On War #83

Stage Three

By William S. Lind

As I noted in a recent column, the Marines have blanked the news from the Sunni triangle since taking over much of that area. A front-page story in the August 29 New York Times lifted the veil, and what it revealed was not pretty. The war in the Sunni triangle is shifting its base from the Ba'ath Party, which still operates within the framework of the state, to religious elements which do not.

This is exactly what Fourth Generation theory predicted would happen. The minutes from the January 23, 2004 session of our Fourth Generation seminar read:

… then moved the discussion to Iraq and the U.S. occupation there by pointing out that the current situation is characterized by three elements. The first was chaos, the second was a war of national liberation (waged by the Ba'ath Party) and the third was fourth generation warfare. The second of these elements was decreasing in importance and intensity but the third was increasing.

This is the development the Times now reports:

Events in two Sunni Muslim cities that stand astride the crucial western approaches to Baghdad have moved significantly against American plans to build a secular democracy in Iraq.

Both the cities, Fallujah and Ramadi, and much of Anbar Province, are now controlled by fundamentalist militias…

American efforts to build a government structure around former Ba'ath Party stalwarts … have collapsed. Instead, the former Hussein loyalists, under threat of beheadings, kidnappings and humiliation, have mostly resigned or defected to the fundamentalists, or been killed. Enforcers for the old government, including former Republican Guard officers, have put themselves in the service of fundamentalist clerics they once tortured at Abu Ghraib.

Last spring, the Marines made a deal with the Ba'ath Party in Fallujah: Keep the place quiet and we’ll let you run it while keeping our hands off it. As has so often been the case in the history of war, it was the right move, too late. Throughout Iraq, the balance had already swung away from the Ba'ath and any other forces that might have been able to re-create an Iraqi state, to non-state, Fourth Generation elements. The experiment in Fallujah was worth tryingthe only other option was destroying the city in order to save it, as we recently did in Najaf—but the Ba'ath was by then already a fading force. Of its Fallujah Brigade, the Times writes:

The Fallujah Brigade is in tatters now, reduced to sharing tented checkpoints on roads into the city with the [Islamic] militants, its headquarters in Fallujah abandoned, like the buildings assigned to the national guard. Men assigned to the brigade, and to the two guard battalions, have mostly fled, Iraqis in Fallujah say, taking their families with them, and handing their weapons to the militants.

Instead of the Ba'ath, what we now face in Fallujah is a genuinely dangerous opponent. Its idol is not Saddam, but Allah. The Times reports that:

The militants’ principal power center is a mosque in Fallujah led by an Iraqi cleric, Abdullah al-Janabi, who has instituted a Taliban-like rule in the city…with an Islamic militant group, Unity and Holy War, that American intelligence … [has linked] to al Qaeda …

By invading Iraq, the United States in effect took Fallujah and much of the rest of Anbar Province from Saddam and gave it to Osama bin Laden. If that is George Bush’s definition of victory, it would be interesting to know what he would consider a defeat.

From the standpoint of our forces in Iraq, the main problem the third stage in the war there presents is that we have no one to talk to, no one to make deals with. As we saw in Fallujah in April, it was possible to make a deal with the Ba'ath—a deal the Ba'ath genuinely wanted to carry out, though it proved unable to do so. Mullah al-Janabi and the thousands like him will have no interest in talking with us, unless we tell them we need their assistance in converting to Islam.

The minutes from the January meeting of our seminar concluded:

In Fallujah as the Marines relieve the Army … we should talk to the resistance, if we can. If it is Ba'ath Party members we can probably do some serious negotiations with them. Ultimately, they have as much interest in establishing and maintaining order as we do (if they have any thought of returning to power). However, if the Ba'athists do not control the resistance then all bets are indeed now off.

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William S. Lind is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation

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