The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Thursday, May 13, 2004


              War of Ideas
Fouad Ajami in yesterday's Wall Street Journal op/ed piece makes some good points about the mistakes that the US is making in Iraq. His main argument is that we are reverting back to the old, discredited idea of pan-Arabism in trying to make Iraq a normal, pluralist society and that this is a sure recipe for failure.
We have dispatched the way of Iraqis an envoy of the U.N., Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian of Pan-Arab orientation, with past service in the League of Arab States. It stood to reason (American reason, uninformed as to the terrible complications of Arab life) that Mr. Brahimi, "an Arab," would better understand Iraq's ways than Paul Bremer. But nothing in Mr. Brahimi's curriculum vitae gives him the tools, or the sympathy, to understand the life of Iraq's Shiite seminaries; nothing he did in his years of service in the Arab league exhibited concern for the cruelties visited on the Kurds in the 1980s. Mr. Brahimi hails from the very same political class that has wrecked the Arab world. He has partaken of the ways of that class: populism, anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, and a preference for the centralized state. He came from the apex of the Algerian system of power that turned that country into a charnel house, inflicted on it a long-running war between the secular powers-that-be and the Islamists, and a tradition of hostility by the Arab power-holders toward the country's Berbers. No messenger more inappropriate could have been found if the aim was to introduce Iraqis to the ways of pluralism.

Mr. Brahimi owes us no loyalty. His prescription of a "technocratic government" for Iraq -- which the Bush administration embraced only to retreat from, by latest accounts -- is a cunning assault on the independent political life of Iraq. The Algerian seeks to return Iraq to the Pan-Arab councils of power. His entire policy seeks nothing less than a rout of the gains which the Kurds and the Shiites have secured after the fall of the Tikriti-Baathist edifice. The Shiites have seen through his scheme. A history of disinheritance has given them the knowledge they need to recognize those who bear them ill will. American power may not be obligated -- and should not be -- to deliver the Shiites a new dominion in Iraq. But we can't once more consign them to the mercy of their enemies in the Arab world. At any rate, it is too late in the hour for such a policy, for the genie is out of the bottle and the Shiites will fight back. Gone is their old timidity and quietism. Their rejection of Mr. Brahimi's diplomacy is now laid out for everyone to see.

|| Nudnik 10:03 AM
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