Comments and emails from soldiers who have served or are serving in Iraq are important, and welcome. One hopes that these soldiers who have endured the "gratitude" of the non-existent "Iraqi" people, and puzzled over it -- not having been trained at Fort Jackson or Fort Benning or Fort Bragg on anything important about Islam (the Five Pillars of individual worship are hardly what matter -- what matters are the tenets of Islam concerning Believers and Infidels, and how those tenets give rise to attitudes, to the atmospherics, that suffuse Muslim societies and peoples).
Here are some things for General Chiarelli and others, beating their heads against the stone of "counter-insurgency" techniques, should ask themselves:
1) Why is it that the "Iraqis" the American soldiers meet seem to be so graspingly, or cunningly, eager to get, get, get, whatever they can out of us, the Americans, for themselves and their families and their tribes, but so uneager for us or for others in Iraq, other tribes, other ethnic or sectarian groups, to be similarly treated? Why, except for a handful of officers and perhaps a few thousand men, are Iraqis unable to conceive of the greater good of the nation-state of "Iraq"?
2) What effect has Islam, a belief-system that does not encourage but discourages free and skeptical inquiry, have in creating, among Muslim peoples, and certainly in Iraq, a great susceptibility to the most preposterous rumors, conspiracy-theories, and calumniating of the American soldiers who, far from wishing to remain in Iraq, would like nothing better than to leave,and are there only to create --or at least that is what they are told they are doing, told they have a chance of doing -- a society that, presumably, will be so much better run, with that "democracy" we hear so much about (in truth, that "democracy" in the Western sense, with the guarantees of rights for the politically vanquished, and for individuals, does not and can not exist in Iraq or any other society suffused with Islam).
3) What effect on American decision-making, and on American hopes and dreams, did such unrepresentative smooth, secular-seeming, thoroughly Westernized Iraqis-in-exile such as Allawi, Chalabi, Kanan Makiya have on encouraging a misunderstanding of Iraq by those who made and are making policy in Iraq?
4) What effect on American generals and high civilian officials in Iraq have the Christians, who form the household staffs -- the drivers, the cooks, the cleaners, and so much else -- in the Green Zone, and who have furnished far more of those interpreters/translators relied on by the Americans? Have they received a skewed view of Iraq, a view of it as being populated by those who are civilized, quasi-Western men, and are decisions being made on that basis?
5) What effect has the inattention to Islam, or the cursory treatment, or the apologetics (Islam as "one of the world's great religions" instead of Islam as a belief-system that uncompromisingly divides the world between Believer and Infidel) had on American troops, who may -- if they stop to think about things -- begin to wonder about the "mission" that they have been given, and in wondering about it, and not having been given enough information, may become less enthusiastic, even demoralized.
6) What effect has the failure to properly instruct American officers and men in Islam, out of all kinds of timidity and all kinds of ignorance, had on their greater understanding of things? Once they become disenchanted with the mission for which they are risking their lives, and which is unattainable (it is impossible to imagine the Shi'a ever giving the Sunnis what the Sunnis demand, and impossible to imagine the Sunnis ever acquiescing in being dominated by the Shi'a in a Shi'a-ruled Iraq) and, furthermore, deprives the Americans of the ability to exploit the sectarian fissures within Iraq that will have obvious consequences outside Iraq, as Sunnis and Shi'a in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, and Lebanon are affected by, and identify with, their co-religionists in Iraq.
7) What do General Chiarelli and other generals and higher officers now serving in Iraq think of the Iran-Iraq War? Do they think it was a good thing for the Infidels of this world, keeping Khomeini's Islamic Republic preoccupied for eight of its first nine years in existence, and also using up men, materiel, and money of the aggressive and vicious Saddam Hussein?
8) Why would the consequences of civil strife in Iraq not do the same, in keeping Muslims busy, and buying time? Would not the time being bought, as sectarian (Sunni-Shi'a) and ethnic strife divides and demoralizes the camp of Islam, be an intelligent goal? The Kurds, were they to attain their goal of independence, would show other non-Arab Muslims, such as the Berbers of Algeria and Morocco, an example of what was possible, and in their appeals to fellow Kurds in Syria and Iran, help unsettle both those unsavory regimes. As for the seemingly daunting problem of Turkish opposition that apparently has encouraged the Americans to insist on Kurds remaining within Iraq, that is based on a failure of imagination, and timidity. Turkey is not the "ally" we once thought it to be; based on the assumption that secularism, Kemalism, was permanent. American generals made judgments about Turkey, as they once did about Pakistan, based on their meetings with affable, briskly professional generals -- they forgot, or overlooked, the Muslim masses and the power of Islam in Turkey, and in Pakistan. American guarantees of Turkish territorial sovereignty could be given in order to win begrudging Turkish acquiescence in an independent Kurdish republic, and such a guarantee would have to be honored as well by the grateful Kurds themselves, so dependent on American goodwill, diplomatic, and military support.
