The view concerning Iraq from Britain appears to be, according to a shrewd analysis in Prospect magazine, cheerio.
To be sure, the analysis is somewhat old. “Mission Accomplished,” by Bartle Bull, appeared in the magazine in October, weeks before the New York Times acknowledged that that times in Iraq, they are a’changing -- for the better.
The glad news in the Times appeared in its inner pages. We don’t want to frighten the kids now, do we, with the possibility that the surge in Iraq has succeeded? Not all the American press was missing in action?
For years, the New York Times, which long has appeared to neo-conservatives as a propaganda annex of the Democrat Party in retreat, had dwelt with feverish anxiety on the signal failures of President George Bush’s policy in the Middle East.
If information were money, it would have been possible for any objective observer to warn the paper that it was too heavily invested in an American defeat.
The tide in formerly unlivable hotspots in Iraq now appears to be turning. The Iraqi man on the street is no longer convinced that America is the Great Satan. In fact, for some time he has been conspiring with American troops to drive out foreign terrorists (read: al-Qaida fundamentalists equipped and trained in Syria and Iran.)
In Britain, the glad tidings are splashed all over the place. The larger questions in Iraq have now been settled, says the brash Bull:
“… Iraq's big questions have been resolved—break-up? No. Shia victory? Yes. Will violence make the Americans go home? No. Do Iraqis like voting? Yes. Do they like Iraq? Yes—Iraq's violence has largely become local and criminal. The biggest fact about Iraq today is that the violence, while tragic, has ceased being political, and is therefore no longer nearly as important as it was.”
Christopher Hitchens, a British import now become an American citizen, sums up the sea change in Iraq very well: “…the Iraqi people as a whole had looked into the abyss of civil war and had drawn back from the brink. Second, the majority of Sunni Arabs had realized that their involvement with al-Qaida forces was not a patriotic "insurgency" but was instead a horrific mistake and had exposed their society to the most sadistic and degraded element in the entire Muslim world. Third, the Shiite militias had also come to appreciate that they had overplayed their hand. There remained, according to Bull, an appalling level of criminal and antisocial violence, but essentially Iraq was agreed on a rough new dispensation whereby ethnic and social compromise would determine events and where subversive outside interference would not be welcomed.”
It certainly is a strange turn of events when the American news consuming public has to turn to foreign newspapers and British re-pots like Hitchens to obtain an unvarnished view of important changes on the ground in a war the major American media has been covering for more than four years.
The complex story of the disintegration of both al-Qaida and Syrian and Iranian backed terrorists in Iraq was covered adequately in what one might call the opposition press. But the opposition press was not likely to affect major media outlets, which had unreflecting supported Bush’s poorly thought out initial game plan in Iraq before it soured.
The very success of the surge is proof positive that the White House’s earlier strategy in Iraq was fatally flawed: Not enough troops were committed early enough; the reaction to a prolonged American presence in Iraq from undefeated pro- Saddam Hussein elements and pro-Iranian and Syrian cultists in the Mahdi Army in Iraq was wildly underestimated.
All that said, the reaction in Iraq against puritanical reactionaries that applied the severest of sharia laws in places they had subdued by force was as wildly underestimated. Iraqis will not abide the murdering of tribal sheiks, forced marriages or even bans on smoking and moderate drinking by fanatical teetotalers.
Jihadism is not a doctrine that has not been tried in much of the Middle East; it is a doctrine that has been tried and, as the Britons might say, been found wanting.