Sunday, November 07, 2004

Elections and martial law
Does it strike anyone else as something of a bad omen for the Iraqi elections that the unelected Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has declared a 60-day state of emergency? I don't blog too much about Iraq, both because I'm not there, and because other people have more and better things to say about it than me, but the latest developments there are quite disturbing. A little more than a month ago, the U.S. sent forces into Samarra and claimed that they had "tightened their grip" on the city. Unfortunately, the insurgents seem not to have gotten the memo. The fact that the U.S. can send forces into a city, ostensibly pacify the place, and then watch in horror as it explodes as soon as they leave indicates that the rule of law is ephemeral indeed and tends to vanish whenever U.S. troops move along their way. It particularly does not bode well for the assault on Fallujah.

Now, it may be that the thousands of insurgents who have been holed up in Fallujah will stand and fight, and of course lose, to the vastly superior U.S. forces now massed around the city. But it seems far more likely that many of them have already moved on, since the U.S. has been telegraphing this maneuver for more than a month, and since anyone with an internet hook-up knew it was going to be postponed until after the presidential election. I have little doubt that the U.S. will roll through the city and claim that it has been pacified sometime this week. But the question on everyone's minds should be -- is the city actually pacified, and has this engagement succeeded in crippling the insurgency, or just in transporting it to another locale? If the sophisticated operation in Fallujah is successfully packed up and unloaded in some other city, this means two things -- one is that counter-insurgency efforts are unlikely to ever be fully successful, and two, that the insurgency has considerable support from some elements of the population. I hope I'm wrong, but I fear that this is the case.

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