Winning Hearts & Minds


Let me say that the Marine and Army units fought bravely in Fallujah.

Nevertheless, this is how we snatch defeat from the jaws of victor. You don’t enter a mosque with your feet shod. That goes double if you’re not Muslim–you don’t enter, period.

That we’ve yet to apply or enforce this simple, basic fact across the board almost two years after we invaded Iraq goes a long way towards explaining why we’ll lose this war. We can win every battlefield encounter, and in fact, we will. But an insurgency isn’t crushed on the battlefield–it’s crushed when its appeal is extinguished in the hearts and souls of the people whom the insurgency seeks to win over to its side.

Somewhere, there’s a young Iraqi making copies of this picture–a picture which was splashed across the front page of the Los Angeles Times, by the way–and plastering them all over the street and the Web. And while we may have killed a couple thousand insurgents in Fallujah, twice that number will fill their ranks, seeing in that picture everything that they hate about America.

Imagine how you would feel if twenty al-Qaeda thugs, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, were to shell the National Cathedral with mortars, then come inside, and take a break inside the ruins. Now multiply that feeling by at least a factor of 100, and that’s how your average Iraqi feels after seeing that picture.

That’s why winning Iraqi hearts and minds–and losing them, as we have, and continue to do every day–is so important. And pictures like this, in a war like this, are a terrible defeat, a defeat as terrible as any we could suffer on the battlefield.

6 responses to “Winning Hearts & Minds

  1. No imagination required; I know exactly how it would feel. Chanukah is coming up in three weeks, and an important part of that story is the profanation of the Temple and then its rededication. Perhaps they should send in a few Jewish chaplains.

  2. Welcome back to the blogosphere. The Bushies seem to be pretty talented at managing the American media, but seem totally uninterested in what the rest of the world thinks of us. I almost wonder if they aren’t trying to piss off the Arab world so totally that a global war b/w Islam and the West becomes inevitable.

  3. Safety.Neal, some of the people in the high-level advisory areas believe exactly that. I was raised a conservative Catholic – I’m a handshake away from Buchanan, I know people who worked on his and Keyes’ presidential campaigns – and before I defected I too was raised on all the rhetoric of Holy War and Old Europe giving itself to the infidel, and the outrage of Mosques being built in France and England, and how we should have finished the Job back in the 1200s but we lost our will to fight and now they’re coming to get us again…this was back circa 1975, btw.

    Yeah, they want a) Outre-mer II, or b) the Apocalypse – the Catholic advisors to Rove like his good buddy Michael Novak are on the Outre-mer side, like their heroes Hillaire Belloc and GK Chesterton, the protestant ones like Falwell are the Apocalyptic Morons.

  4. Apparently there is an even more shocking desecration going the rounds in Iraq. I live in Britain so I don’t know, but I’m guessing the US media has totally ignored this thing that Riverbend posted about:

  5. I’m pretty far left, and anti-war. But, what if we had machine guns in the National Cathedral and were launching rockets from the top?

    The reason we’re in mosques at all is that they are being used by insurgents as safe havens for fighters who know we don’t want to go into a mosque.

    Personally I think we should just pull out. We made a terrible mistake and we can’t make it better by staying there. If we stay, there’ll just be more pictures like this, because we put the Marines in an impossible position — be culturally sensitive, *and* root out fighters who hide inside mosques, private homes, and use suicide tactics that make everybody, even the innocent person in a car, look like a potential threat.

  6. Why do you say a non-Moslem can’t enter a mosque? Respectful visitors are permitted even in very holy mosques, like Al Aqsa. Without shoes, as you say, but allow to enter.