Iraq: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq, United States Of America Views: 3337

By now, it should be apparent to everyone that Iraq was not a cakewalk. Maybe the fight against the Iraqi military on the open battlefield was a cakewalk, but everything since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1 -- taking a victory lap by landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in full flight garb and with a banner declaring "mission accomplished" -- has been anything but.

The U.S. military is trying to put down an insurgency fueled by Sunni Baathists who refuse to accept U.S.-imposed regime change, abetted by some Iraqis glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein but chafing under U.S. occupation, and al Qaeda-inspired jihadists taking advantage of a U.S. target in their neighborhood to practice car-bomb terrorism.

These three lethal ingredients are recipe for a U.S. disaster. It would seem that the United States has walked eyes wide shut into a combination of the Israelis in the West Bank and the Soviets in Afghanistan. It's hard to imagine a worse situation. 

So what's a superpower to do? The United States basically has three options: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The "good" option is really the least bad option. The United States needs to give up on the Woodrow Wilson fantasy of creating a democracy in Iraq. Instead, the United States must be realistic, make the best of an admittedly bad situation, and do what's in the best interest of U.S. national security: hand the reigns of government over to the Iraqis and fashion an expeditious military exit. This would not be "cutting and running," but simply cutting U.S. losses before Iraq becomes a sinkhole that swallows billions more of taxpayer dollars and all too many American lives. The hard truth is that the U.S. government's first responsibility is to Americans, not to the people of Iraq. 

The "bad" option is the one advocated by Arizona Sen. John McCain: pouring more U.S. soldiers into Iraq. The irony is that McCain is right when he said, "we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives." Currently, the United States has about 130,000 troops in Iraq. The history of the British experience in Northern Ireland (a close parallel to America's precarious position in Iraq) suggests a need for10 to 20 soldiers per 1,000 civilian population to have any realistic hope of restoring security and stability. In Iraq, that translates to a force of 240,000 to 480,000 troops. But the paradox of a larger force is that it would only make the problem worse, confirming that the United States is an occupying power and increasing Iraqi resentment and resistance. Further, a larger military contingent in Iraq encourages the Muslim world (regardless of their sympathies towards al Qaeda) to unite against the United States.

The "ugly" option is the course the Bush administration seems to be charting, which is a faux exit. On the one hand, the United States is trying the fast track, giving the Iraqis sovereign control by agreeing to the creation of a provisional government that will assume control July 1, 2004. That's the good news. The bad news is that the United States apparently has no intention of leaving Iraq. To be sure, the current Pentagon plan is to reduce the force size to 105,000 troops by next spring -- but that's hardly a withdrawal of U.S. forces. According to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the troop reduction "does not mean we would physically leave the country any sooner." And President Bush assured a group of Iraqi women at the White House "that America wasn't leaving.... When they hear me say we're staying, that means we're staying."

The current administration plan to try to have its cake and eat it too is a train wreck in the making -- pinned down in Iraq and forced to adopt Israeli-style tactics, a la Operation Iron Hammer, that do more to create anti-American resentment, fuel the insurgency, and create a pool of would-be suicide bombers for al Qaeda. It is the worst of all worlds -- a combination of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, where military action to suppress the insurgency creates more new terrorists and an endless cycle of violence, and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, where Muslims from around the region (if not the world) flock to Iraq for jihad against the American infidel. It doesn't get any uglier than that.

Charles V. Pena is the director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy (

Source: Cato Institute

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq, United States Of America
Views: 3337

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Older Comments:
I disagree that the US should pull out of Iraq and I didn't even agree that we should go in in the 1st place. If we pull out before Iraqi's have had a chance to discover what being a nation means, I believe that we as a nation would stand before God. And unfortunately, that may not be for a very long time. There is so much hatred amongst your people! You hate everyone! You've got Islam killing Islam. Your breeding hatred and more hatred amongst your children from generation to generation. You hate the "jews" because they're all trying to "take your land." Your fighting over lands and properties that you yourselves have allowed your leaders to let deteriorate to the point that even bombs could barely worsen. You hate the "Kurds", the Palestinians, the this the that. I don't even know what a kurd is. Are they human beings? Then why should I hate them and help you to harm them? And you hate Americans worst of all because what again? We're trying to take what from you now?Could there be another reason that we are there? You just hate.
Do you think that we will recoil and run from your petty prejudices and ignorant opinions of the rest of the world. How can you convince the rest of the world that you value and respect yourselves and your families when you won't stop hating long enough to build. You have a chance to build, and build a nation, and you can't stop killing and warring. It's so sad. And so ignorant! An oppressed people are dominated by fear, and need shaken out of lethargy. Especially when they're only motivation is mis-guided anger. Your own leaders (RELIGIOUS and POLITICAL) have desperately failed to improve or even maintain the conditions of it's people. As bad a president as Bush may be we still as a nation ALLOWED him to give you a chance to instill a productive government. And in my country we can CHOOSE someone else who we believe will do a better job. The sooner you take some responsibility for yourselves, the happier we'll all be. My God loves us al

