The victors of contemporary war are easy to predict: Whichever side is desperate enough to win probably will.
So when President Bush told the nation Wednesday that he would be committing more than 20,000 additional troops to the battlefields in Iraq – mostly in Baghdad, which is the focal point of the majority of the violence in the region, according to Bush – it was not through any sort of pessimism or craving for an American defeat that this editorial board decided such an approach wouldn’t work. It was, instead, a deductive analysis.
The real trouble for America in Iraq started after Saddam Hussein was captured. After he was arrested, it was up to then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to convince the Iraqi people – especially Sunnis, who comprise most of the insurgency – that America was not a colonial force that aimed to oppress Iraq in order to obtain access to its oil wealth, but a liberating force intent on freeing the Iraqis. Needless to say, Rumsfeld failed to achieve this. In fact, Rumsfeld and the Bush administration failed to convince many Americans of the same thing.
There is another failure that hasn’t been discussed much in America, however: The fact that genocide is a tangible possibility in Iraq without Saddam Hussein orchestrating it.
For instance, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has taken little action against radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army, allegedly responsible for the deaths of both Iraqis and Americans. It was by al-Maliki’s order, in fact, that coalition forces withdrew from Sadr City, which is generally considered to be the Mahdi army’s base of operations. Coalition forces even “took down barbed-wire barricades that controlled traffic in and out of the area,” according to the Associated Press. “Since then, they have ventured in only sparingly.”
This case, and dozens like it, illustrates the reason why more troops in Iraq will not bring peace to the region. It would be very easy for a Sunni in Iraq to come to the conclusion that American forces are not only colonial oppressors, but also that they may be accomplices in a possible genocide orchestrated by Shiites. Given a perceived threat of their annihilation, Sunnis in Iraq will fight to the last in order to defend their right to exist. The addition of 20,000 American troops does nothing to dissuade militant Iraqis from the idea that America intends to colonize them. Furthermore, it does nothing to show Sunnis that their ultimate demise is not on the agenda.
Convincing Iraqis of these two things will be extraordinarily difficult, but it must be accomplished. Until it is, Iraq will remain more desperate than the United States to win the war. And the violence will not cease.