Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Real Problems: Militarily, we've been dominant in Iraq. But we've slipped a bit in the perception game. Lately the United States has been perceived in the Middle East as both weak and cruel -- a terrible combination in that region.

The prisoner-abuse scandal is inciting anger among Arabs. We're going to need to crack down hard on any wrongdoing to salvage any shred of credibility. Fortunately, Bush is at least talking tough to start things off.

I'm also worried about the Iraqis' perception of our pullout from Fallujah. From a military standpoint, it made sense to withdraw our marines and put in an Iraqi security force. We've toppled the regime, so we don't need to keep pounding away at the Iraqis. We just need to make sure security is maintained.

But many of the insurgents have interpreted our withdrawal as a victory. That message is emboldened by the seemingly ineffective Iraqi security force that is meant to take over. However, so long as the radicals in Fallujah don't gain excessive power in Iraq, their protests could be negligible.

Yet I'm afraid this is a bad turn of events in postwar Iraq. Some people have been harping on every uprising and every terrorist attack to paint Bush as incompetent. I've never bought any of that. We defeated Saddam Hussein handily a year ago. Now we're continuing our fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorists who are entering the country. This fits perfectly with our larger war on terror, which will take awhile, and we can definitely win.

While the latest events have been a hard hit for us, we're still on the offensive and we're still winning. This is just going to make a difficult job even harder. But we're more in danger of defeating ourselves than of losing to our enemies. This is nothing we can't handle. The war will take patience and perseverance.


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