Iraq - where our dreams are dying, and where Iraqi dreams will have to live
Iraq in the Balance
In Washington, panic. In Baghdad, cautious optimism.
BY FOUAD AJAMI/Wall Street Journal
BAGHDAD--For 35 years the sun did not shine here," said a man on the grounds of the great Shia shrine of al-Kadhimiyyah, on the outskirts of Baghdad. I had come to the shrine at night, in the company of the Shia politician Ahmed Chalabi.
We had driven in an armed convoy, and our presence had drawn a crowd. The place was bathed with light, framed by multiple minarets--a huge rectangular structure, its beauty and dereliction side by side. The tile work was exquisite, there were deep Persian carpets everywhere, the gifts of benefactors, rulers and merchants, drawn from the world of Shi'ism.
It was a cool spring night, and beguilingly tranquil. (There were the echoes of a firefight across the river, from the Sunni neighborhood of al-Adhamiyyah, but it was background noise and oddly easy to ignore.) A keeper of the shrine had been showing us the place, and he was proud of its doors made of teak from Burma--a kind of wood, he said, that resisted rain, wind and sun. It was to that description that the quiet man on the edge of this gathering had offered the thought that the sun had not risen during the long night of Baathist despotism.
A traveler who moves between Baghdad and Washington is struck by the gloomy despair in Washington and the cautious sense of optimism in Baghdad. Baghdad has not been prettified; its streets remain a sore to the eye, its government still hunkered down in the Green Zone, and violence is never far. But the sense of deliverance, and the hopes invested in this new security plan, are palpable. I crisscrossed the city--always with armed protection--making my way to Sunni and Shia politicians and clerics alike. The Sunni and Shia versions of political things--of reality itself--remain at odds. But there can be discerned, through the acrimony, the emergence of a fragile consensus.
Some months back, the Bush administration had called into question both the intentions and capabilities of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. But this modest and earnest man, born in 1950, a child of the Shia mainstream in the Middle Euphrates, has come into his own. He had not been a figure of the American regency in Baghdad. Steeped entirely in the Arabic language and culture, he had a been a stranger to the Americans; fate cast him on the scene when the Americans pushed aside Mr. Maliki's colleague in the Daawa Party, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.
There had been rumors that the Americans could strike again in their search for a leader who would give the American presence better cover. There had been steady talk that the old CIA standby, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, could make his way back to power. Mr. Allawi himself had fed these speculations, but this is fantasy. Mr. Allawi circles Arab capitals and is rarely at home in his country. Mr. Maliki meanwhile has settled into his role.
In retrospect, the defining moment for Mr. Maliki had been those early hours of Dec. 30, when Saddam Hussein was sent to the gallows. He had not flinched, the decision was his, and he assumed it. Beyond the sound and fury of the controversy that greeted the execution, Mr. Maliki had taken the execution as a warrant for a new accommodation with the Sunni political class. A lifelong opponent of the Baath, he had come to the judgment that the back of the apparatus of the old regime had been broken, and that the time had come for an olive branch to those ready to accept the new political rules.
When I called on Mr. Maliki at his residence, a law offering pensions to the former officers of the Iraqi army had been readied and was soon put into effect. That decision had been supported by the head of the de-Baathification commission, Ahmed Chalabi. A proposal for a deeper reversal of the de-Baathification process was in the works, and would be announced days later by Mr. Maliki and President Jalal Talabani. This was in truth Zalmay Khalilzad's doing, his attempt to bury the entire de-Baathification effort as his tenure drew to a close.
This was more than the political traffic in the Shia community could bear. Few were ready to accept the return of old Baathists to government service. The victims of the old terror were appalled at a piece of this legislation, giving them a period of only three months to bring charges against their former tormentors. This had not been Mr. Maliki's choice--for his animus toward the Baath has been the driving force of his political life. It was known that he trusted that the religious hierarchy in Najaf, and the forces within the Shia alliance, would rein in this drive toward rehabilitating the remnants of the old regime.
Power and experience have clearly changed Mr. Maliki as he makes his way between the Shia coalition that sustains him on the one hand, and the American presence on the other. By all accounts, he is increasingly independent of the diehards in his own coalition--another dividend of the high-profile executions of Saddam Hussein and three of the tyrant's principal lieutenants. He is surrounded by old associates drawn from the Daawa Party, but keeps his own counsel.
There is a built-in tension between a prime minister keen to press for his own prerogatives and an American military presence that underpins the security of this new order. Mr. Maliki does not have the access to American military arms he would like; he does not have control over an Iraqi special-forces brigade that the Americans had trained and nurtured. His police forces remain poorly equipped. The levers of power are not fully his, and he knows it. Not a student of American ways--he spent his years of exile mostly in Syria--he is fully aware of the American exhaustion with Iraq as leading American politicians have come his way often.
The nightmare of this government is that of a precipitous American withdrawal. Six months ago, the British quit the southern city of Amarrah, the capital of the Maysan Province. It had been, by Iraqi accounts, a precipitous British decision, and the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr had rushed into the void; they had looted the barracks and overpowered the police. Amarrah haunts the Iraqis in the circle of power--the prospect of Americans leaving this government to fend for itself.
In the long scheme of history, the Shia Arabs had never governed--and Mr. Maliki and the coalition arrayed around him know their isolation in the region. This Iraqi state of which they had become the principal inheritors will have to make its way in a hostile regional landscape. Set aside Turkey's Islamist government, with its avowedly Sunni mindset and its sense of itself as a claimant to an older Ottoman tradition; the Arab order of power is yet to make room for this Iraqi state. Mr. Maliki's first trip beyond Iraq's borders had been to Saudi Arabia. He had meant that visit as a message that Iraq's "Arab identity" will trump all other orientations. It had been a message that the Arab world's Shia stepchildren were ready to come into the fold. But a huge historical contest had erupted in Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid caliphate had fallen to new Shia inheritors, and the custodians of Arab power were not yet ready for this new history.
For one, the "Sunni street"--the Islamists, the pan-Arabists who hid their anti-Shia animus underneath a secular cover, the intellectual class that had been invested in the ideology of the Baath party--remained unalterably opposed to this new Iraq. The Shia could offer the Arab rulers the promise that their new state would refrain from regional adventures, but it would not be easy for these rulers to come to this accommodation.
