Links, links, links

As the East Germans used to sing.

Three links all worth a read:

Juan Cole has an interesting piece on the Iraqi ‘resistance’ and why the Vietnam analogy is nonsense. He spoils it somewhat with his obsession with finding other analogies for Iraq (Northern Ireland and Lebanon) as if we can’t look at the situation without the crutch of a historical analogy. But he is, as Eric notes, surprisingly upbeat.

So, what are the neo-cons saying about Wolfie’s nomination for the World Bank job?

Find out at the Weekly Standard.

Like I suspect a lot of people I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On the one hand as a neo-con he might well continue the mistaken belief of many in the US that their model of free-market economics is the only possible route to prosperity in the developing world. But in terms of the democratisation project, having a committed regime-changer in a position of power might lead the World Bank to be able to offer some carrots to go with the already evident sticks.

Stephen F. Hayes in the Standard piece believes Wolfowitz is a misunderstood man but not that misunderstood.

Finally, this interview with Reul Marc Gerecht, author of a new book on democracy and the Arab world offers an interesting take on the possible routes ahead:

Bin Ladenism grew from contemporary Islamic fundamentalism, and only the fundamentalists can defeat bin Ladenism. Muslim “moderates” can’t defeat bin Ladenism since they don’t speak to the same audience with the same language and passions. Pro-American dictators also cannot defeat bin Ladenism since they have been an important part of the equation that gave us bin Ladenism.

Many American liberals and neoconservatives think that you somehow get to have Thomas Jefferson in the Middle East without first having Martin Luther. The fundamentalists—not the “moderates” who are already too evolved—will produce the Muslim Martin Luther. The “moderates” are essentially like us, which is to say they are more or less irrelevant. They are not part of the Muslim mainstream. They are not competitive in most Middle Eastern intellectual circles, which are increasingly dominated by fundamentalists.

Interesting” was a good word for Juan
Cole’s post linked to by Harry last night
. It is
really very interesting to see the prancing professor
squirm — and spin. I don’t know if Harry’s remark was
a tongue-in-cheek comment about Cole’s rear-guard
action to discourage and discredit the democratic
project in Iraq by spinning anything he can get his
hands on to show the situation in a bad light, or if
Harry is making what I call below the “charitable

One way of reading Cole’s latest is: if it looks like
the Iraqis might actually accept a little liberal
ambiguity in government while the economy and security
situation improve, or even form a new government, lets
wrap the struggle up as stability already achieved (so
that any later upswing in the fighting can be pointed
to immediately with extreme disappointment) yet not
authentically stable but actually being undermined by
deeply rooted, long-running ethnic disputes left to
simmer as in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and…
Lebanon, so that I can’t be said to have been entirely

That would be consistent with at least two other
JuanCole posts this month —
from trying
to paint the second-largest vote-getter in the Iraqi
election as a terrorist organization
on 1 March,
UMich’s Dr. No moved on March 14 to complaining
that a nefarious U.S. plan is stopping those very
people from forming a government

If either one of those assertions were true it would
certainly be newsworthy, but it appears that neither
of them are. Yet Cole was spinning each of them,
independently, so as to put the Iraqi project in as
negative a light as possible. And, just as his
hero-in-obfuscation, Noam Chomsky, Cole was throwing
up acres of “background” information as sustaining his
position but which, upon examination, suggest the
opposite of what he was claiming.

He has a list of news reports from the 1980s which he
says “nobody wants to bring up” because they show the
likely Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Ja’fari, to
have a terrorist background. But in fact every
single one of the news reports
(check out the
first link but also scroll down and read the old news
support al-Ja’fari’s statement that the
terrorist attacks attributed to his al-Da’wa Party
were carried out by a splinter group of the
organization which was run and financed out of Iran to
support Iranian goals. One of the reports even refers
to the organization as the “Iranian Dawa Group”. Another
backgrounder on the al Dawa party
, by the Middle
East Media Research Institute, says nothing about any
terrorist activity by Ja’fari’s group. But it says
Ja’fari’s “political pragmatism” was “opposed by
another wing of the Da’wa Party led by Abu Bilal
al-Adib, who supported the Iranian agenda and
continues to reside in Iran and to be financially
supported by the Iranian government”.

Cole’s post about the alleged U.S. effort to block the
Shiite majority from forming a government in Iraq says
that the 2/3 majority required for Iraq’s first
government “is characteristic of only one nation on
earth, i.e. American Iraq. I fear it is functioning in
an anti-democratic manner to thwart the will of the
majority of Iraqis, who braved great danger to come
out and vote.” (Notice that Iraqis “braved great
danger to come out and vote” in what Dr. Cole had
earlier described as a
sick joke
.) But in fact the US Constitution itself
mandates an even more rigorous process for making
fundamental changes, which this first elected
post-Saddam government in Iraq is charged with doing.
Belgium, which has a bilingual multi-ethnic polity,
requires a 2/3 majority as Lebanese
blogger Tony Badran points out
. Cole, in true
Chomskian style, is comparing apples and oranges. He
compares France’s or the UK’s procedure for a newly
elected parliament to form a government in ordinary
circumstances with Iraq’s procedure for forming its
first freely elected government in 30 years, one which
will surely have enormous influence over the country’s

He’s not unskilled, this fellow, but maybe desperate
enough to be revealing a lack of principles. In which
case, it wouldn’t be altogether surprising to see
“Informed Comment” on topics other than Iraq with
increasing frequency.

Or, to be more charitable, maybe this is an honest
re-think in progress — after all, he did ask if
perhaps the Iraqi Prime Minister to-be, al-Ja’fari, is
“another Mandela” by reaching out to Sunnis as Mandela
did to whites. Let us hope both these things are true
— that al-Ja’fari has the integrity and wisdom of
Mandela and that Juan Cole can do an honest re-think.