TCS Daily


The Residue of Design

By Austin Bay - June 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death is, like Branch Rickey's definition of luck, the residue of design.

A U.S. Air Force strike on a farmhouse near the Iraqi town of Baqubah killed Zarqawi, known as Z-Man to his pursuers. His deeds mark him as a savage mass murderer and a religious zealot with a mile-wide streak of megalomania. He was also a gambler, an operational terrorist "commander" who sought to incite a sectarian civil war, theorizing a Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq would (in his words) "rally Sunni Arabs" to al-Qaida.

Zarqawi understood his own strategic dilemma. He knew an Iraqi democracy means the defeat of his brand of Islamo-fascism. In a letter from Zarqawi to his al-Qaida superiors, captured in early 2004, the terrorist chieftain wrote: When "the sons of this land (Iraq) will be the authority ... this is the democracy. We will have no pretexts (i.e., for waging a terror war)."

The nickname Z-Man may suggest a Hollywood thriller with a conclusive chase scene. The hunt for al-Qaida's Prince of Iraq, however, has been long, complex and frustrating. In 2004, when I served in Iraq, Z-Man topped Multi-National Corps-Iraq's wanted list. One of the special operations liaison officers attached to Corps' headquarters would greet me in the morning with a wry, "We were busy last night." The special ops personnel stay busy -- but hunting senior al-Qaida leaders ranked as the highest priority. The corps' senior special ops liaison officer told me the week I left Iraq: "We'll get Zarqawi, eventually. But it's a hard, slow job finding one guy with the kind of protection he has. It's not a Hollywood movie."

The hard, slow work of collecting and analyzing intelligence leads might yield an ephemeral intelligence breakthrough, one requiring near-instantaneous rapid reaction in order to launch a successful strike on the terrorist and his cohorts.

Zarqawi evaded several close encounters of the lethal kind with Coalition special operations forces. This week, Z-Man's luck ran out.

Zarqawi's death is not a major military victory, but it is a major political victory for the Iraqis and the new Iraqi government. Terrorist car bombs will continue to explode and murder men, women and children. Iraqi commentators, among them Omar of the Web log Iraq-the-Model, believe al-Qaida will launch revenge strikes.

Zarqawi's death is not a turning point. The War on Terror is a war of ideological and political attrition, and in wars of abrasion there are few turning points, only long trends. The long-term trends in Iraq are positive -- an emerging democracy in the heart of the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East is astonishing news.

Zarqawi's death does give Iraq a significant psychological boost, and provides Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new government with a huge political and media opportunity.

Maliki and his government are building a democratic political process -- a difficult job where successes are incremental. Removing Zarqawi forwards that process, in several ways.

Maliki promised the Iraqi people he will improve the internal security situation. Beginning in late 2003, Zarqawi attempted to ignite a sectarian civil war between Iraqi Shias and Sunnis. Maliki can use Zarqawi's death to help heal those sectarian rifts in Iraq.

Zarqawi's death serves as an important media and political touchstone for the new Iraqi government. The successful counter-terror operation focused international press attention on the prime minister's appointment of a new minister of defense, minister of interior and minister of national security. His cabinet is now complete.

Maliki must take further advantage of the moment. Terror bombs draw large headlines -- and that's understandable, for the bombs are dramatic news. Over time, however, media focus on bombs and terrorist massacre has tended to obscure or limit recognition of Iraq's incremental successes -- the daily, meticulous, trial-and-error efforts it takes to create a democratic state and win a war. Bombs have media sizzle -- an explosion gives a TV producer a "hot image" that attracts eyeballs. Bricks lack sizzle, and a story that builds brick-by-brick is tough to cover, especially in a 24-7 news cycle.

Zarqawi's "termination" is a paradoxical headline -- a dramatic event that turns eyes and critical interest toward Iraq's new government and the slow but remarkable successes that created it.

Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist and TCS contributor.

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6 Comments

The media were sad
The American MSM were downright sad on June 8th.

On a day that Americans were glad that a major terrorist had been eliminated through the tedious work of coalition military and intelligence, our news media struggled to portray that victory in a positive light.

Yes. The American mainstream media are sad. Fortunately, the other media are taking up the slack in keeping Americans informed.

Another nail in the profitibility coffin for the MSM.

I agree, it's not a turning point, but rather continues and accelerates the ongoing trend
Z-man won't be easy to replace. He had several decades of practical experience. He had contacts throughout the world. He had charisma.

Even if they do find a replacement with Z-man's skills, it will take him months, or even years to gain the experience.

Al-Queda in Iraq, and in the rest of that region as well, will be hampered in the coming months.

Other terrorists are going to be worried, they will be spending much of their time looking over their shoulders, rather than planning strikes.

Bricks Vs. Bombs
"... media focus on bombs and terrorist massacre has tended to obscure or limit recognition of Iraq's incremental successes -- the daily, meticulous, trial-and-error efforts it takes to create a democratic state and win a war. Bombs have media sizzle -- an explosion gives a TV producer a "hot image" that attracts eyeballs. Bricks lack sizzle, and a story that builds brick-by-brick is tough to cover, especially in a 24-7 news cycle..."

While media coverage of terrorist bombings and assorted other crimes against humanity is understandably more "sexy" than coverage of the slow, drawn-out building of a potentially free and open society in the Middle East, the American media doesn't even try to cover that part of the story.

How long has it been since you've seen a major media story on sucesses in Iraq? Have you ever seen one? To the old-line leftist Ameridcan media, such stories simply are not news. (Altho I bet it would be if the President was a Democrat.)

So, do you wonder that the majority of Americans no longer support the President and the war in Iraq?

The Real Big Story
Yesterday's most important news was overshadowed by the killing of al-Zarqawi:

Sunni, 2 Shiites Given Key Security Posts in Iraq Cabinet
LA Times, June 9, 2006

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Thursday named the heads of key security ministries — appointments Iraqi politicians had fought over bitterly amid increasing death tolls.

Gen. Abdul-Qader Mohammed Jassim Mifarji, a Sunni Arab, was sworn in as defense minister, and Jawad Bolani, a Shiite, was installed as interior minister. Sherwan Waili, also a Shiite, was given the post of minister of state for national security.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/
la-fg-security9jun09,1,3307139.story?coll=la-news-a_section

This is how Vietnam should have been fought from the start.
Those who think this is another Vietnam, forget that once we took the war to the North they wanted to negotiate.

The LBJ administration made it a quagmire by limiting actions outside of South Vietnam. We are not granting the enemy sanctuary, at least so far. If this becomes a struggle with the Iranians using terrorists as their proxies, we might have to start bombing across the border. What worries me most is that Hillary might get elected and turn this into another quagmire by tying our military's hands.

The most important thing is the confidence of the people of Iraq in their new government. I think the death of Zarqawi will ehnance that and make ordinary citizens more willing to provide tips. If that becomes widespread, the terrorists won't be able to operate. You can't even control crime unless you have assistance from the public.

How true!
"You can't even control crime unless you have assistance from the public."

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