Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Epiphanies all round

It had to happen. Andrew Sullivan had gotten so far with his persona of New Sully, implacable foe of the powers-that-be, but he had to revert to being duc de Sully, faithful servant of the royal court. And indeed, much as his namesake:

Sully was not popular. He was hated ... by all because he was a favorite, and selfish, obstinate and rude. He amassed a large personal fortune, and his jealousy of all other ministers and favorites was extravagant. Nevertheless he was an excellent man of business, inexorable in punishing malversation and dishonesty on the part of others, and opposed to the ruinous court expenditure which was the bane of almost all European monarchies in his day. He was gifted with executive ability, with confidence and resolution, with fondness for work, and above all with deep devotion to his master. He was implicitly trusted by Henry IV and proved himself the most able assistant of the king in dispelling the chaos into which the religious and civil wars had plunged France.

Despite his disgust about the royal budget, the irresistible pull of the royal court exerts itself again with his revived flypaper/fly-trap theory [will add link when he's unhacked] -- that the Iraq war was necessary so that Arabs could experience first hand the impact of Islamist terrorism:

... internal Muslim division ... a fortunate by-product of failure to pacify the country. By allowing chaos and disorder to engulf many Iraqi lives, the coalition may have undermined Jihadist appeal by exposing their willingness to slaughter other Muslims in their bid for a new Caliphate ... by forcing the battle into the heart of the Middle East, rather than in the West, the coalition is exposing internal rifts and dividing the Muslim world into its sane and insane camps. If the sane camp wins, we all win ... But if we can keep the fldegling Iraqi state somewhat stable, the potential benefit is that by using schismatic divisions in Islam, we can help isolate and undermine al Qaeda and Jihadism in general ... But the strategy is not a crazy one, even if it has emerged from the wreckage of incompetence.

This is just a rehashed version of the Epiphany theory pushed by the Wall Street Journal, that 9/11 was necessary to show Americans the threat of terrorism, and that the Saudis needed something similar to happen to them. Sully ups the ante by hoping that the bringing home of terrorism causes a schism within Islam that the West can ride to its own advantage -- not the kind of delicate operation that one wants this White House in charge of.

While this is a shite (one i) strategy for a war, there is one bit of supporting evidence for the effect it postulates -- the now fully released letter from al Zawahiri to al Zarqawi, which makes clear the split between al Qaeda HQ and its franchise in Iraq on the strategy of killing civilians and Shia:

But Mr. Zawahiri ... pointedly [warns] Mr. Zarqawi that such strikes amounted to "action that the masses do not understand or approve."

In the letter, Mr. Zawahiri compared the fierce war of resistance that Iraqis and foreign fighters have waged in Iraq since March 2003 with the speedy fall of Afghanistan's Taliban government after the American-led invasion there in 2001.

"We don't want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance to the students and the people of Kandahar alone," Mr. Zawahiri wrote. "The result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them. Even devout ones took the stance of the spectator and, when the invasion came, the emirate collapsed in days, because the people were either passive or hostile."

"Therefore," Mr. Zawahiri wrote, "I stress again to you and to all your brothers the need to direct the political action equally with the military action, by the alliance, cooperation and gathering of all leaders of opinion and influence in the Iraqi arena."

This shreds the media criticism of the right, who complain that the Western media reports deaths from terrorism with the implicit goal of undermining the war back home. In fact, Zawahiri makes clear that it is precisely these images that undermine the insurgency and leave room for the split that Sully has now noticed. Incidentally, of interest to Irish readers must surely be that Zawahiri's last sentence above could easily be rephrased as "the Armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other" -- perhaps soon to be the latest evidence on links between Northern Ireland and the GWOT.

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