Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"A Good Week...For Cowboy Unilateralists"

In light of President Bush's victory lap-ette around Baghdad's Green Zone inspired by the impending burial of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - and the commensurate 'Zarqawi's death is a watershed' triumphalism sprouting up from so many fertile plots in Right blogistan - I thought I would disinter an oldie but goodie from the archives to remind us all about the value of some good old "let's wait six months before we start crowing" circumspection.

I'm not saying that the capture of Zarqawi was meaningless - that would be a gross oversimplification and it would ignore the fact that ridding the world of such a depraved killer will always have meaning. But in the words of Jim Henley, "I doubt it will make much difference to the future of Iraq, where the problems are about structure rather than personality..."

With that in mind, and with an assist from my Aussie on-the-spot Tim Dunlop, I offer you this object lesson in self-restraint from none other than Hugh Hewitt's favorite person in the whole wide world, Mark Steyn. Here's Steyn getting a bit too worked up over the capture of Saddam way back when we were still only pivoting around the first couple of "turning points" in Iraq. Ahhh, heady days those were.

As for [the insurgency] being "not just about one man," don't bet on it. In May, I was sitting in a restaurant in Ramadi just west of Baghdad, chewing the fat (very literally, alas) with various Iraqi chaps, all of a Sunni disposition.

"Hey, things are gonna be great from now on, right, guys?" I said, by way of an icebreaker.

They shrugged gloomily. "Where is Saddam?" said one, pointing at the BBC News on the TV in the corner. "Where is Saddam? He has money, he has friends. He will be back."

In the months since, Saddam has been all but irrelevant to any active coordination of the so-called "resistance," But the fact he was still on the run, somewhere out there, meant that, in theory, he could be behind it, and that made it easier for the Ba'athist dead-enders and the imported terrorists to lean on communities in the Sunni Triangle for support and cover.

The sight of Saddam looking like a department-store Santa who has been sleeping off a bender in a sewer for a week will deal a fatal blow to the Ba'athist thugs' ability to intimidate local populations. The insurgency will continue for a few weeks yet, but it will peter out, like the dictator, not with a bang but a whimper. [ed note: does one laugh, cry or both?]

As for the Western naysayers, let me go back to what I wrote in July, after the killing of Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay, and the Democratic Party reaction: "If they're still droning on like this on the day Rummy's passing out souvenir vials of Saddam's DNA, they'll be heading for oblivion."[...]

"What happened this week," I wrote back on Uday-Qusay Tuesday, "is a foretaste of what the party can expect in the next 15 months: Reality will keep intruding, and if the Dems keep moving the goalposts ever more frantically, pretty soon they'll be campaigning from Planet Zongo. Recently, Sen. Tom Daschle insisted Uday and Qusay were all very well, but where was the Big Guy? Why hadn't that slacker George Bush caught him yet?

Next question, Tom? [emph. mine]

My name's not Tom, but I would like to ask a question nonetheless: Mark, how's the weather on Planet Zongo?

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