Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Obi-Wan Kenobi school of international relations

Don't expect the MSM to dwell too long, or for that matter acknowledge at all, the huge success of the Fallujah operation. Instead we'll see a lot of what the Wall Street Journal calls "the Obi-Wan Kenobi school of international relations":
So coalition forces strike the city of Fallujah, and Iraqi insurgents respond by attacking in Mosul, Baquba, Kirkuk and Suweira. This, we now hear, proves that the more insurgents the U.S. kills, the stronger the insurgency grows. Call it the Obi-Wan Kenobi school of international relations: Strike him down, and he'll only become more powerful.

In real warfare, of course, killing the enemy means there are fewer enemies to kill. And in one week in Fallujah, and at the cost of some 40 American soldiers' lives and several Iraqi ones, about 1,200 insurgents were killed and another 1,000 taken prisoner. The insurgents have been denied their principal sanctuary. Their torture chambers--a stark indication of what they intend for all of Iraq if they're allowed to prevail--lie exposed.


These insurgents will no doubt continue to mount gruesome attacks throughout the country, with the aim of cowing the silent majority of Iraqis who'd like to be on the side of freedom if given the chance.

Still, it is instructive to note the view the insurgents themselves took of the battle. In an audio recording transmitted on the Internet, a voice said to be Zarqawi's warns, "Once they have finished in Fallujah, they will head toward you. You must not let them succeed in their plan." That sounds more like the voice of desperation than it does the voice of confidence.

Another point in the Zarqawi recording bears attention: "This war is very long, and always think of this as the beginning, and always make the enemy think that yesterday was better than today." In Israel, this is known as the question of the barrel: Is there a bottom to it or not? Beyond whatever tactics the Iraqi insurgents may employ, their strategy is to convince Americans that there is no bottom; that their cause enjoys huge popular support; that it feeds off the resentments that "occupation" inevitably engenders; and that it can go on undeterred by whatever damage U.S. forces inflict.

Sadly, there are plenty of Westerners willing to buy into this hypothesis, since it sits so well with those who think the war was a mistake and thus can't imagine that we can still win. Yet apart from the military success, the big news of the Fallujah campaign is that most Iraqis quietly supported it. The protests from nationalist politicians was far more muted than in April, perhaps because they have seen from the car bombings and beheadings what the Zarqawis also intend for them.

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