July 13, 2004

Iraq: Slight Improvements Afoot?

If the Tagorda-thesis is right (namely, that the Administration's conflating of the war on terror with the war in Iraq means that, if Iraq is going poorly, Bush's war on terror poll numbers sag); what might this latest poll mean for how it all goes in Iraq?

The poll results show that Bush's war on terror approval numbers have jumped by 5% in the past three weeks. What happened (it wasn't UBL's capture, of course, as we are waiting until circa. July 27th-28th for that to occur....)?

Well, perhaps things in Iraq have gotten just a wee bit better since the successful handing over of power on June 28th.

Iraq is sovereign again--and not under the brutish rule of a neo-Stalinist genocidaire. Iraqi faces are now leading the country. Ministries, run by Iraqis, are trundling along and slowly coming to life.

And Negroponte is playing the Invisible Man, doubtless.

Been reading too much Juan Cole lately and think I'm full of it?

Well, don't just take my word for it!

Dave Ignatius, writing from Baghdad, issues a few cautiously optimistic notes too.

Importantly, Ignatius mentions the amnesty plan being offered up to former insurgents (including, controversially, extending amnesty to fighters who have killed U.S soldiers).

All told, this is likely a good move.

By giving amnesty to such insurgents--Allawi signals he isn't a puppet of Negroponte's.

The better to try to capitalize on rifts within the insurgency:

Tension appears to be rising between the homegrown Iraqi resistance and the foreign Islamic fighters who have entered the country to destroy the U.S. military here. This is one reason, experts speculate, that Iraq has not had the kind of spectacular attack meant to spread terror and defy the U.S. agenda for a long two weeks, even during the transfer of formal sovereignty back to the Iraqis....All speak of rising friction between nationalistic fighters and foreign-led Islamists over goals and tactics, with some Iraqi insurgents indicating a revulsion over the car bombs and suicide attacks in cities that have caused hundreds of civilian deaths...

...The split would seem to be welcome news to the government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. His strategy for combating violence is to divide the insurgency by appealing to the patriotism of Iraqi fighters to reject the presence of foreigners who he claims do not care about Iraq itself. He is promising amnesty for some Iraqis, but threatening to crack down on those who do not accept it. To that end, Allawi and other government officials say, he has been meeting with former Baath Party members in the resistance and tribal leaders to convince them that their interests and those of foreign fighters are not the same.

Now, appealing to the patriotism of Iraqi fighters to "reject the presence of foreign fighters" can, er, swing both ways.

For every Iraqi angry that a Jordanian thug like Zarqawi is felling innocent Iraqis in brutish car bombings in crowded city streets--you can be sure there are as many Iraqis who lost someone dear to them under an American bomb or offensive action (especially in the Sunni Triangle, of course).

And, truth be told, such people likely don't care much that, unlike Zarqawi, the violence was meant not to be indiscriminate in effect (ask people that Q in Gaza too...).

Still, however, I think Allawi's strategy has a fighting chance--especially if all hell doesn't break loose (say the Gelbian specter of civil war; exagerrated somewhat, in my view) before we've trained a serious, professional, non-half-assed Iraqi security force.

And the proposed amnesty arrangements do go some way towards showing there's a new sherriff in town. This, in turn, helps counter insurgency propaganda that Alawi and Co. are simply the Iraqi quisling face of an American neo-colonialist junket.

Look, I'm certainly not saying all is going swimmingly in Iraq.

We've, of course, still got the 800-pound gorilla of security, security, security to grapple with.

But, at least from where we stand today, I think it's fair to say that there are some tangible whisps of improvement in the air of late.

So, returning to the Tagorda-thesis.

Let's ask: is this why Bush's numbers are up on the war on terror generally?

Perhaps because Iraq has been doing a wee bit better over the past two to three odd weeks?

Posted by Gregory at July 13, 2004 08:28 PM

Iraq is mostly off the front page.

Posted by: praktike at July 14, 2004 07:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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