Monday, May 24, 2004

"Pendulum pundits" 

A few days ago I (again) commented on the loss of heart among the pro-war crowd in light of recent setbacks and scandals. Read Michael Young's take on the topic in "Reason", as he chastises "pendulum pundits" (get it?) for misunderstanding Iraqis.

"The shortcoming of the pro-war crowd in Washington is that in their zeal to topple Saddam Hussein, they never read up on the world they were entering into—particularly the ways of the Arab market, or souq. One doesn't have to like or be liked in the souq, but one must stand up for his end and avoid retiring when there is still room for compromise. Much like their anti-war foes who have an interest in proving the 'quagmire' theory right, the pendulums are having trouble reading the dynamism in Iraq. Things may be bad for the U.S, but the Iraqis realize that once the bargaining ends, everybody loses.

"Arab societies, like many others, have always bought breathing space by negotiating with those in authority. Even Saddam had to play patronage politics to stay in place. The U.S. is in a similar position today. It alone has the power of the purse, but with a difference: it has not stifled the Iraqis, nor has it reacted to the armed groups in the 'Sunni triangle' and southern Iraq with mass repression. For Iraqis, the June 30 transfer of power deadline is real enough that some are fighting to gain the most out of it; those with whom the U.S. has already dealt, such as Ayatollah Ali Sistani, prefer to secure their gains through a peaceful transition...

"Iraq's ambient instability comes partly from the fact that virtually everyone there expects something to happen come June 30. Where the Iraqis are concerned with agreeing a price, the anxious pendulums still think in terms of 'winning hearts and minds'."
I hope that Young is right. One thing's for sure, as my grandmother used to say: things are never quite as good or quite as bad as they say they are. Come June 30, it will be fascinating to watch Iraq try to stand on its own two feet.


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