Winning or Losing in Iraq

If al-Qaida in Iraq loses–we win. If the insurgents in Iraq lose–we win. If the Iranian influence in Iraq loses–we win. If we just can sell the occupation to the Iraqis–we win. And in order to “win”, we need to sell the invasion and occupation to the Iraqis.

Our culture is all about winning and losing. The second best team in football doesn’t get a parade. We market products to win over the market – whether the product is a widget or an invasion. We even use language to reflect our winning mentality for the products we sell- we want to crush the competitor.

We believe we can sell anything. To my amazement, the marketers are nearly right. They can sell cars, toys, toothpaste, and coffee to anyone. We do it by supplying the “right” information to the right segment of the market. Why not then sell a war?

Bush crony Karen Hughes was sent to the Arab and Muslim world to sell American policies and promote democracy. In reality we were selling the invasion and occupation of Iraq. No wonder why she resigned after less than two years on the job. In the prelude to war, the United States even had a declared covert operation to augment the selling of the invasion. The invasion of Iraq or the selling of toothpaste–it’s all the same to this Administration. The Muslim world, however, is not that naïve.

Last November, Kimberly Kagan wrote in the neo-conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, an article subtitled, “Executing the Winning Strategy in Iraq.” In her article, she describes in detail the brilliant plans of General Petraeus and Odierno for Iraq and declares that these strategies are now winning the war for the United States. She makes no mention as to why it took us more than four years to develop this brilliant strategy nor what the long-term implications for this strategy will likely be.

Kagan and the pro-war faction in the White House miss the point that the Iraqis won against al-Qaida before the “surge” began. Iraqis saw that al-Qaida members were bad for Iraq and began to turn against them long before the “surge” started. Iraqis, more educated and sophisticated than they have been given credit for, are light years ahead of the mentality of al-Qaida. Bush and his acolytes avoid real the elephant in the room–the people of Iraq do not, and may not ever, accept our occupation. The occupation and “surge”, even if it succeeds in the short run, will create forces against us all over again–it is only a matter of time.

President Bush will not be in the White House to deal with the aftermath of his policies in the Muslim world. But future presidents and the American people will have to deal with the miserable consequences. These consequences are already brewing in the Muslim world–clearly evident in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Iran. New turmoil will be born when our many corrupt and current friends in the Muslim world leave the scene. How will Bush and his cheerleaders sell the “win” in Iraq then?

Adil E. Shamoo, born and raised in Baghdad, is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He writes on ethics and public policy. He is an analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus.