He declared a cease-fire in Iraq last year, and extended it last month. The standard Associated Press article's lead paragraph had a familiar tone:
"Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr opted Friday to keep the cease-fire order for his Mahdi Army militia in place for another six months, a step that reinforces al-Sadr's importance while holding the specter of a spike in U.S. and Iraqi casualties at bay." International Herald Tribune (February 22, 2008).
Nothing new here: 'powerful anti-American leader ends violence in country where America started war.' Standard-issue establishment talking points.
Muqtada al-Sadr, Victim of American SuccessI'm going to suggest an alternative interpretation of the facts.
Muqtada al-Sadr, defender of the Shiites against America (and Sunnis), had it made while Al Qaeda, and assorted militias and gangs in Iraq, were killing Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, miscellaneous Muslims, non-Muslims, and anyone else who happened to be around.
Times were good for al-Sadr, as long as the coalition had a relatively light footprint in Iraq. Sure, some of his supporters got killed, but he had plenty. Besides, the survivors were even more convinced that they needed al-Sadr to protect them from Sunnis and Americans.
Disaster for al-Sadr : Outbreak of PeaceThen the current American administration started the 'troop surge,' and Iraqis in general caught on to the fact that it was Al Qaeda, not America, that was bombing and beheading their neighbors.
Violence went down. And al-Sadr's support (apparently) went down with it.
Hence the cease-fire.
Sounds paradoxical, but it makes sense: when you can't launch an effective attack, declare a cease-fire, use the lull to re-group, and hope for the best. It's worked for groups like Hamas, and there's no reason why al-Sadr shouldn't try the same tactic.
The idea that American efforts, particularly military efforts, can have positive results, goes against conventional wisdom. But conventional wisdom isn't always right.
I think this is one of those times.
Hope for FailureThere's still hope for the post-Vietnam 'America is always wrong' point of view, though.
The surge is ending.
There's even a chance that the coalition will pull out, quickly, from Iraq. If that happens, the odds are that the Iraqi military won't be able to keep the peace. Then, al-Sadr and all the other people who depend on death and destruction to stay in power will have a field day.
And, it will be 'the fault of America:' not because of the pullout, but because of the military actions that brought comparative peace to Iraq. Illogical, but that's the way we've been conditioned to associate. Not "think," "associate."
Post-Surge Iraq: Another ViewFinally, a more conventional view of post-surge Iraq is in "What Happens After the Surge?" FOXNews (March 12, 2008). The op-ed writer points out that Iraq is making deals with Iran and China, and that Turkey has invaded Iraq.
That last item refers to what's going on up in Kurdistan. And it's a real issue.
I'm not as upset about those developments, though. America is making deals with China, when it comes to that. Iran and Iraq share a common border. It would be a little odd if the two nations didn't make economic deals.
No, I don't approve of China's policies: for one thing, I think of "Xizang" as "Tibet," even though China conquered their neighbor back in 1951. And I certainly don't approve of Iran's foreign or domestic policies.
But Iraq lives in a world where those countries exist. So do we. Like it or not, all nations have to deal with unpleasant and sometimes dangerous neighbors. Iraq is an independent nation. Their government doesn't need American permission to make deals.
I just hope that Iraqi leaders use good sense, running their country.