Muslimah, very well then. I surrender. Masha'Allah. (Assalamu alaikum.)

Yahya, I have not said that I am against war. I said that in Islam there are rules of war that should not be put aside simply because they are inconvenient today. I have said that I support the Palestinians and all the Muslims who are oppressed to fight back, but they should not be doing it by killing civilians. What was haram then is haram today, the laws of Allah should not be changed to fit us.

The Lebanese targeted the soldiers and freed their land. The Palestinians should do the same.

That is a fair question, Ahmed. (If the Israelis want peace, why have they been invading Palestine for the past century or so?) I think that, at the time, most of them were under the impression that they were immigrating for the sake of their Lord - to an uninhabited land no less (please read the sales brochure).

But no matter: send those Jews to America - we know what to do with their kind! As soon as they get here, perhaps they can start developing a practical alternative to fossil fuel. (It seems as if that Lord of theirs is constantly trying my countrymen with some new opportunity.) Maybe I can find some homes for at least a few of them in my own neighborhood - insha'Allah.

The best thing would be a speedy transfer of power through an open and democratic vote, that brings into power many technocrats since nearly every Iraqi i meet here feels the GC doenst really speak for them but they really have no alternative leader in mind. As long as we avoid any future general led coups and personality cults I'll be elated.

SGT Omar Masry
Baghdad International Airport, Iraq

Thats quite the rhetorical question Yahya. I have one in responce to it...If jews believe in peace what are they doing there ?
One good turn deserves another.

Reread what I stated earliar Muslimah, it should answer your questions.
Palestinians dont see themselves as "suicide bombers," thats a term zionists concocted to defame them...I believe now they're being called "homicide bombers."
They see themselves as martyers. If you're so confused as to why they resort to such measures, maybe you need to take a trip to the occupied teretories. I have no intention of condemning victims who have been under seige for over half a century in their own country.
The argument about tourists and children stands on shaky ground. What tourist would go to a warzone ? Are jewish parents so obsessed with stealing land that they dont care about their own kids ? Apparently so. The fault is theirs and theirs alone.
Also lets not forget the numbers here. Check casualty reports to see who is really suffering.
ANd finally to "a.r" tell me how you really feel.

Assalamu Alaikum Muslimah. On Ahmed's behalf, might I respectively suggest reviewing Quran 2:216, 2:218 and 4:75 (and related entries). I am not responding to your request (to Ahmed) because I felt that Ahmed was in need of a spokesperson. I am merely responding because I felt that it would be better (for my sake) to do so.

Also, in times like these, Surah 103 (Surah al-Asr) would appear to offer, at least a few of us, valuable guidance as well.



Well here goes - I am about to click on the 'Submit' button. Ya Allah...

Ahmed, I was not trying to be sarcastic. You agree there are no hadiiths that approve attacks on civilians, so why is it that the suicide bombers believe they will be rewarded by Allah for killing themselves and others. Which teachings of Islam are they relying on?

In many of those attacks, there have been many tourists and Palestinians who died. Random killing will always kill many innocent people, this is a simple fact. As to the children, regardless of their parents faults there is no excuse to kill them.

Please, whenever you look at this think if Allah will approve or not what the suicide bombers do. As Muslims we should remember that Allah is our main goal.

I find myself very much in agreement with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. I feel that Iraq's (Shiite) majority needs a chance to exercise its control over Iraq through democratic processes - before (rather than after) the Shiites find themselves fighting against those with whom they would be partnered, in a united Iraq. I also happen to think that the Shiites should be initially fighting in the company of American ground forces - even one massacre of Sunnis, Assyrians or anyone else could very well doom the entire invasion to failure.

