« Obama And Naivette | Main | Hardballin' »

September 13, 2007

Propaganda

Folks often talk about the propaganda victory the insurgents will get if we withdraw from Iraq. Marc Lynch wonders why they talk in the future tense:

Much of the conventional wisdom about the Sunni areas now seems to come from the impressions formed by politicians and journalists on stage-managed visits to Iraq, or by carefully crafted press interviews with "former insurgents" hand-picked by American military handlers. But we don't need such a mediated view. Leaders of the major Iraqi Sunni groups actually speak quite often and quite candidly to their own people, though: in open letters, in official statements posted on internet forums, in the Arab and Iraqi press, and in statements released on al-Jazeera and other satellite television stations. What they say in such statements, in Arabic, when addressing their own constituencies, might be considered a more reliable guide to their strategy and thinking. So what are the major Iraqi Sunni leaders saying?

In their literature and public rhetoric, the Sunni insurgency has already defeated the American occupation -- which is why the Americans stopped fighting them and came to them for help in fighting al-Qaeda. One discovers virtually nothing in this literature of the American conceit that our forces wore them out or forced them to come to the table. During his meeting with President Bush in Anbar last week, Abu Risha, reportedly joked that his people had achieved in four months what the American military could not achieve in four years.

Additionally, the recruitment propaganda is is more effective so long as we remain in Iraq to be fought. We give insurgents and jihadists something to recruits towards. If the line were just that we'd been incapable of occupying Iraq, that's no PR triumph, but at least it ended. This way, there's still a failing, vulnerable enemy to fight. Additionally, our presence there gives the recruited jihadists training in terrorism and urban warfare. We're turning angry young men into skilled bomb makers by letting them practice on us. It's always worth reminding people that al Qaeda began in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets...

September 13, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

It's always worth reminding people that al Qaeda began in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets...

obPedant: it's a more complex backstory, not least because Al-Q was shaped in a reaction to two things: the factionalism of the post-Soviet-withdrawal period in Afghanistan, and the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia. The former is the really disturbing precedent, because the seeds of the Taliban movement and the morphing of the foreign mujahedin in Al Qaeda were planted among Afghan refugees in the Pakistani tribal areas.

(Historians will probably note that the US, under both Daddy Bush and Clinton, saw the collapse of Soviet-dominated Europe and missed what happened in Afghanistan, treating it as a bloody nose for the Red Menace and not bothering to clean up after itself.)

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Sep 13, 2007 3:32:07 PM

It's always worth reminding people that al Qaeda began in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets...

But don't you see? That's the brilliance of our plan! 9/11 wasn't an attack on the Soviets, after all. So all we have to do is break the back of our empire fighting a bloody and pointless counter-insurgency in the Middle East, and by the time the terrorist organizations forged in that cauldron reach full maturity, we'll be so weak and pathetic that we will no longer be a target for their anger. It's all part of our long-term master plan to get China bogged down in a counter-insurgency in Iran in the year 2025. Oh, Bush, you sly dog!

Posted by: OhioBoy | Sep 13, 2007 3:46:44 PM

Here's a thought: we continually hear that we must stay in Iraq in order to wage the War on Terror, and that al-Qaeda in Iraq has materialized as a deadly foe. Hence retreating from Iraq would be synonymous with being handed a major defeat by al-Qaeda.

But since when do astute wagers of war allow the enemy to dictate the terms of battle? Sure, perhaps al-Qaeda would like to use Iraq as a battleground against the United States. But why should the United States want to use Iraq as a battleground against al-Qaeda? It hardly seems obvious that just because it makes sense for your enemy to favor a particular location for use as a battlefield it likewise makes sense for you.

America clearly has good reasons for wanting to fight the enemy called al-Qaeda. But likewise there pretty clearly exist some major disadvantages for America in wanting to do that fighting in the country known as Iraq.

Posted by: Jasper | Sep 13, 2007 8:28:49 PM

In their literature and public rhetoric, the Sunni insurgency has already defeated the American occupation -- which is why the Americans stopped fighting them and came to them for help in fighting al-Qaeda. One discovers virtually nothing in this literature of the American conceit that our forces wore them out or forced them to come to the table

You've almost nailed down the issue, but not quite. Handing "a victory to the Sunni insurgents" is no problem at all. In fact, it's what we want-- the solution to Iraq is the opposite of the ideal "centrist solution" of which pundits are so enamored, where each side's "extremes" are equally upset. No, instead, it's best for the US and the Sunni insurgents to "declare victory," both thinking they got the better part of the deal, and then the US can leave in peace. The Republicans are supposed to be the only ones obsessed with whether we've "handed a propaganda victory to our enemies." The only danger is if we stay, and then the Sunni insurgents have more reason to fight and more evidence of the inevitability of their victory.

Posted by: Tyro | Sep 13, 2007 8:59:21 PM

Sheik Risha is now dead.

What happened to the "honey pot" argument? Remember that? Right wingers used to argue that we were drawing terrorists to Iraq like bees to honey so we could kill them.

"Abu Risha, reportedly joked that his people had achieved in four months what the American military could not achieve in four years."

And yet Anbar is being trumpeted by the media and Bush Administration of what success in Iraq is supposed to look like.

I'd laugh but really, it's fucking sad.

Posted by: PoliShifter | Sep 13, 2007 10:25:52 PM

"Nothing but blue skies" -- Bush's take on the Forever War. -- "It's working because I and all my yes men say it's working. And it's going to keep on working, because I say so."

Posted by: Madison Guy | Sep 14, 2007 8:22:25 AM

Withdraw from Iraq. Strengthen the military. Make sure we have adequate humintel resources, even if it means hiring teh gheys who speak Arabic. Rebuild our forces to fight like insurgents.

Islamists and America's other assorted foes will think we've gone soft; in fact they already do. That was the rap on the US after Beirut '83. We should sit tight and reserve our newly-revamped military for response to genuine threats to American soil and vital interests. And the occasional clandestine boots-on-the-ground foray, like we're doing in God knows where.

The cumulative "damage" from pulling out of Iraq will be considerable, but as Ezra and others point out, most of that damage is already done.

Posted by: Jamey | Sep 14, 2007 10:19:28 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.