And while sectarian and ethnic divisions within Iraq will preoccupy the camp of Islam, there will be time for Americans and other Infidels, watching those conflicts and attaining an even better idea of Islam, to observe and begin to understand that this is not a "war on terror" but a Resistance to a War, the war that Islam naturally makes on all non-Muslims, those who are subjugated, and those who as yet remain unsubjugated in the Dar al-Harb.
9) Why do the officers and men of the American military, repeatedly asked to risk their lives for a mission that is imperfectly conveyed to them because it is both incoherent, and in the end makes no sense, have to endure the continued refusal of their government to teach them effectively about the doctrine, and practice (over 1350 years) of Islam? And does the government bear a responsibility not to have soldiers, who may as they compare their own experience of Iraq and "Iraqis" with what they have been told, may as they become disenchanted and even demoralized, seek for other, false explanations ("So, it really is all about the oil"), rather than the true one: those who make policy had an idea, and now the idea has them. They did not identify the enemy, but merely listed a tactic ("war on terror"). Having failed to identify the enemy (those who participate in, or support in other ways, the Jihad to spread Islam until it subdues its enemies everywhere, until all obstacles to its dominance everywhere are removed, and Islam dominates, and Muslims rule), they also failed to learn about Iraq and its sectarian and ethnic divisions (see: "What Did the Bush Administration Not Know (About Sunnis and Shi'a) and When Did It Not Know It").
10) If the "insurgents" are today Sunnis who refuse to accept the new power arrangements -- arrived at through purple-thumbed process, not mass murder -- how would "reconstruction" and jobs help? Unlike the Communist insurgencies in Malaya, and Greece, and Vietnam, where the conferring of economic benefits could here and there win hearts, win minds, Muslim hearts and Muslim minds are essentially unwinnable by Infidels. The refusal to understand this, the confusion based on personal relations with those who offer feigned affability in order to have the Americans lavish still more aid on them (everyone is waiting to see what military equipment will be left behind, for this or that militia to appropriate, or this or that so-called "Iraqi" army or "Iraqi" police unit to take, and use against its enemies), and to continue to do the work, by risking American lives, what should long ago have been done by Iraqis if indeed there is a sense of "Iraqi-ness" beyond the handful. Asking people, in polls, if they "believe in Iraq" or "want Iraq to remain as one unit" or questions of that ilk do not get to the real problem. One would have to ask Shi'a "would you be willing to remain in Iraq if you had to divide the country's oil wealth, and to share its political power, evenly between Shi'a Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds?"
Reply: No. And one would have to ask the Sunnis: "Would you accept an Iraqi government dominated by the Shi'a, reflecting their 60-65% of the population, and recognize that Sunni Arabs constitute only 19% of the population, and for decades a Sunni Arab despotism treated Shi'a Arabs and Kurds terribly?" Reply: No.
Questions to ask. Questions to be discussed, in the Green Zone or in Forward Operating Bases, or once one is back home, at Fort Bragg, Fort Jackson, Fort Benning, Camp Pendleton, or even in the Pentagon. And for the National Guard and the Reserves, returning to their families across the nation, they should study what they can about Islam rather to discover how ignorance, innocent rather than malevolent, and timidity can give rise to policies as wasteful and ineffective as the one now in place.
There's ten things to think about, ten questions to ask.
War, it has been famously said, is too serious to be left to the generals. For that matter, it is too serious to be left to the civilians. War is too serious a matter to be left to anyone, civilian or military, who refuses to learn what he needs to learn. In the case of fighting the forces of Jihad, that something that needs to be learned is Islam itself, and the sources, promptings, doctrines, and practice of Jihad. And from that study will come a recognition, no longer so difficult, of the fissures in Iraq that present themselves, and that if allowed to develop can only divide and demoralize and otherwise weaken the camp of Islam. Holding Iraq together, and pouring more men, materiel, and money into it from the United States, is not that way. It is the opposite of that way.