Sunday, November 19, 2006

Too Few Iraqis

Since the beginning of the tragic war in Iraq, widespread criticism has fastened on the administration's decision to try pacifying the country with fewer than 150,000 American troops, aided by about 10,000 to 15,000 allied (non-Iraqi) forces. Even today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) calls for more American soldiers, despite testimony from the top American general tasked with fighting the war that there are no more troops to send.

What has received far less attention is that there are not too few Americans, but too few Iraqis. I am not referring to the Iraqi army and police, although progress in organizing, training and equipping those forces has been terribly slow. (If you don't think so, study the US Army in the Civil War, or the development of the army between 1940 and 1945.)

When I say that there are too few Iraqis I mean that--from all appearances--there is no substantial number of people in that country who identify themselves as Iraqis first. If you asked Iraqis "what are you?" a clear, perhaps overwhelming majority would answer, "I am a
Shi'ite," of "I am Kurdish," or "I am a Sunni." Few--and fewer each day--would say, "I am Iraqi."

Mr. Bush may still talk of victory, although even Henry Kissinger has now given up hope of anything that might be called that. But without a substantial number of people willing to identify themselves as Iraqis, and to fight for their nation, there is no way in which anything other than a bloody civil struggle can resolve the crisis into which we have plunged that land.

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