The good news: The Iraqi insurgency is smaller than we might think. The bad news: It’s huge, and it will probably win.
Thus one might conclude from this report by journalist Chehab, a longtime chronicler of events in the Middle East. The insurgency, he reports, dominates the news from Iraq “in such a way that its influence far outweighs its numbers”; moreover, some of the best-known insurgents, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his phalanx, are foreign and, as are all things foreign, widely hated, even though Sunnis have found them to be useful allies. The American army can fight the insurgency, of course, but, Chehab insists, history shows that guerrilla forces usually win out in protracted struggles against conventional occupying forces, and in all events, the premise that Iraq will be self-governing and democratic requires civilian solutions for which the Americans are ill prepared. Chehab travels about the country, profiling the broad range of fighters arrayed against the occupiers and the ruling government; a few are Hussein loyalists, but a surprisingly large and vocal number hated Hussein’s regime but hate the idea of the foreign presence even more. Humiliated time and again by occupiers unfamiliar with local custom, and fueled by events in Palestine (which is inextricably joined to the Iraqi insurgency), the anti-American forces have a nearly inexhaustible source of well-trained manpower in the hundreds of thousands of cashiered, demobilized soldiers and Baathist Party members who, Chehab suggests, should have been given something useful to accomplish in the new Iraq rather than turned loose with nothing to do. Thus, he ventures, unless a civilian solution is soon forthcoming, American soldiers are likely to be on the ground for years to come—and many will fall.
Evenhanded and carefully reported; a close-to-homegrown rejoinder to George Packer’s The Assassin’s Gate and other journalistic views of the war.