Daniel Pipes gave an interview yesterday to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review entitled "Pipes calls war a success". In it Pipes calls Iraq a success:
Q: How will we know when the occupation or the invasion of Iraq was a success or a failure?
A: Oh, it was a success. We got rid of Saddam Hussein. Beyond that is icing.
According to Pipes, the real lesson in Iraq is not the failure of American policy, but the ingratitude of the Iraqi people:
Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the Iraq war?
A: The ingratitude of the Iraqis for the extraordinary favor we gave them — to release them from the bondage of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. They have rapidly interpreted it as something they did and that we were incidental to it. They’ve more or less written us out of the picture.
I am really sorry the Iraqi people have hurt Mr. Pipes’s feelings. Clearly, the Iraqis failed to throw the requisite amount of roses at our feet for the favor we did them.
Mr. Pipes thinks that we should lower our expectations in Iraq. According to Mr. Pipes, we should only concern ourselves with destroying societies not rebuilding them. We’ve got smart bombs we should use them. The blue collar work of rebuilding a society that we bomb to oblivion should be left to the lowly Europeans or some other bleeding heart types:
Q: Does that mean a significant change in what we are doing now, in terms of policy. Should we announce withdrawals?
A: The number of troops is not my issue. It’s the placement and role of the troops. For three years now I have been protesting the use of American troops to mediate between tribes, help rebuild electricity grids, oversee school construction, which seems to me to be a wrong use of our forces, of our money. The Iraqis should be in charge of that. We should keep the troops there, in the desert, looking after the international boundaries, making sure there are no atrocities, making sure oil and gas goes out, otherwise leaving Iraq to the Iraqis.
Q: Is there anything major that the Bush administration should do now to make things go smoother?
A: We did something good in getting rid of the Taliban and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. That is really the extent of our role, to get rid of the hideous totalitarian regimes.
In any event, the theory is good. It’s the implementation that has gone wrong. Mr. Pipes’s theory has withstood the test of reality:
Q: Do you generally agree with President Bush’s Middle East policy — its goals and its methods?
A: I agree with the goals much more than the methods. I just gave an example of Iraq, where I believe the goal of getting rid of Saddam Hussein and trying to have a free and prosperous Iraq are worthy goals. I criticize the implementation. The same goes with democracy. I think democracy is a great goal for the region. I criticize the implementation; I think it’s too fast, too American, too get-it-done yesterday.
Lest you start thinking that Mr. Pipes is unhappy that the implementation of his theory might have led to unintended consequences, think again. He, like Charles Krauthammer, loves a good civil war. Mr. Pipes enumerates all the good things a bloody civil war can do:
Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition’s responsibility nor its burden. The damage done by Saddam will take many years to repair. Americans, Britons, and others cannot be tasked with resolving Sunni-Shiite differences, an abiding Iraqi problem that only Iraqis themselves can address.
The eruption of civil war in Iraq would have many implications for the West. It would likely:
Invite Syrian and Iranian participation, hastening the possibility of an American confrontation with those two states, with which tensions are already high.
Terminate the dream of Iraq serving as a model for other Middle Eastern countries, thus delaying the push toward elections. This will have the effect of keeping Islamists from being legitimated by the popular vote, as Hamas was just a month ago.
Reduce coalition casualties in Iraq. As noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Rather than killing American soldiers, the insurgents and foreign fighters are more focused on creating civil strife that could destabilize Iraq’s political process and possibly lead to outright ethnic and religious war."
Reduce Western casualties outside Iraq. A professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Vali Nasr, notes: "Just when it looked as if Muslims across the region were putting aside their differences to unite in protest against the Danish cartoons, the attack showed that Islamic sectarianism remains the greatest challenge to peace." Put differently, when Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice-versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt.
Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one.
It all makes sense to me now. We misunderstood Mr. Pipes when he said Iraq was going to be a cakewalk. When he said "cakewalk", he meant that defeating Saddam would be a cakewalk. The resulting chaos was not part of his thinking. In fact, the resulting chaos is not even our problem. It is all making sense to me now.
Before you dismiss Mr. Pipes as some right wing chicken hawk on the lunatic fringe, you might want to consider that he does have the ear of the President of the United States. The notion that America should rampage through the world without a care for the devastation this rampage may cause the societies which face our wrath is not a fringe notion – it has significant support within the Administration. In fact, it is the primary driving force behind Mr. Bush’s stay the course policy in Iraq. If you genuinely do not care about the consequences of your actions, it is much easier to label your misadventures as successes. This, I think, in large part explains the strange and often disconnected versions of reality that come from the President and the Vice President. After all, according to Mr. Pipes:
We are engaged in a war, a profound war and long-term war, in which Afghanistan and Iraq are sideshows. The real issue is the war that radical Islam, a global phenomenon, has declared on us and that has already been underway for many years, and we’re still at the beginning of it. That’s the really major issue.
Now, if only the Iraqis understood their rightful role in this war of civilizations; if only they understood that they are cannon fodder in the cause of the greater good; if only they understood that Mr. Pipes, from his perch in front of a television screen, thinks the slaughter of innocents is good theater; then and only then, would they be more grateful to the United States for this great favor we have done them. Instead, they continue this nonsense of caring more for their own lives than the greater glory of Daniel Pipes’s small but influential little mind.