Scorecard for the War
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN - March 26, 2003 - originalI was in a restaurant at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Sunday, and it had an NCAA basketball game playing on the TV at one end of the bar and the Iraq war on the other. Most people were watching the basketball game — probably because it's so much easier to keep score. How will we know if we are winning in Iraq? Here are six things I am watching for:
(1) Have we occupied Baghdad — without leveling the whole city? This war is not being fought simply to disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein. It is being fought to replace that regime with a decent, accountable Iraqi government. That is the real prize here, because only such a government can stabilize Iraq and ensure that another Saddam-like general does not emerge. That can't even begin to happen until the capital has been taken by U.S. and British forces.
(2) Have we killed, captured or expelled Saddam? President Bush keeps saying that this war is not against one man. Nonsense. We have been chasing one man in Iraq for 12 years, and it is essential that he be eliminated because until and unless he is, Iraqis will never express what they really think and feel. Indeed, average Iraqis will not even know what they really feel until the dictator who has run their lives with an iron fist for more than 30 years is removed and they are certain that he is not coming back. (Do not rule out, even now, an Arab-brokered deal for Saddam to leave peacefully.)
(3) Have we been able to explain why some Iraqi forces are putting up such a fierce fight? Are these the most elite, pampered Special Republican Guard units, who have benefited most from Saddam's rule and are therefore willing to fight to preserve it? Or are these primarily Sunni Muslim units, terrified that with the fall of Saddam the long reign of the Sunnis of Iraq will end and they will be replaced by the Shiite majority? Or is this happening because even Iraqis who detest Saddam love their homeland and hate the idea of a U.S. occupation — and these Iraqis are ready to resist a foreign occupier, even one that claims to be a liberator? Knowing the answer is critical for how we reconstruct Iraq. It is not at all unusual for Arabs to detest both their own dictator and a foreign occupier. (See encyclopedia for Israel, invasion of Lebanon, 1982.)
(4) Have we won this war and preserved the territorial integrity of Iraq? We can't rebuild Iraq if we can't hold it together. Both the Kurds and the Turks would like to bite off part of northern Iraq. The Bush team claims to be committed to preserving Iraq's unity, in which case it had better tell both the Turks and the Kurds: "Which part of `no' don't you understand? You Turks are not coming in, and you Kurds are not breaking away."
(5) Has an authentic Iraqi liberal nationalist emerged from the U.S. occupation to lead the country? Some pundits are already nominating their favorite Iraqi opposition figures to be Iraq's next leader. My gut tells me the only person who is going to be able to rule Iraq effectively is someone who has lived through Saddam's reign, not sat it out in London or Washington, and who is ready to say no to both tyranny and foreign control in Iraq. But even if he is an Iraqi exile, the next leader of Iraq has to emerge through some sort of consensual process from within Iraq. If the Bush team intends to force Iraq's next leader to quickly embrace Israel, if it intends to impose someone who has been dining with Richard Perle, such a leader will never take root.
(6) Is the Iraqi state that emerges from this war accepted as legitimate by Iraq's Arab and Muslim neighbors? That is very important, both for the viability of whatever Iraqi leadership follows Saddam, and for the liberalizing effect it may have on others in the neighborhood. In the absence of any U.N. endorsement for this war, the successor regime to Saddam will have to legitimize itself by becoming something that Arabs and Muslims will point to and say, "We don't like how this was done, but we have to admit America helped build something better in our neighborhood." This outcome is crucial.
If you see these things happening, you'll know that the political ends for which this war was launched are being achieved. If you don't, you'll know we're lost in a sandstorm.