A worldly Shia cleric, the legislator Humam Hamoudi who had headed the constitutional drafting committee, told me that he had laid out to interlocutors from the House of Saud the case that this new Iraqi state would be a better neighbor than the Sunni-based state of Saddam Hussein had been. "We would not be given to military adventures beyond our borders, what wealth we have at our disposal would have to go to repairing our homeland, for you we would be easier to fend off for we are Shiites and would be cognizant and respectful of the differences between us," Mr. Hamoudi had said. "You had a fellow Sunni in Baghdad for more than three decades, and look what terrible harvest, what wreckage, he left behind." This sort of appeal is yet to be heard, for this change in Baghdad is a break with a long millennium of Sunni Arab primacy.
The blunt truth of this new phase in the fight for Iraq is that the Sunnis have lost the battle for Baghdad. The great flight from Baghdad to Jordan, to Syria, to other Arab destinations, has been the flight of Baghdad's Sunni middle-class. It is they who had the means of escape, and the savings.
Whole mixed districts in the city--Rasafa, Karkh--have been emptied of their Sunni populations. Even the old Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyyah is embattled and besieged. What remains for the Sunnis are the western outskirts. This was the tragic logic of the campaign of terror waged by the Baathists and the jihadists against the Shia; this was what played out in the terrible year that followed the attack on the Askariya shrine of Samarra in February 2006. Possessed of an old notion of their own dominion, and of Shia passivity and quiescence, the Sunni Arabs waged a war they were destined to lose.
No one knows with any precision the sectarian composition of today's Baghdad, but there are estimates that the Sunnis may now account for 15% of the city's population. Behind closed doors, Sunni leaders speak of the great calamity that befell their community. They admit to a great disappointment in the Arab states that fed the flames but could never alter the contest on the ground in Iraq. No Arab cavalry had ridden, or was ever going to ride, to the rescue of the Sunnis of Iraq.
A cultured member of the (Sunni) Association of Muslim Scholars in Baghdad, a younger man of deep moderation, likened the dilemma of his community to that of the Palestinian Arabs since 1948. "They waited for deliverance that never came," he said. "Like them, we placed our hopes in Arab leaders who have their own concerns. We fell for those Arab satellite channels, we believed that Arab brigades would turn up in Anbar and Baghdad. We made room for al Qaeda only to have them turn on us in Anbar." There had once been a Sunni maxim in Iraq, "for us ruling and power, for you self-flagellation," that branded the Shia as a people of sorrow and quietism. Now the ground has shifted, and among the Sunnis there is a widespread sentiment of disinheritance and loss.
The Mahdi Army, more precisely the underclass of Sadr City, had won the fight for Baghdad. This Shia underclass had been hurled into the city from its ancestral lands in the Marshes and the Middle Euphrates. In a cruel twist of irony, Baathist terror had driven these people into the slums of Baghdad. The Baathist tyranny had cut down the palm trees in the south, burned the reed beds of the Marshes. Then the campaign of terror that Sunni society sheltered and abetted in the aftermath of the despot's fall gave the Mahdi Army its cause and its power.
"The Mahdi Army protected us and our lands, our homes, and our honor," said a tribal Shia notable in a meeting in Baghdad, acknowledging that it was perhaps time for the boys of Moqtada al-Sadr to step aside in favor of the government forces. He laid bare, as he spoke, the terrible complications of this country; six of his sisters, he said, were married to Sunnis, countless nephews of his were Sunni. Violence had hacked away at this pluralism; no one could be certain when, and if, the place could mend.
In their grief, the Sunni Arabs have fallen back on the most unexpected of hopes; having warred against the Americans, they now see them as redeemers. "This government is an American creation," a powerful Sunni legislator, Saleh al-Mutlak, said. "It is up to the Americans to replace it, change the constitution that was imposed on us, replace this incompetent, sectarian government with a government of national unity, a cabinet of technocrats." Shrewd and alert to the ways of the world (he has a Ph.D. in soil science from a university in the U.K.) Mr. Mutlak gave voice to a wider Sunni conviction that this order in Baghdad is but an American puppet. America and Iran may be at odds in the region, but the Sunni Arabs see an American-Persian conspiracy that had robbed them of their patrimony.
They had made their own bed, the Sunni Arabs, but old habits of dominion die hard, and save but for a few, there is precious little acknowledgment of the wages of the terror that the Shia had been subjected to in the years that followed the American invasion. As matters stand, the Sunni Arabs are in desperate need of leaders who can call off the violence, cut a favorable deal for their community, and distance that community form the temptations and the ruin of the insurgency. It is late in the hour, but there is still eagerness in the Maliki government to conciliate the Sunnis, if only to give the country a chance at normalcy.
The Shia have come into their own, but there still hovers over them their old history of dispossession; there still trails shadows of doubt about their hold on power, about conspiracies hatched against them in neighboring Arab lands.
The Americans have given birth to this new Shia primacy, but there lingers a fear, in the inner circles of the Shia coalition, that the Americans have in mind a Sunni-based army, of the Pakistani and Turkish mold, that would upend the democratic, majoritarian bases of power on which Shia primacy rests. They are keenly aware, these new Shia men of power in Baghdad, that the Pax Americana in the region is based on an alliance of long standing with the Sunni regimes. They are under no illusions about their own access to Washington when compared with that of Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and the smaller principalities of the Persian Gulf. This suspicion is in the nature of things; it is the way of once marginal men who had come into an unexpected triumph.
In truth, it is not only the Arab order of power that remains ill at ease with the rise of the Shia of Iraq. The (Shia) genie that came out of the bottle was not fully to America's liking. Indeed, the U.S. strategy in Iraq had tried to sidestep the history that America itself had given birth to. There had been the disastrous regency of Paul Bremer. It had been followed by the attempt to create a national security state under Ayad Allawi. Then there had come the strategy of the American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, that aimed to bring the Sunni leadership into the political process and wean them away from the terror and the insurgency.
Mr. Khalilzad had become, in his own sense of himself, something of a High Commissioner in Iraq, and his strategy had ended in failure; the Sunni leaders never broke with the insurgency. Their sobriety of late has been a function of the defeat their cause has suffered on the ground; all the inducements had not worked.
We are now in a new, and fourth, phase of this American presence. We should not try to "cheat" in the region, conceal what we had done, or apologize for it, by floating an Arab-Israeli peace process to the liking of the "Sunni street."
