The Enemies In Iraq
By Terrell E. Arnold

As the weeks and months have dragged on after Bush declared, "mission accomplished" in May, and while even his neo-con mentor, Richard Perle, now concedes that the Iraq war was illegal, the administration faces an ever more deadly Iraq security landscape. Bush himself is unlikely to concede that the war was illegal, but several experts say the US is now bogged down in a quagmire, and that situation may well demand more careful and intensive management of the extraction than a totally legal engagement might entail.
Attacks have grown in number, seriousness and location. Most security incidents appear to occur in the so-called Sunni triangle that is north and west of Baghdad, or in Baghdad itself, but incidents are occurring with growing frequency in essentially Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and in essentially Shiia areas of the south. Bombings in and around Baghdad as well as the shoot-down in the last two weeks of three, with the Mosul incident Saturday, maybe five American helicopters bespeaks a seriously escalating pattern. Meanwhile, American casualties in November alone have risen well above forty. But who are the enemies?
Published estimates of who the culprits are in each region have not fingered a singular enemy, although the most popular ones officially are Saddam loyalists, followed by imported alleged al Qaida adherents or other imported terrorists. There is substantial agreement among observers that the attacks have become more sophisticated, and they have certainly become more numerous. Some reporters are talking insurgency, while one writer, Robert Fisk, makes a convincing case for a "resistance" movement, harking back to the French underground in World War II. There is still, however, no concerted statement either of who the enemies are in Iraq or what are their motives. The situation suggests a growing diversity of people who object or support objectors to the American and Coalition occupation. Either an insurgency or a resistance movement will work to describe it.
The lack of clarity in defining enemies is not because of some pig-headed word preference. Rather, what politicians agree to call the enemy makes an enormous difference. In simple terms an insurgency is an organized warlike resistance, sometimes internationally recognized national group that opposes an occupying force or a constituted government. An insurgency with a popular base, e.g., such as the Sandinistas whose insurgency faced the Reagan administration with an unfriendly regime in Nicaragua, may have some international standing, but may also have some prospect of succeeding, even without help from the outside. However, As UNITA demonstrated in Angola, an insurgency can go on for years without deciding anything politically for a country while delaying indefinitely any national progress.
The problem for the United States, however, is that insurgencies often acquire strong international followings and sources of support. That process, for better or worse, appears underway in Iraq. If all or a significant number of the violent clusters in Iraq actually coalesce into a functioning insurgency, the United States faces several potentially painful developments. One is the likelihood that in the present Iraqi situation the insurgents will acquire a substantial popular following. Street reactions to the shooting down of a military personnel laden US helicopter suggest that such a popular following could be easily stimulated. Second is that if the nascent insurgency survives and pulls off a few more spectaculars, less committed dissidents and plain Iraqi nationalists will adhere to it. Third is that if the insurgency shows itself to represent a significant popular following, international, government level recognition and sympathy will flow to it, initially within Islamic countries, but eventually from others including in the western world as well.
Such developments will mean, among other things, that external funding will flow to the group and political acceptance, if not official recognition, of the group will grow among United Nations members as well as among other international organizations, both public and private. The net effect of such developments will be a smart curtailment of the already limited global tolerance for the US and coalition presence in Iraq, along with increased pressure for an early departure from Iraq. Paralleling that will be a growing reluctance even of friendly powers to commit forces to Iraq. Continuing attacks on a daily or weekly basis are likely to move the situation in that direction, especially if attacks stay at something like their present frequency and intensity.
The key to this situation is not merely to fight back. Serious fighting back may only worsen the situation, moving it more rapidly toward the painful developments cited above, polarizing Iraqis against Americans and the Coalition. Some effective way has to be found to reach the Iraqi enemies, and that means they must be effectively identified and, if possible, dealt with in some fashion other than shooting and bombing.
Current efforts are being made to classify the enemies on the ground by immediate affiliations or points of origin. That effort, even if it succeeds, will be insufficient, because who specifically the people are is not so crucial as what they want and what they are prepared to do to get it. Nor is it fruitful to tout the reported al Qaida and imported freelance terrorists because few published analyses consider them critical components of this situation. The outsiders are not nearly so important to potential outcomes as what the Iraqis think is happening among their own people and what they feel driven or inspired to do about it.