I understand the usefulness of regional caucuses, in assuring that the Kurds and the Sunnis enjoy (continued) self-determination. However, I think that convincing the Shiites of the importance of 'states rights' within their new republic would do more to assure success, of both Iraqi and Coalition sacrifices, than simply forcing regional and ethnic autonomy onto the Shiites and hoping that they come to tolerate it. I personally don't think that the Shiites would want to start out their new era in Iraq with a war against others among their nation's formerly oppressed.

The Shiites have said they would care for Sunnis, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen and basically everybody else in Iraq, which hopefully would include refugees. I think that the world ought to take the Iraqi (Shiite) majority at their word. As I understand it, Jihad is a pillar of Shia Islam. I respectfully suggest that the Shiites' jihad should include showing compassion for the families of those who are currently fighting against the voice of Shia in the new Iraq.

Assalamu alaikum.

--Yahya Bergum

A.R FROM U.K said:
Do not be Chit Chat yourself.

Tsk tsk Muslimah, you protest just a bit too much. Learn the meaning of "paranoid" before trying to psycho-analyze anyone.
You know as well as I do that no hadith exists which calls for attacks on civilians, so asking for one which does is a poor attempt at sarcasm.
Define "civilian" in Israel first. As for those israeli children, pose your question directly to their parents who've chosen to place them in a war zone. Nobody in their right mind would do this.
If they're so fixated with stealing land than care for the welfare of their children, they have only themselves to blame. Talk about dead beat parenting.
Frankly I have no sympathy for a bunch of Ashkhenazi thugs and gangsters who've brought so much misery on the peoples of the region.
As I explained to Mr.Azam, I prefer the blunt approach with people who feel they can make outrageous and insulting remarks. Consider that before trying to lectering anyone on manners.

Your point is well taken, Ahmed - perhaps Israelis (or at least those who control Palestine/Israel/Judea/Samaria/etc.) really don't care what the world thinks of them. Also - while I insist that the massacres at Sabra and Shatila (lest we forget) were atrocities - Lebanon would indeed seem to provide those of us who invade other peoples' countries and readily admit to doing so with a crucial lesson on the importance of achievement by those who we, the invaders, claim to have liberated and at whose invitation we, the invaders, would remain.

Now then, how about addressing a somewhat related question, perhaps pertaining to the Intifada: should Israelis who participated in demonstrations against the invasion of Lebanon - such as 100,000 demonstrators in Tel Aviv - be advised to don a yellow Star of David, for example, before boarding busses, entering shops, visiting with family and friends at cafes or continuing to reside on property confiscated from Palestinians?

Shalom Aleichem.


By the way Ahmed, Muslims have to talk kindly to others even those you perceive to be antagonistic.

Ahmed, please don't be so paranoid. I am not apologetic or sheepish for standing firm for the teachings of Islam. I defy you to bring any proof of any ayah or sahiih hadiith that allows or instructs believers to kill civilians. On the contrary, you will find the impermissibility of such acts.

I read several people bringing up the fact that most Israelis are reservist. What about the children and the non-reservist, are they collateral damage? Do you think Allah values more a Palestinian child than an Israeli child? You are the one who needs a reality check. Human life is not so easily discarded in Islam, this kind of dehuminazation is more a western racist tradition, not Islamic.

I too am deeply concerned for the Palestinians and have deep hatred for their tormentors; and it is not wrong for them to fight back as long as they target the soldiers. I realize the difficulty of this, but war isn't easy.

When Muslims were tortured and killed by the Quraysh, many sahabas wanted to retaliate, they were frustrated that the prophet did not give the order to wage war. When they were ready, they fought justly and when the Muslims won, they did not act vengefully. We are even told not to act out of anger, because we might do injustice. Those teachings are buried and out dated for a lot of Muslims, and that is very sad.

Actually Yahya, The Israelis didnt leave Lebanon because of world opinion. Israelis have NEVER cared what the world think about their behavior, atleast not as long as the US protects them.
They left Lebanon because of stiff and solid resistance and the eventual collapse of their Phalangist allies.
Its simple really, historically invaders dont leave, they have to be thrown out in a most uncerimonius fashion.

I agree, Ahmed - the Israelis left Lebanon because world opinion (i.e., world media) had turned against them. That and they had failed to protect their sizable investment in Bashir Gemayal.

To Chris Azaam:

In the words of a Palestinian resistance fighter
"Let them solve our problem in a fair and just manner and if they are unable to do so then let them give us the arms to defend ourselves and properties in the way they deem honorable and if they can't do this,then they have no moral authority to condemn us for defending ourselves anyway we can"

Islam does not teach suicide bombings if it did you would have 1.5 billion suicide bombers reeking havoc around the world.It is a social problem that can be solved by social solutions not carpet bombing and barb wires.A little empathy
goes a long way in understanding the problem.

