Friday, August 27, 2004

Saving the Americans from their own stupidity

Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani returns from London, marches on Najaf with thousands of his followers, and within a few hours has a peace deal. This is an overwhelmingly positive step for Iraq - it allows both sides to back down from the standoff while saving face, and more importantly saves the Americans from their own stupidity.

For all the time the US military spends studying Clausewitz, they seem to have failed to absorb his most basic lesson: that war is ultimately just an expression of politics, whose success and failure must be measured in the political, rather than military realm. And looked at this way, there was simply no way they could win in Najaf. Back off, and lose face. Invade the shrine and martyr al-Sadr, and he becomes more powerful in death than he ever was in life. The last three weeks have been a futile exercise in American stupidity, driven by their desire to play hardarse, which has gained them precisely nothing, and killed a lot of people in the process. No doubt they'll proclaim a victory on the grounds of having killed hundreds of militamen, but those people are replaceable (and are being replaced even now by their brothers and cousins, all hellbent on revenge). The loss of goodwill with the Shi'a population isn't.