The Arabs have an unerring feel for the ways of strangers who venture into their lands. Deep down, the Sunni Arabs know what the fight for Baghdad is all about--oil wealth and power, the balance between the Sunni edifice of material and moral power and the claims of the Shia stepchildren. To this fight, Iran is a newcomer, an outlier. This is an old Arab account, the fight between the order of merchants and rulers and establishment jurists on the one side, and the righteous (Shia) oppositionists on the other. How apt it is that the struggle that had been fought on the plains of Karbala in southern Iraq so long ago has now returned, full circle, to Iraq.
For our part, we can't give full credence to the Sunni representations of things. We can cushion the Sunni defeat but can't reverse it. Our soldiers have not waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq against Sunni extremists to fall for the fear of some imagined "Shia crescent" peddled by Sunni rulers and preachers. To that atavistic fight between Sunni and Shia, we ought to remain decent and discerning arbiters. To be sure, in Iraq itself we can't give a blank check to Shia maximalism. On its own, mainstream Shi'ism is eager to rein in its own diehards and self-anointed avengers.
There is a growing Shia unease with the Mahdi Army--and with the venality and incompetence of the Sadrists represented in the cabinet--and an increasing faith that the government and its instruments of order are the surer bet. The crackdown on the Mahdi Army that the new American commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has launched has the backing of the ruling Shia coalition. Iraqi police and army units have taken to the field against elements of the Mahdi army. In recent days, in the southern city of Diwaniyya, American and Iraqi forces have together battled the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr. To the extent that the Shia now see Iraq as their own country, their tolerance for mayhem and chaos has receded. Sadr may damn the American occupiers, but ordinary Shia men and women know that the liberty that came their way had been a gift of the Americans.
The young men of little education--earnest displaced villagers with the ways of the countryside showing through their features and dialect and shiny suits--who guarded me through Baghdad, spoke of old terrors, and of the joy and dignity of this new order. Children and nephews and younger brothers of men lost to the terror of the Baath, they are done with the old servitude. They behold the Americans keeping the peace of their troubled land with undisguised gratitude. It hasn't been always brilliant, this campaign waged in Iraq. But its mistakes can never smother its honor, and no apology for it is due the Arab autocrats who had averted their gaze from Iraq's long night of terror under the Baath.
One can never reconcile the beneficiaries of illegitimate, abnormal power to the end of their dominion. But this current re-alignment in Iraq carries with it a gift for the possible redemption of modern Islam among the Arabs. Hitherto Sunni Islam had taken its hegemony for granted and extremist strands within it have shown a refusal to accept "the other." Conversely, Shia history has been distorted by weakness and exclusion and by a concomitant abdication of responsibility.
A Shia-led state in Baghdad--with a strong Kurdish presence in it and a big niche for the Sunnis--can go a long way toward changing the region's terrible habits and expectations of authority and command. The Sunnis would still be hegemonic in the Arab councils of power beyond Iraq, but their monopoly would yield to the pluralism and complexity of that region.
"Watch your adjectives" is the admonition given American officers by Gen. Petraeus. In Baghdad, Americans and Iraqis alike know that this big endeavor has entered its final, decisive phase. Iraq has surprised and disappointed us before, but as they and we watch our adjectives there can be discerned the shape of a new country, a rough balance of forces commensurate with the demography of the place and with the outcome of a war that its erstwhile Sunni rulers had launched and lost. We made this history and should now make our peace with it.
(Mr. Ajami, a 2006 recipient of the Bradley Prize, teaches at Johns Hopkins and is author of "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq".)
2. Smoke and Mirrors
What the State Department is not accomplishing in Iraq
By Robert D. Kaplan/Atlantic Monthly
Five years ago, provincial reconstruction teams were a daring new concept: combined civilian-military units that engaged in humanitarian affairs in remote locations. PRTs got rave reviews from the media and for good reason. They were established in the parts of Afghanistan where security was decent, if not great, and where development was nil, giving American amateurs the chance to win over the local population by building water wells and one-room schoolhouses from scratch.
Recently the State Department has been trumpeting PRTs as a strategy for getting Iraq on its feet. Unfortunately, Iraq is not Afghanistan. Not only is security non-existent, but Iraq’s infrastructure is far more complex than Afghanistan’s. Thus, Iraq needs real experts and a supple bureaucracy—both in the Green Zone and in Washington—to help it out of its decrepitude. But both of these are lacking.
The experience of one senior foreign service officer—a woman named Kiki Munshi who came out of retirement to run the PRT in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad, for most of 2006—is instructive. As someone with decades of experience working in shaky countries off the Washington radar screen, she was accustomed to being a self-starter. But nothing had prepared her for this job. Usually, when foreign service officers are dispatched to new posts—especially dangerous and critical ones—they are given an array of content-rich briefings in Washington. But nobody at the State Department or Public Diplomacy (the successor to the United States Information Service) was particularly interested in seeing her, Munshi says. The briefings she did get, rather than giving her the lay of the land, consisted of little more than inadequate generalizations. The embassy in Baghdad, including the offices of the U.S. Agency of International Development , proved just as unhelpful.
When she arrived in Baquba, Diyala’s regional capital, a year ago this month, Munshi’s PRT consisted of two Department of State employees, “an absolutely new and raw” Army civil affairs team, a few interpreters, and 18 guys from a private military company called Blackwater USA whose mission was primarily to protect her. There were six Internet connections for all these people, no desks or chairs, no operating funds, and no office supplies. “If it isn’t nailed down, take it,” she told them all.
The PRT was situated on Forward Operating Base Warhorse. To be effective, Munshi and the team had to get out of the base and into Baquba and the surrounding area to meet with Iraqi officials. But the Blackwater guys refused to move them anywhere without approval from the regional security officer at the Baghdad embassy. The result: Munshi spent the first month as a veritable “prisoner of the base,” trying desperately to shake funds loose from the embassy. As she puts it, “We lecture the Iraqis about being decentralized, yet we couldn’t get anything done without the approval” of a seemingly uninterested central authority.
Fortunately, the Blackwater funds ran out, which meant that the PRT had to rely on the soldiers at the base for security. The solders did not need the embassy’s permission to move Munshi and her team around, and by August, there was progress. Meetings with provincial officials and local non-governmental organizations indicated an interest in a business center, an agricultural extension service, and other projects. Then something unfortunate happened. The office of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, appointed a Shiite named General Shakur Hulail Husayn to serve as the new commander for the Iraqi Army’s 5th Division, covering Diyala, Major. Under his watch, Sunni arrests shot up and anti-Sunni death squads became emboldened. The Sunnis retaliated, and the Shiites responded with more violence. The PRT’s nascent projects faded away as Iraqi officials grew afraid to meet with Americans.
By the end of the year, the PRT was facing an ironic state of affairs. On the one hand, Munshi had established better relations with the Baghdad embassy, there was an operating budget, and movement around the area was no longer a problem, thanks to the American soldiers. But because of the deterioration in the security environment, morale did not improve. In contrast with the previous summer, when projects had been waiting on the other side of the red tape, there was now little demand for their skills. Even when there was a need for humanitarian work, it was often impossible for the PRT to help. For example, Iraq’s intricate water and electric systems frequently need to be refurbished, but the PRT teams do not possess the expertise to do this. They must coordinate with nearby municipalities whose utility systems are all linked together, but there is no bureaucratic network in place. The truth is, unlike PRTs in Afghanistan, those in Iraq are often in over their heads.
What Munshi’s team really needed—along with improved security in Diyala—was more financial autonomy and access to a higher level of technical expertise on a short-term basis. They needed real experts dispatched for a month or two to the field, rather than Army reservists with basic skills dispatched for up to a year.
Munshi tried to communicate all this to the State Department upon her return, but nobody especially wanted to debrief her. The after-action meetings she did have were set up at her own insistence, she told me, with bureaucrats who were sympathetic but ultimately powerless. The State Department and USAID apparently have no debriefing system in place, even for someone as crucial as a PRT leader in one of the most violent parts of Iraq. Without a mechanism for reporting lessons learned, any bureaucracy is moribund.
The PRTs, as presently constituted, are often smoke and mirrors operations, Munshi intimated. As a concept, they have been successfully sold to the outside world, but they have yet to be sufficiently staffed and bureaucratically developed. They provide useful fodder for pep talks to the media, but on the ground, they run the risk of irrelevance. Unfortunately, the same could be said of other operations in Iraq.
(Robert D. Kaplan , a national correspondent for The Atlantic, is the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor in National Security at the United States Naval Academy.)
3. The Activist Soldier
Andrew J. Bacevich, author of "Warrior Politics," talks about the increased politicization of the American military and its troubling potential consequences /Atlantic Monthly
Amid all the finger-pointing and contested policies surrounding the war in Iraq, there is one sentiment that seemingly everyone can endorse: "Support our troops." The men and women who choose to serve in America's armed forces risk their lives to protect our national security. Even those who return home safely often do so only after having experienced stresses that the rest of us would have a difficult time imagining. One might think that the extraordinary commitments and burdens these men and women shoulder entitle them to a greater voice than most in shaping our country's direction. But do they?
In his May article, "Warrior Politics," Boston University history professor Andrew J. Bacevich takes a considered look at a new antiwar movement now being fomented by a group of junior members of the military who have joined together to call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The movement's founders cite a tradition of activism that dates back to the Vietnam era: Jonathan Hutto, a Navy seaman who has been a leading figure, was reportedly stirred to action by the 1975 book Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War . Hutto connected with the book's author, David Cortright, and an Iraq War veteran named Liam Madden, and on January 16 of this year, they presented their statement—"An Appeal for Redress from the War in Iraq"—to Congress, along with the signatures of more than 1,600 fellow servicemen and women. The number of signatures has now grown to over 1,700, and members of the military continue to add their names at a Web site dedicated to the cause . Although soldiers walk a fine line when speaking out while wearing a uniform, those who have signed the appeal assert that they are acting within the bounds of appropriate behavior; the appeal's Web site explains that according to military law, soldiers have the right to "complain and request redress of grievances against actions of their commanders" and "to make a protected communication to [a member of Congress]." So far, the higher-ups seem to agree. As Marc Cooper recently noted in the Nation , when questioned about the appeal, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that active-duty personnel are free to express their views to Congress as long as they are not violating military law.
Bacevich is not so sanguine. Although he shares the soldiers' view that the war in Iraq has been bungled, he cautions that it is a mistake to believe that soldiers' risks and sacrifices entitle them to a special platform for dissent:
On matters of policy, those who wear the uniform ought to get a vote, but it's the same one that every other citizen gets—the one exercised on Election Day. To give them more is to sow confusion about the soldier's proper role, which centers on service and must preclude partisanship.
His recent book, The New American Militarism (2005), similarly warns against assuming that soldiers are entitled to moral superiority and speaks to the broader danger of basing our national identity and sense of self-worth on military prowess and accomplishments. Bacevich would prefer a more realistic, non-idealized attitude toward the armed forces. As he sees it, open dialogue between military and civilian society is of utmost importance. Through clear-eyed understanding, our country can effectively honor the respective roles and responsibilities of both soldiers and civilians.
We spoke by telephone in mid-March.
In 1969, more than a thousand active-duty soldiers signed a New York Times ad calling for an end to the Vietnam War. Jonathan Hutto has described the Appeal for Redress as a movement that follows in the footsteps of the soldiers' lobby during the Vietnam War. You don't claim that the appeal is unprecedented, but why do you see it as new and noteworthy?
I see the appeal as new and noteworthy for two reasons. The first is that it represents a collective effort on the part of serving soldiers to influence national security. Secondly, the traditional or standard politicking by the American military typically occurs at the senior ranks of the military, but the organizers and the majority of the participants in the appeal for redress are junior enlisted soldiers. This is military politicking from the bottom up rather than from the top down.
Do you think that soldiers who have signed the appeal are acting within their rights?
No, I don’t. I think that although it’s being styled as an appeal—that is to say it’s being advertised as if it were equivalent to the individual appeal connected to individual grievances, this is in fact a petition. It is a collective political act and it’s not intended to redress a particular problem of either an individual soldier or even of the 1,700 soldiers who have signed it. It’s intended to bring about a change in U.S. national security policy. I myself think that the policy that the appeal addresses—namely the Iraq war—is an utterly misguided policy. I think the war is unnecessary. It has been utterly bungled. But I don’t believe that it ought to be the place of soldiers acting collectively to try to put pressure on members of Congress, or on Congress collectively, in order to bring about a change in policy. That really begins to undermine the principle of civilian control, which we all should be careful to guard.
Is there someone who needs to step in and put a stop to the appeal?
The people who should speak to this as unacceptable are the members of Congress who are the recipients of the appeal. Members of Congress ought to say, “We welcome appeals from individual soldiers with regard to individual problems, but we view as inappropriate and improper any action intended to bring about changes in national security policy.”
You write that soldiers are "sworn to obey." What options do members of the armed forces have for voicing their grievances?
This gets to the heart of why this movement is termed an “appeal for redress.” Most of us would think of it as a petition, a collective petition. However, the military prohibits soldiers from petitioning collectively. Instead, there is a channel for soldiers to bring individual grievances to the attention of their elected congressional representatives. This longstanding practice—one could almost call it a tradition—allows individual soldiers who have some sort of complaint about the way they are being treated a voice if they feel that they are being treated unfairly or that their individual problems are not being properly addressed. Soldiers have long enjoyed the prerogative of writing individual letters to their members of Congress asking their congressmen to intervene on the behalf of that individual soldier. This practice is certainly recognized by the military itself, which goes out of its way not to prevent individual soldiers from appealing to members of Congress for assistance.
Does a soldier have any options if he has a change of heart mid-way through his tour of duty and would like to be relieved of his commission?
I don’t believe so. An enlistment is a contract in a very formal sense. An individual commits himself or herself to serve for three years, four years, six years—whatever the commitment may be—and both parties of that contract are obliged to live up to it. It is possible that circumstances may change. For example, a soldier may become ill or injured or experience a personal tragedy. If a married soldier’s spouse passes away and the soldier is left responsible for the care of young children this could provide the basis for asking to have the enlistment contract terminated. But “I don’t like serving in the Army anymore” or “I don’t feel like going back to Iraq again” would not be viewed as grounds for terminating the contract.
Could a soldier also decide mid-way through a tour of duty that he or she is a conscientious objector?
Yes. If a soldier honestly came to the conclusion that war is immoral, that all war is wrong, then this could be the basis for asking to have the contract for the enlistment terminated. In this case, a soldier would not necessarily have to go to his or her congressman. In fact, the first step for an individual soldier who had concluded that he or she was a conscientious objector would be to go to his or her immediate leader, the company commander. The soldier would say “I’ve had a change of heart about war, I think it’s immoral.” This could lead to the soldier being allowed to leave active duty.
You write that senior military officials have also been politicking over the last 50 years. Can you give me any examples of the sorts of behaviors or actions you're thinking of?
In 1993, the Joint Chiefs of Staff vehemently opposed President Clinton’s announcement that he wanted by executive order to permit gays to serve openly in the military. The Army, Marine Corps, and Navy particularly opposed Truman’s 1948 executive order to desegregate the armed forces. In 1950, at the outset of the Korean War, the great majority of troops were still segregated, and when generals finally did desegregate their troops, they did so in order to facilitate ongoing operations—not because of any principled rejection of racial segregation. And [Air Force General] Curtis LeMay was very famous for cutting budget deals with Congress around Eisenhower’s back, thereby building up the strategic air command on a scale that far exceeded the president’s intentions.
Do you see any steps as necessary or useful to curb this sort of military politicking?
First of all, both citizens and politicians should recognize that civil-military relations in the country are in many respects dysfunctional. This is a problem that deserves attention. And in my judgment, it’s a problem that has largely been ignored for decades. More specifically, I think that members of Congress ought to be more sensitive to the limits of permissible action on the part of senior military officers. Members of Congress ought to try to ensure that senior military officers respect the law. People who stray beyond the bounds of the prerogatives of the military profession should be slapped down and penalized. But I also think that the military profession itself has a real obligation here. We should ensure that part of the process of educating, developing, and selecting officers for positions of high responsibility includes inculcating an awareness of the limits of proper professional behavior. The sort of politicking I just described—working around the administration, manipulating directives, disregarding orders—all of that really works in the long run to the detriment of the military itself.
Should the military come under firmer civilian control?
My view is that the principle of control should be sacrosanct. General Shinseki was invited to testify before a congressional committee and was asked his views by members of Congress as to the prospects for the Iraq war. He stated quite candidly that he believed that the most difficult phase of the operation was likely to be the occupation of Iraq and that in his judgment the occupation of Iraq could take up to several hundred thousand soldiers. That action was completely appropriate; he was speaking candidly, he was offering his professional judgment when asked for it by members of Congress. What was dismaying was the retaliation directed against him by senior civilians in the office of the Secretary of Defense who publicly chastised him and very quickly terminated his influence and career.
To place the retaliation in a larger context, one could see it as an expression of a Republican determination to rein in generals who had exceeded their writ during the Clinton years. According to their own lights, officials like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were trying to restore the principle of civilian control that they believed had been weakened during the 1990s. I wouldn’t want to cite General Shinseki specifically, but in a broader sense the Joint Chiefs of Staff brought this on themselves in part because in the 1990s they had indeed been playing fast and loose with their responsibilities. For example, they had defied President Clinton over gays in the military. When the Republicans came to power in 2001 they were adamantly committed to the proposition that they were going to restore unambiguous control.
So the solution is not necessarily to make the military completely subservient to the Secretary of Defense?
No. This is where Eliot Cohen’s book Supreme Command is exactly on target. Open, honest, and candid dialogue is crucially important. My sense is that the dialogue between senior civilians and senior military officers is so distorted by posturing, game-playing, and bringing peripheral political considerations into the matter that the environment in which discourse happens is one in which there is great mistrust rather than openness and honesty. The issues don’t get addressed in a straightforward way. And that is part of the problem here.
Do you think there’s any need for an overall bureaucratic reorganization of the armed forces—for example, an updated Goldwater-Nichols Act?
I don’t know exactly what an updated Goldwater-Nichols act would propose, and I would probably want to see specific proposals before commenting. Having said that, I don’t believe that we can legislate healthy civil-military relations. We need to have people who are genuinely professional, genuinely committed to the national interest, rather than to some narrow and parochial interest—people who undertake their responsibilities honestly and fearlessly. And that needs to be the case both on the civilian side and on the military side. It’s not. I don’t think you can legislate a fix to the problem.
Your book The New American Militarism suggests that we have become more militarized as a society in recent years. But some would argue that the American public has in fact become increasingly disengaged from the politics of war. For example, we haven't seen the same sorts of organized protests on college campuses or marches on Washington that we saw during the Vietnam War. Can you speak to how we can reconcile what seems to be increased apathy toward war with the idea that we are becoming increasingly militarized?
I teach at Boston University and have observed that although our students are patriotic, that doesn’t translate into any particular enthusiasm for enlisting in the military. ROTC, which had become a contentious presence on many campuses during the Vietnam War is now readily accepted. The presence of ROTC at BU today is completely non-controversial. But despite the fact that there are now public professions of respect and warm regard for soldiers, as a practical matter, a large gap has opened up between the American Army and American society. For all kinds of reasons I think we need to close that gap, which means ensuring that the burdens of military service are shared more broadly across the spectrum of American society. We need to find ways to induce greater numbers of young people to serve.
Should we reinstate the draft?
It’s infeasible to have a draft. If, for whatever reason—and I cannot imagine what the reason would be—but if for some reason Congress passed a draft and the President signed it into law, I believe there would be massive civil disobedience that would gut the program before it even got off the ground. If indeed we want to close the gap between the army and society, it has to happen by finding incentives that will induce people from the middle- and upper-middle classes to serve voluntarily. The federal government could offer all-expenses-paid college educations to any soldier completing a term of service. Given the ever-increasing cost of a college education, that might provide a very attractive incentive to serve. To make that incentive effective, the government would probably have to reduce the availability of education grants and loans to non-veterans. Closing the gap is not going to be the result of some kind of compulsory service.
You also suggest in your piece that the American public is partly to blame for endowing soldiers with a sort of moral authority. In your book you flesh out this idea, explaining that our current attitude towards soldiers is due in part to a backlash following the Vietnam era, where the stature of the armed forces fell in the eyes of the public following incidents like My Lai. We then went from being antimilitaristic to revering the military. Do you think that Guantanamo, Abu Grahib, or Haditha will create a similar backlash or change our perceptions of soldiers today?
No, I don’t think so. I believe that Vietnam-era soldiers were collectively tarred with the brush from episodes like My Lai. One could overstate the case, but to some degree soldiers generally came to be viewed as baby killers. That’s not the case today, although we have had our episodes of abuse—whether we’re talking about Abu Ghraib or Haditha. It seems to me that there is not a tendency today to view the perpetrators of those kinds of episodes as representative of all soldiers. Lynde England will remain the face of Abu Ghraib.
Is there any reason for us to heed the soldiers who have signed the appeal? Couldn't one argue that the soldiers' lobby deserves our attention because the men and women serving in Iraq are better informed than the average American about what’s happening on the ground there? Not that we should listen to soldiers because they are potentially sacrificing their lives, but because they are eyewitnesses and have seen the futility of persevering in this war.
Yes, of course, individual soldiers speaking as individuals have every right to say, “This is what I saw, this is what I experienced, this is what I learned, this is what I think it means”—especially once they’ve completed their military service. Those voices deserve to have a place in the public arena. However, as citizens, we should be concerned and troubled by the fact that a soldiers’ lobby has begun to appear. We should hope that it fails. And we should hope that it’s not followed by further lobbying efforts by soldiers.
How could soldiers appropriately make their voices heard?
Soldiers can speak out through congressional testimony, or through the writing of books, or movie scripts, or poetry. There are numerous ways we can try to make sense of our experiences of life and of the evolution of history.
4. An Open Letter to Major General Charles Jacoby, Jr.
History Will Vindicate Lt. Ehren Watada
By PAUL ROCKWELL/Counterpunch
Dear Major General Charles Jacoby, Jr.:
Congratulations on your nomination to Commanding General at the Army post in Fort Lewis.
Many weeks have passed since Judge John Head, over objections of defense attorney Eric Seitz, declared a mistrial in the Army Court Martial of Lt. Ehren Watada at Fort Lewis, Washington. As you know, General, the first commissioned officer who refused deployment to Iraq faces six years in prison on three charges: "missing movement," "conduct unbecoming an officer," and "use of contemptuous words for the President." The second Court Martial is set for mid-July.
As a concerned civilian, I have followed the hearings for many months. While I do not represent any group or individual, I am writing you because now is a good time to drop all the charges against the Lieutenant, to bring closure to a trial that, in my opinion, should never have taken place.
The Watada trial, which has already gained national and international attention, comes in the aftermath of three Army scandals: the Abu Ghraib scandal that humiliated our troops; the Walter Reed Hospital scandal, that demonstrates Army disregard for the welfare and dignity of our veterans; and the official disinformation campaign around the death of Cpl. Pat Tillman. Notwithstanding overwhelming evidence of command involvement in the torture system at Abu Ghraib, no Pentagon civilian or senior military official even faces prosecution for the ignominy of Abu Ghraib. Nor are there any prosecutions around the Tillman affair. The refusal to court martial violators, combined with the eagerness to court martial whistle blowers, gives an impression that our judicial system in the Army is designed to protect officials from accountability. Our Army is passing through a crisis of moral credibility, and the trial of Watada, far from restoring respect, only deepens disillusionment with our military institutions.
Soldiers Do Not Forfeit Their Right To Speak
I cannot address all of the issues around the Watada case in a single letter. But I am especially concerned about Army attempts to suppress the right of our soldiers to speak in public, to participate in the political process. Originally "conduct unbecoming" referred to offenses like drunken behavior, rape, adultery. Now the Army seeks to make political speech a crime. Of course our troops are expected to follow legal orders in lawful wars. But when they agree to serve their country, they do not forfeit their political rights. The military has jurisdiction over military matters, not over political ideology of our soldiers.
It was August 12th, 2006, when Lt. Ehren Watada delivered the now-famous speech to the Veterans for Peace Convention. He was not in uniform when he delivered the address, and there was a quiet humility in the manner in which he spoke. He was honored, he said, to be in the company of American veterans, patriots out of uniform. He warned his listeners about the history of war, about decent soldiers who are often used for ill-gain, and he called on Americans to remember that "their duty to the Constitution and the people supersedes the ideologies of leadership."
"The war in Iraq is in fact illegal. It is my obligation and my duty to refuse any orders to participate in this war. An order to take part in an illegal war is unlawful in itself."
There was nothing nasty or offensive in his speech. No cursing, no personal attacks, no expressions of hatred. Watada merely described the fraudulent nature of the invasion, the role of the government in manufacturing the case for war. Of course you know, General, that there is overwhelming evidence to validate his claims, and that Judge Head refused to allow Watada to prove the truth of his claims in court. Watada also pointed out that pre-emptive war is illegal, an argument with which the world's jurists agree. Pre-emptive war was explicitly repudiated at Nuremberg, and is outlawed in the U.N. Charter. You know -- all Army commanders know very well -- that all U.S. treaties, according to our Constitution, are part of the supreme law of the land. The Army Field Manual also requires adherence to U.S. Treaties and international conventions. Watada is a vindicator, not a violator of the rule of law.
I have read Watada's speech many times. I have yet to hear a professional speaker, like a Senator, deliver an address as eloquent and dignified on the subject of war and the rule of law as Watada delivered that fateful, heroic day in Seattle, where he received a standing ovation from veterans and peers who know the pain and pity of imperial war.
For that speech, combined with another like it, Watada could spend two years in prison. A great wrong is taking place at Fort Lewis, General.
There is absolutely no constitutional basis to put Watada on trial for his soulful speech. The right of all soldiers to participate out of uniform in the political process is a serious First Amendment issue. It makes no sense to claim that soldiers have a right to vote when, in reality, they are only allowed to express one point of view; when they may even be imprisoned for mentioning the lies of the president. At present, it is the prosecution's position that soldiers have a duty to remain silent in the face of lies of their president. That is wrong. Voting and speech are mutually dependent. It is one thing for soldiers to accept legal military discipline. That is legitimate. But it is another to forfeit the right to think for themselves. We need a strong Army prepared to defend our country from attack. But military censorship should never be used to enforce an ideological agenda, an imperial view of America's role in the world.
It also occurs to me, Sir, that while Watada's address about war and constitutionalism is now on trial, the Army has a long record of tolerating, even promoting, racist hate-speech against Iraqis and all Arabs . In Army life today, Arabs are commonly called "ragheads" and "sand-niggers." Notwithstanding the destructive role of racist speech in military conduct (racism blurs distinctions between enemies and friends, drives youth to commit war crimes, and generates retaliation), I know of no case in which an officer has been charged with "conduct unbecoming" for anti-Arab, racist language. Yet quoting Jefferson and the Constitution can get you busted.
Soldiers Did Not Volunteer To Break The Laws Of War
Throughout the pre-trial hearings, chief prosecutor Captain Daniel Kuecker (who was eventually taken off the case), insisted that soldiers like Watada have no right to question authority because they volunteered to serve.
We need to set the record straight. Yes, Watada did volunteer to risk his life to defend his country from a real attack. He served in Korea. He volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. He volunteered to follow all legal orders, to participate in any legal war, war based on the principle of defensive necessity. However, Watada never volunteered to violate human rights, to participate in collective reprisals against entire cities like Fallujah. He did not volunteer to violate American treaties, to participate in aggression. After all, a contract to break the law has no legal standing.
At the same time, American senators voluntarily ratified the U.N. Charter. The president, his commanders -- all elected officials -- voluntarily took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, which makes treaties part of the law of the land. No one forced any of them to take that oath.
Watada, as an Officer, took the same oath as his Commander-in-Chief to defend the Constitution. And Watada has kept his promise.
It is true that all military systems operate through a chain of command, and that soldiers are expected to follow orders. But the authority of command depends on the legality of the orders. The legal status makes all the difference.
The real issue then, is not the so-called voluntary nature of the enlistment contract, but the bait-and-switch tactics of the military. Our youth enlist in good faith to defend the country from attack. Yes, we need a strong Army for defense. But suddenly -- involuntarily --they are transformed into perpetrators and pawns of empire. It's the government, not war resisters, that is responsible for a breach of contract.
Costs of Suppressing Speech
The suppression of speech, especially reprisals against whistle blowers and soldiers of conscience, has already cost our country dearly.
Five months prior to the Abu Ghraib scandal, a soft-spoken Army soldier named Camilo Mejia was visibly upset by the atrocities he observed at the infamous prison center. Also repelled by the slaughter of civilians and the needless deaths of American GIs, Camilo gathered up his courage and made formal complaints to his superiors. He disassociated himself from the unrestrained brutality and carnage. Though he was rebuffed, he persisted. He wrote letters about specific wrongs to his superiors. Commanders refused to listen and questioned his patriotism. Eventually Mejia, who became a conscientious objector, was sentenced to a year in prison for speaking out, for telling the truth. In his trial, military Judge Col. Gary Smith ruled that international law is irrelevant.
In the context of the Watada trial, I urge you to think seriously about the Mejia case. Had Mejia's superiors listened to his complaints, had they respected the right of soldiers to speak up on behalf of law, both moral and codified, many of the horrific subsequent events, acts of torture and murder that shamed our country, might never have occurred. As a result of enforced silence and judicial abdication, the Army (and CIA) at Abu Ghraib sunk deeper and deeper into depravity. Yet the Abu Ghraib scandal, as we know it, could have been prevented. Abu Ghraib destroyed the morale of our troops; it generated vengeance and blowback.
Isn't there a lesson here, General, a lesson that applies directly to the pending trial of Ehren Watada? Soldiers who dare to speak the truth, to appeal to the rule of law even in war, protect us from ourselves, from our worst tendencies in war. The renowned New York Times war journalist Chris Hedges writes: "War forms its own culture. War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface in all of us." In the darkness of war, the Mejias and Watadas are miners' canaries. To imprison them one by one, is to invite further destruction and degradation. Like Camilo Mejia, Lt. Watada is not speaking on behalf of himself. He is speaking and acting in support of all American troops who deserve protection of the democratic principles and laws for which they risk their lives.
That is why I appeal to you to change direction at Fort Lewis, to cancel the trial of Lt. Watada-not only on technical grounds of double jeopardy, but because the Army at this time is in no position to give Watada a fair trial. Put high level officials responsible for Abu Ghraib on trial; prosecute the conspirators in the Tillman affair. But let our brave officer retire. He has performed a service for his country. He has taken a stand for which his comrades in the Army can be proud.
