. But let's look to the future. All of the ill effects above apply only when the recipient of largess sees himself as just that: a beggar, someone who cannot shift for himself, so the hairy, hidden hand of the rich man must work the machinations behind the scenes and give him what he cannot earn for himself.

None of which applies to the Iraqi Army.

Far from being beggars, the Iraqi Army were trained by Americans, fight alongside the Americans, and have increasingly been in charge of battles, campaigns, and holding cities recaptured from the terrorists. Everything they now know about modern combat they learned from us. And they have learned extremely well: Bill Roggio, once and future proprietor of the Fourth Rail and now blogging from Iraq over at ThreatsWatch, who is currently in Husaybah -- say, wasn't that a combat zone just a couple weeks ago? How (son of) flime ties -- described the performance of the Iraqi Army troops occupying Husaybah thus: "Other than their uniforms, they were virtually indistinguishable from their Marine counterparts. [Emphasis added]"

(For more about Roggio's current venture and the truth he is witnessing first hand, read here.)

They take casualties -- and take cities. They've earned their tremendous respect, not just in blood but in victories. The new Iraqi Army are not the recipients of American charity. Rather, they are our protégés.

The distinction is colossal. A beggar completely lacks self respect because he feels powerless over his fate. He resents and despises his benefactors because he resents and despises himself. But a protégé is anything but helpless: because his benefactor taught him how to fish, rather than simply giving him a fish, he can now provide for himself and his own. He is just bursting with new self-respect (note that I distinguish between earned self-respect and self-confidence and unearned "self-esteem"). And at the deepest level of his psyche, he sees his benefactor, not as an oppressor, but as a liberator.

In contrast to the current crop of Iraqi politicians, who hate America as a fat cat handing out charity, from what I've read Iraqi soldiers see us as mentors who have given them the tools to defend their own country. They feel about us the way those who have been in the military typically feel about their drill instructors: they may hate them during basic, but once they graduate, they're profoundly grateful to them for the rest of their lives. (Especially when the DI doesn't try to remain in control after basic training and become the Thing That Would Not Leave; let's hope we get out quickly -- except for air support as necessary -- after the Iraqi Army is able to defend the country without us.)

Now the final key. What sort of democracy will Iraq eventually resemble? Some have suggested Turkey, but I think that's wrong: Turkey has been a republic since 1923, for one thing. For another, the origins of the Republic of Turkey are almost mirror-opposite that of the Republic of Iraq.

Prior to the Republic, Turkey was the heart of the Ottoman Empire, a six-century empire that at its peak was the most powerful Moslem empire in history, stretching from North Africa all the way around the Mediterranean Sea to besiege Vienna, Austria -- twice. But what eventually destroyed it was losing World War I. That is, the Republic of Turkey was formed from the remnants of an empire whose military was crushed by the "crusader" Allies. Licking their wounds, the Turks formed a modern (and surprisingly free) republic, which is still going strong eight decades later.

Now, it's certainly true that the Iraqi dictatorship was crushed by the "crusader" coalition. But in between that humiliating military loss and the founding of the real Republic of Iraq, that losing army was disbanded and a new army created from scratch. For all the Democratic braying that this was a terrible mistake by Bush, that we should have just kept the old (losing) Iraqi Army under new management, this was in fact one of the most briliant moves by the Bush national-security team, headed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: we fired a losing Saddamite army and instead created and trained-up a winning Iraqi Army. Rather than Iraqis having to be ashamed by the lousy combat performance of Saddam's goons against the Iranians, against the crusaders in the Gulf War, and against the crusaders again in 2003, they can be proud and joyous at the brilliant performance of the new Iraqi Army against the foreign terrorists and Saddamite dead-enders in 2004 and 2005, leading up to a constitution and (next month) the first freely elected Iraqi parliament installed under a freely elected constitution.

With such good feelings abounding for the Iraqi Army, I suspect that the Middle-East democracy that Iraq will most resemble in form is Israel, perversely enough. And in Israel, the fastest and surest route into political power is via the military. Out of eleven male prime ministers, seven got their start either in the resistance to the British prior to Israel's founding in 1948 or in the Israeli Defense Force. Four were actually generals, counting Manachem Begin, leader of Irgun, and Yitzhak Shamir, one of the leaders of Lehi. (The others were Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon; after some hesitation, I decline to include David Ben-Gurion, even though he sorta kinda led Haganah in 1947, because I'm not entirely sure how official this was.)

I suspect this will happen again in Iraq: in later elections, it will surely be a major campaign advantage to be able to say "I commanded the brigade of the Iraqi Army that took and held Fallujah," or Tikrit, or Husaybah. And at that point, the Anbar Effect will kick in: Iraq's second generation of leaders will be heavy with army veterans, returned from the war, who will be strong supporters of the United States.

This doesn't mean they will always vote with us; Israel doesn't always do so, either. But it does mean a major turn-around in how Iraqis see America... driven, I predict, by the attitude of returning Iraqi soldiers who have worked side-by-side with American soldiers and Marines... just as I also predict a turn-around in American attitudes about the Iraq war when the American troops begin coming home in great numbers and telling about how well we did, regardless of what stories the MSM told.

The effect is the same in both cases: the powerful voices of those who actually undertook to defend their nation from harm overpower the purely political barnyard noises against America, freedom, and democracy. And the anti-Americans who have become allies of convenience -- the "insurgents" in Iraq and the mainstream media in the United States -- can become allies in defeat as well.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 29, 2005, at the time of 5:40 PM

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The following hissed in response by: ShoreMark


I'm not sure I'm as enamored of your Anbar thesis as I was with your excellent Afghanistan Effect entry, but your input is always interesting or provoking.

So you really shouldn't feel intimidated by the larger comment section at the Belmont Club at all, as you mentioned in another entry. :-)

The above hissed in response by: ShoreMark [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 29, 2005 6:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi

Dafydd, i think it is quite brilliant.

The above hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 29, 2005 6:40 PM

The following hissed in response by: beebop

Sorry to be a curmudgeon again, but I think the country and the general most likely to be emulated is France's De Gaulle. If you ever want to turn a friend into an enemy, loan him money when he's down on his luck.
I also have a different recollection of the history of Turkey than you do. It was my understanding that Ataturk, the founder of the modern country and leader of the Young Turks, WON the battle of Gallipoli against the British. Granted, they lost their empire in Arabia to Lawrence and friends, but this victory against the foremost power of the day gave them the credibility to overthrow the sultan and impose a modern state on the truncated country.

The above hissed in response by: beebop [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 30, 2005 8:09 PM

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