FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Desert Fox

by WILLIAM S. LIND

In Iraq and elsewhere, all eyes are currently on Najaf. As I had guessed, the battle ended with a whimper, not with a bang, as the Mahdi Army militiamen exfiltrated, and Moqtada al-Sadr turned over the keys to the mosque to Ayatollah al-Sistani.

But the real winner is likely once again to be the new Desert Fox, Mr. Sadr. How can that be, if in the end his militia could not stand against American troops?

First of all, Sadr and his antics in Najaf showed all of Iraq that the new Iraqi “sovereign government” is a false front. How? By making that government rely on American, not Iraqi, troops. From Sadr’s perspective, the fact that he suffered an (inevitable) tactical defeat at the hands of the Americans is far less important than the fact he fought the Americans. Iraq and the world saw the same show they witnessed before America “returned sovereignty to Iraq,” namely Iraqis armed only with AK-47s and RPGs fighting American tanks and aircraft. As always, when David fights Goliath, David wins, at least on the moral level.

Second, Sadr positioned himself even more strongly as the leader of Iraq’s sans culottes, the jobless, hopeless Shi’ite young men who make up the Mahdi Army and any other Shi’ite army. In a recent article in my excellent hometown newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a University of Michigan professor who specializes in Iraqi Shi’ism, Juan Cole, described them as “a Shi’ite ghetto youth gang.” In fighting terms, that is a compliment, not an insult. Gangs will be one of the most important forms of combatants in Fourth Generation war (4GW). As the police in many an American city can attest, gangs are not easy to defeat. And this particular gang has both an endless source of recruits and a religious identity for which dying is seen as worthwhile. Sistani may have the support of most Shi’ites, but Sadr now has the support of most Shi’ite fighters, and that is what is likely to count.

Third, Sadr may have moved the Shi’ite areas of Iraq closer to what he seeks, a general uprising against the Americans (with himself as its George Washington). This is difficult to gauge from American news sources, because they have focused on Najaf itself. But what has happened in Najaf is less important in this regard than what has happened in the numerous other Shi’ite cities and towns, and in Baghdad’s Sadr City, which is Sadr’s home base (another reason he can easily afford a tactical defeat in Najaf). As is often the case in 4GW, the 9/10ths of the iceberg we cannot see is the dangerous part.

Meanwhile, the U.S. finds itself fighting a two-front war, one front against the Shi’ite Mahdi Army, the other against the Sunnis in Anbar Province. The U.S. Marine Corps has blanked out the news from that front, but the reported toll of Marine casualties seems to be rising. To a student of German military history such as myself, two-front wars can bring unhappy memories.

Of course, Moqtada al-Sadr may prove to be a new Desert Fox in more than one way. Rommel was a brilliant tactician, one of the best division commanders of all time. But at the operational and strategic levels, he faltered. As Mr. Sistani knows, the best strategy for yielding a Shi’ite-dominated Islamic republic of Iraq is to wait for an election, where Shi’ite numbers will tell. Sadr, more interested in his own future than Iraq’s, may be jumping the gun. At any future time he also could get himself captured, which might spur the general uprising he seeks, or killed, which might spark the revolution but leave him awkwardly placed to take full advantage of it. But the probability is that he will be as safe, hale and hearty as old bin Laden himself.

Professor Cole summed up the situation well. “The Americans will win militarily,” he said. “But I think they are losing politically,” because by fighting Sadr and his Mahdi Army they “made him a symbol of national resistance.” It seems that we are damned if we do fight and damned if we don’t. That’s just how Fourth Generation war works, folks.

 

 

 

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail