20 February 2005

A Hard Lesson in Democracy (Update)

This afternoon, Time magazine reports that various American officals have been meeting secretly with former Ba'athist leaders heading considerable portions of the Sunni resistance; while these "'back channel' communications" are not officially sanctioned by or binding upon either the interim or elected Iraqi governments or the U.S. government, they have made progress toward the twin objectives of the talks: to end the current insurgency and to facilitate the integration of these militant Sunni elements into the now-established Iraqi political process.

It should be noted that these talks are not necessarily on the verge of a breakthrough, but they are very promising. Also, the communications have been with the Ba'athist/Sunni components of the insurgency, not with the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Zarqawi contingent; however, each of the two groups, although distinct in outlook and leadership, has found its fate effectively dependent on the continuing viability of the other's fighting efforts. Whereas the al-Zarqawi-led fighters seek the destruction of the prospective Iraqi state and the annihilation of the predominately-American foreign military presence in Iraq, as John Hinderaker notes in Power Line, the Ba'athist/Sunni insurgents' agenda has been more political:
[The Ba'athist/Sunni insurgents'] violence had two main strategic objectives: first, to prevent President Bush from being re-elected; second, to prevent the Iraqi election from going forward. Both failed. If they give up, the [al-Qaeda-aligned, al-Zarqawi-led] terrorists will be isolated and can much more easily be defeated.
Thus, the apparently pragmatic current reassessment by the Ba'athist/Sunni insurgents could do as much to promote the downfall of the al-Zarqawi resistance as has the direct American-led military action thus far.

In an earlier post, I argued that the Sunnis' catastrophic mistake in rebelling against and abstaining from the then-uncertain Iraqi political process could be remedied only by a Sunni rank-and-file willing to defy their short-sighted and self-serving leadership. It was implicit in that argument that the leadership themselves would not see the error of their ways or adopt a coherent solution to their dilemma; in this, hopefully, I will be proved both pessimistic and wrong. According to Time, the insurgent Iraqis said to their counterparts, "We are ready to work with you." According to Reuters, "The insurgents said their aim was to establish a political identity that can represent disenfranchised Sunnis." I am now hopeful that these insurgent leaders have learned, more quickly than I would have thought possible, the "hard lesson in democracy" about which I earlier posted.

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