That chemistry on the ground is what must be changed. But other enemies now operate in Iraq against improving the chemistry of the situation. Right now it appears that the United States and its coalition partners have several major enemies.
Two most serious enemies are ignorance and time. Much can be made of our lack of recognition of the lessons of British experience, but there is no sensible explanation for the fact that the Bush administration ignored, even dismissed out of hand, the solid work of the State Department and other national security agencies in planning and predicting (accurately as events have shown} likely situations in Iraq following an invasion. There simply may not be enough time to recover from those failures, because the situation is now so soured that stringing matters out while trying to fix things can only make matters worse. Meanwhile, Islamic and European as well as Asian governments look as if they could be more tolerant and helpful if the US timetable were better known and materially shorter than now appears.
The third most serious enemy is asymmetry. Smallness, lack of visibly structured organization, dispersion across Iraqi territory and society all work to present enemies who are invisible until they strike. It will be disastrous to allow the Iraqi resistance groups to grow, because they can hide easily in Iraqi society. That indeed was one of the deadliest enemies in Vietnam. Asymmetry beat us when brute force could not.
A fourth enemy may well prove to be a misplaced and ideological drive to plant democracy in unready soil. The Iraqis threw the British out because they did not want a British externally imposed form of governance. Many of them now appear to be reacting in a similar way to an American attempt to impose democracy. The Iraqi people obviously want to evolve their own forms of representative government. We do not know enough now to predict what forms that might take, and under present conditions we are unlikely to be given enough time to learn. Exiles such as Chalabi may know some things about Iraqi society and thought that could help in the transition, but they unfortunately are now too closely identified with the United States.
A fifth enemy, as many Iraqis would see it, is the Americanization of Iraqi oil and the selling off of Iraqi economic activities. While there is no official information on this, the grapevine has it that a scramble is occurring by Israelis and others to buy Iraqi industries and potentially profitable businesses that Saddam had largely nationalized. This kind of raiding, basically rape of Iraqi economic sectors while the Iraqis have neither law nor organization to stop it, is likely to turn even moderately disposed Iraqis against the Coalition and the Americans who mainly are permitting these activities to occur.
A sixth enemy is the fact that American motives, no matter how morally they may be painted by a President who is already running for re-election, are badly tainted by big oil and private contractor exploitation of the Iraqi situation. Aside from the greed on display, news reports indicate that many Iraqis are angered by the domination by foreigners of activities they feel entirely competent as well as legally entitled to run.
Enemy number seven is clearly the illegality of the war. As Bush now in Britain, Powell in Europe, and Rumsfeld in the Far East all are finding, the fact that most nations do not believe this war was necessary or legal stands in the way of their financial, moral or military support. Contrary to having improved the world security situation as President Bush claims, many think that global security is worse since the invasion, and multiple explosions in Turkey in the past few days affirm that conviction. Thus, the United States set out to go it alone as a matter of choice in attacking Iraq, but it now finds itself uncomfortably isolated.
The sum of these enemies is that the Coalition and particularly the United States will be given little or no margin for error. The insurgency-like animosity toward the United States is being driven in some degree by each of these enemies, and they are all there to be exploited by Iraqi dissidents, whatever the dissidents may be called. There may have been some high ground back in May that could be occupied for deposing Saddam Hussein, but that ground was not taken, and it probably no longer exists. Rather we have forces on the ground whose reactions to opposition are knee jerk and harsh.
The eighth enemy therefore is a mismatch: The United States is fighting a war against people it allegedly set out to help. US approaches alienate them at every turn. This is neither a time nor a place therefore for high-blown political agendas. There simply is no short order transformation of a society that is in chaos and agony. The people who created this chaos are unlikely to be able to clean it up. Those people must leave. Others, mainly the United Nations, untainted by invasion and occupation must take over the process. The ultimate enemy may be the blindness of the Bush team to this need. Only time will tell.
The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State. He will welcome comment at




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