Allah is the greatest.


Mr.Azam, rest assured I dont think anyone is "against me" as you claim. I do have a tendency to be blunt towards folks like you how ask condescending and insulting questions. I've read your other posts from past articles to confirm this.
Comparing Iraq and Palestine in the context of suicide bombing and trying to link it to Islam is really a dispicable attempt to obscure the hard fact that both nations are under brutal occupations. Perhaps it strikes you as odd that people arent grateful that they've been invaded and have had their loved ones "shock and awed.".
Perhaps you need to shown the reality in person instead of daydraming at whatever model UN your school has.
Pschiatry, at this stage would do more for you than pontificating on issues and events you have little knowledge and understanding of.

To Muslimah

Thank you for your answer to my question. It is difficult to express my true intentions with a post to a board - no vocal inflections to indicate that my question was a serious one. Thankfully, you took it as it was intended, unlike others.

While not a Muslim myself, I am often involved in discussions about world events with others in my school, and I try to present 'the other side' as fairly as I can. At the very least, I've been able to convince people that the world isn't as black and white as they would believe. During a discussion regarding Islam and suicide bombers I used the years of opression argument, but when suicide bombers in Iraq negated that, I didn't have a proper answer.

Ahmed - it is sad that you think that everyone is against you.

Dear Muslima, I believe you are in need of a reality check. It is past time Muslims stop being sheepishly politically correct to impress those (like chris azam)who dont mean us any good.
Who are you dear to call a Palestinian a deviant for retaliating after 56 of being a refugee in his OWN country ? I am deeply concerned about the loss of Palestinian life, but I will NEVER blame a man for exacting revenge on his tormentors.
Is it so hard for you to understand that pushing a people so far is not without its consequences ?
Why are Israeli's never put into the same hotseat when they fire missles into an apartment complex ? All I ever hear is praise for jewish terror attacks while deploring Palestinian retaliation.
I'll tell you this, if I had my family gunned down, our house demolished, being forced to be humiliated for hours at checkpoints by Israelis while jewish settlers steal my property, I'd probably do the same thing. It wouldnt be militancy, its common sense.
Keep this in mind, the Israelis didnt leave Lebanon because they were asked to....

H.A. agrees with the article & also agrees with Ramesh Chander.

The America's emotional quail hunter (cowboy) will soon realize his mistakes of messing with Muslims.

The real sad point is that the mayhem is just beginning..and the end no one can predict. George Bush said he wonder what could motivate a human being to commit suicide in this world..this is just pharaphrasing the words. But what did he think the invasion of Iraq is to him and his cohorts? No wonder Nelson Mandel could not understand how this Cowboy thinks. In this part of the world we have a saying that ...what the elders see a small boy even if he climbs a mountain can not see....

Sadly the world in general will live to bear this recklessness. God save us.


In response to Chris and Ahmed,

Islam is without a doubt against suicide bombings. Killing civilians in warfare is not allowed in Islam. The suicide bombings occuring in the Palestinian occupied territories and Iraq are likely done by deviants and certainly not real Muslims. As you are aware there are cults in all religions who distort the teachings of the religions they purport to follow, although it is clearl they contradict those teachings.

"O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be Just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do." Qur'an, Al-Ma'idah, verse 8.

Do you believe the Irish terrorists who have been killing civilians for decades have been following the teachings of the Bible? And what about the massacres of Muslims in India and Kashmir by Hindus that the media has completely ignored. Lets not forget the years of atrocities the Chechens have endured from the Russians. There is not enough space to list the massacres of Muslims all over the world.

We, the Muslim civilians are more victimized than any other religious group, a fact never mentioned in the media. What you see and hear in the media is a mass of angry Muslims around the world; why they are angry is conveniently distorted. The media tell you that those angry Muslims are a bunch of fanatics who are angry at the fact they are not dominating the world. That is so far from the truth. Ask yourself why the media here does not cover the atrocities happening to Muslims all over the world. Only then can you begin to understand the real tragedy.

As to Ahmed, your comment was shameful. If you are a Muslim as your name suggests then you should not call people names.

The ANOTHER hard truth is that the U.S. government's (Democrat or Republican, controlled by Israel; as said by Aerial Sharon) first responsibility is to America and Americans, not to the ISARAEL.