I realize that, as a general whose decisions affect thousands of lives, you are in very difficult position. You face the same kind of dilemma that Watada confronted when he learned about the mendacity of the President and Secretary of Defense. No doubt you feel an obligation to your Commander-in-Chief, and you are expected to carry out his policies. At the same time, you voluntarily took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Ultimately your highest orders, orders that define and qualify all others, come from the people themselves, from the Constitution that binds us together as a nation. Fidelity to the Constitution, not abject submission to any individual, is the final test of patriotism in America. When the requirements of law conflict with policies of individual command, generals as well as their troops face a moral crisis. These are the times that try soldiers' souls.
I am not asking you to become a rebel. But I do invite you to consider the principle involved in Watada's challenge. Even before our Constitution was ratified in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin commented on the inalienable right of officers to defy orders in an unjust war. The wise old freedom fighter wrote: "It has been for some time a generally receiv'd Opinion that a military Man is not to enquire whether a War be just or unjust; he is to execute his Orders. All Princes who are dispos'ed to become tyrants must probably approve of this Opinion. But is it not a dangerous one? Since, on that Principle, if the tyrant commands the Army to attack and destroy an unoffending Neighbour Nation, even his own Subjects, the Army is bound to obey."
No, no, Ben Franklin cries out: "A conscientious Officer may indeed resign, rather than be employ'd in an unjust war."
I do not expect you to sacrifice your career. Our country needs your expertise and dedication. But you are not helpless. Nor are you ignorant of your constitutional obligations. Accordingly, I do ask you to join your peers and do some soul searching. I believe it is within your power to cancel the trial that should never have taken place. You and your commanders are in a position to put pressure on those above you. The constitutional crisis, to which Watada calls attention, is an Army crisis. It threatens the very legitimacy of military service. The dignity of Fort Lewis now depends on how you and your fellow commanders to respond to the profound issue of law and war.
Whatever you decide, history will vindicate the courage of Lt. Ehren Watada.
With best regards,
(Paul Rockwell is a columnist for In Motion Magazine . He can be reached at: email@example.com)
5. The US, but not democracy, is losing among Arabs
By Shlomo Ben-Ami/The Daily Star (Lebanon)
Four years into a disastrous military adventure in Iraq and with the global war on terror against ill-defined forces of darkness still inconclusive, the collapse of America's grand strategy has exposed how ill-conceived was its simplistic recipe for democratic change in the Arab world.
The paradox is that America might be winning the war for Arab democracy, even if by default, but cannot reap the benefits, simply because the emerging pattern of Islamic pluralistic politics does not coincide with the West's brand of secular liberal democracy. The shift of the Arab world's mainstream fundamentalist movements to democratic politics is tantamount to a repudiation of the jihadist project and of Al-Qaeda's apocalyptic strategies. The failure of jihadism is paving the way for a potentially promising restructuring of Islamic politics, but the West either doesn't recognize the changes or is hostile to them.
The rise of Islamists throughout the region as the sole power capable of exploiting the opportunities of free elections (Hamas' victory in Palestine and the Muslim Brotherhood's spectacular gains in the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections are but the most noteworthy); the ascendancy to regional hegemony of Shiite Iran; and the sense among Arab rulers that the embattled Bush administration is running out of steam have all combined to stall the promising drive to political reform in the region.
The US retreated from its democratic designs once it realized that Arab democracy was not being identified with the liberal secular opposition - a political force that practically does not exist in the Arab world - but with Islamic radicals that seek to repudiate US policies and reconciliation with Israel. That this should be so has much to do with America's traditional policy of sustaining the Arab world's pro-Western dictators.
But the notion that the genie of democratization can now be squeezed back into the bottle is a self-serving fantasy. The move of mainstream Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, Hamas in Palestine, the Renaissance Party in Tunisia, or the Party of Justice and Development in Morocco, away from jihadism to political participation started well before America's democracy promotion campaign, and is not an attempt to please the West. It is a genuine response to the needs and demands of their supporters.
Extinguishing Arab democracy, as President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is now trying to do through his recent ban on political parties that are based on religion, will bring neither stability nor peace to the Middle East. It will only exacerbate the rage of the masses at the West's hypocrisy, now expressed in a form of democratic charlatanry. The stability of those Arab regimes that are not sustained by a democratic consensus is bound to be fragile and misleading. Just as Islamic democracy is the natural reaction to Arab secular autocracy and to the West's collaboration with it, so will the destruction of political Islam usher in even more extreme options, with movements like Hamas going back to social work and terrorism, and with Al-Qaeda making inroads into Islamic societies.
Both the West and Arab rulers need to realize that the tense equation between incumbent regimes and political Islam is not necessarily a zero-sum game. This has been learned the hard way by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who, through his Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation of February 2006, brought an end to a long and bloody civil war, the origins of which lay in the violent cancellation by the military of the Islamist Salvation Front's electoral victory in 1991.
It is in this context that the historic compromise between the religious Hamas and the secular Fatah to form a national unity government for Palestine might have established a new paradigm for the future of regime change in the Arab world. The concept of national unity governments might, indeed, be the formula that makes it possible to hold together the political families in the Arab world. King Mohammad VI of Morocco has already indicated that he would consider a "historic compromise" with the Islamists should they, as predicted, win the elections in June 2007. Such compromises may be the only way to stem the slide to civil war, and possibly also co-opt the Islamists into a settlement with Israel and a rapprochement to the West.
Engaging political Islam will need to be the central part of any successful strategy for the Middle East. Instead of sticking to doomsday prophecies or to categorical perspectives that prevent an understanding of the complex fabric of Islamic movements, the West needs to keep the pressure on the incumbent regimes to stop circumventing political reform.
As Algeria in the 1990s showed, exclusion of the Islamists is a recipe for disaster, while inclusion can breed moderation. The practical necessities of politics are bound to dilute ideological purity. The Mecca agreement that brought forth the unity government in Palestine will inevitably temper Hamas' radicalism, just as the regime's avoidance in Jordan of an "Egyptian solution" to the Islamist challenge allowed the
Islamic Action Front to contain within the movement many who would have been otherwise drawn into the jihadist orbit. The challenge is not how to destroy Islamic movements, but how to turn them away from revolutionary to reformist politics by granting them legitimate political space.
(Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister who now serves as the vice president of the Toledo International Center for Peace. He is the author of "Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy." )