2003 April 23 Wednesday
US Officials Surprised, Worried By Radical Shiites In Iraq

Writing in the Washington Post Glenn Kessler and Dana Priest report that Bush Administration officials are beginning to wake up to the threat of radical Shia Islam as an illiberal political force in post-war Iraq.

As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.

It is disheartening that so many Bush Administration officials have been in a daze about how easy it would be to change the politics of post-war Iraq. The evidence was there to see for anyone who wasn't wearing rose colored glasses. Muslim societies are anti-Enlightenment societies. Any successful attempt to transform them (assuming this is even possible) will take a long time.

The WaPo article notes that US officials want to create a secular education system in Iraq. It is good that they recognize the importance of this. Well, they will face an uphill battle on that front. Islamists can recognize institutions that are a threat to their beliefs and Islamists in Afghanistan are physically attacking secular schools.

During the Taliban regime, Afghan girls were not allowed to go to school, and boys were educated in Islam. When the Taliban fell 18 months ago and schools opened their doors to all children, not everyone supported such equality. Last fall, schools for girls in Wardak province, near Kabul, were attacked.

Boys' schools had been safe. But in the past two months in Kandahar province, a former Taliban stronghold, seven of the schools were attacked and burned, including the one in Sheik Mohammadi, about six miles south of Kandahar. The schools have been accused of teaching Western thought and relying on Western money.

We have already suffered setbacks in our efforts to reform Iraq. There was a need to prosecute the war in a way to enhance US ability to remold Iraq post-war. Some serious mistakes have already been made in the execution of the war. Many hawks have dismissed these mistakes as inconsequential or unavoidable because they see that war was conducted so well by conventional military measures and that various predictions of disaster made by doves were found to be unwarranted. But it would be a mistake to assume that just because the United States has enormous military power and that its leaders are capable of using that power to rapidly win a conventional war that the level of capability available to reform Iraq post-war equals that available to prosecute a conventional war. War-making and cultural transformation are two very different tasks. The bigger battle is with Islamism as a political force and that can not be defeated with smart bombs and highly competent soldiers.

The war in Iraq should be thought of as more like a military campaign in a larger battle. That military campaign was necessary in part because the strategy of preemption as necessary. We have delayed Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction. But if we can not transform the patterns of thinking of Iraq's people into a relatively more liberal view then our prospects for doing so to the larger Arab and Muslim world are grim. Without that larger transformation continued advances in technology combined with a hostile illiberal religious ideology promise to cause a steady growth in the threat of catastrophic terrorism emanating from the Muslim world.

Also see also my previous post Iraq Reconstruction, Neocolonialism, Political Beliefs.

(Afghan schools getting torched found on Little Green Footballs)

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 23 11:49 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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