The people of Iraq, deserve liberty, but considering the costs and the way freedom has been going in Afghanistan, I was wondering if anyone would be interested in trying the power of discovery.
Robert C. Pringle
The ALPHA Project
P. O. Box 2831
White City, OR 97503

Nice article. However, there appear to be more options remaining than the three described by the author. My current personal choice would be to assist Iraq to become a superpower and have the people of Iraq decide for themselves what to do about Sunnis, Baathists, insurgents and (adversarial) jihadis - as well as any nations which in some way constitute a threat to the 'Islamic Republic of Iraq.'

I think an improved formula for empire might possibly include an observance of general standards of human rights and so forth - to be maintained by both the imperial franchisor and the imperial franchisee - lest for example the franchisor leave the franchisee to its own devices. So long as basic standards of government conduct are maintained, trade quotas are satisfied, and so on, the franchisee may (among other things) formally be extended military assistance (up to certain thresholds for specified periods of time) in defense of the nation, liberation of the region's oppressed, et cetera. The franchisor would be about as limited for example as is the U.S. Congress in restricting military intervention within the franchisee's region of influence at the franchisee's request. Denial of guaranteed military assistance could presumably be tantamount to an act of war - committed by the franchisor against the franchisee.

Anyway, my point here would be that there seems to be more options remaining to us than the three described within the article. Whether or not the above remarks are of any interest to those seeking to restore the Khalifa, Allah knows best. It will be interesting to find out what Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) has planned for us.

Assalamu alaikum.

--Yahya Bergum

OMAR said:

Probabably the best solution(for the begining) would be to ban Bush and his friends from watching western movies.....

Shock and Awe to GW Bush -- the next bill for the cost of war in Iraq/Afghanistan.

Next fiscal year starts Oct 1, 2004, a month before elections. Last year, GWBush asked for $87 Billion dollars. How much he is going to ask for the next fiscal year; stay tuned.

And how much for the succeeding fiscal years by his successor.

In responce to "chris azam's" condescending comments about suicide bombings and Islam, its always amusing to see charlatans pretending to be curious onlookers.
Maybe the subtlety that Iraq is under OCCUPATION has been lost on you. Has it ever dawned on you that Iraqis dont like being invaded after being starved for 12 years under the brutal sanctions regime ?
Tell me something, are you bastards just plain stupid, or do you actually believe that folks like having bombs on them by you "liberators" ?

This is an encouraging article. Let us pray for an absolute American defeat and pull out of Iraq. If this happens maybe just maybe she will think twice before invading another nation under stupid pretext of safeguarding the American people from weapons of mass destruction. Everybody including aunt Clara knows the reason for the invasion were to control the entire middle east and all its wealth; and the irony of American life is that the very liberties, wealth and freedom we enjoy have come largely from the blood and suffering of other nations.

and create a pool of would-be suicide bombers for al Qaeda.

From reading previous threads, I was under the impression that suicide bombers were a result of years of enormous pressure on the Palestinian people by the brutal Israeli apartheid structure, and weren't 'Islamic' or 'Arabic' or 'Middle-East'. How is it that we have already seen suicide bombers in Iraq? Are suicide bombings part of Middle East culture, or are they actually backed by Islam?

Respectfully yours,


It is an obvious fact that The United States cannot be staying as occupants in Iraq, unless so admitted by the Iraqi people. That's the lessons from Vietnam and Afghanistan.

It is also clear, however, that if the Israeli states-terror against the Palestinians and other people should be brought to an end, it is necessary that The United States is present in the Middle East.

The U.S. government therefore has a fourth option which is neither good nor bad or ugly, but simply best in order to fight international terrorism:

It implies an optimal economic U.S.-support to reparations in Iraq after the devastating wars. The withdrawal of U.S. troops in favour of The United Nations supporting the development of the new Iraqi government and administration with best relations to other Islamic nations. - And that The United States actively and forcefully supports the U.N.-decisions to stop murdering and terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By establishing of the free Palestinian State in peace with Israel behind own borders, whether it be those of 1947 or 1967, and with Jerusalem as a holy international free city, open for believers of all confessions as guaranteed by The United Nations, a whole new situation opens for a future peaceful dialogue between The United States and the rest of the world, and for reparation of the devastated Palestine with her many refugees.

That would be a blessing, and an honour to the tragical victims of wars and terrors. May God be with them to all eternity. And may God help and comfort their still living relatives.

Ole D. Rughede