Hard to Terrorize

Strategy Page has an interesting post on the ineffectiveness of the terror campaign in Iraq. One line really arrested my attention:

“Iraqis are hard to terrorize, but easy to piss off.”

I never really thought of it before but I would image that it would be hard to seriously rattle the average Iraqi with the odd suicide bomber. After 20+ years of Saddam would terrorist attacks seem, well, terrifying?

After seeing your sons marched off at gunpoint to be slaughtered like sheep in Saddam’s wars, after having entire cities wiped out by gas, after mass executions, after living day after day waiting for Saddam’s goons to randomly grab a family member and torture them to death, would the extremely minimal chance that you or your loved ones will get killed in a terrorist bombing really faze you?

Most Iraqis, and especially the Shia and the Kurds, have already lived through a hell which dwarfs anything the current conflict could throw at them. Strategy Page points out that the day after attacks on police recruits, even more recruits show up to apply. These attacks don’t seem to create any terror at all. Iraqis just seem to plow ahead, virtually ignoring them.

The long term danger is not that the majority of Iraqis will collapse in fear of the attacks but that they will grow exasperated and decide to teach the Sunni holdouts a bloody lesson. This may in fact be the terrorists’ true goal, but they may miscalculate badly.

An enraged Iraqi majority, trained and backed by the Coalition, could be a far more formidably force than the Sunnis reckon on.

8 thoughts on “Hard to Terrorize”

  1. The Kurds have to be wary of the Turks, and the Shia of the Iranians and Sunnis from the surrounding countries. I don’t think that they’ll turn on the Iraqi Sunnis en masse.

  2. Ralf Goergens ,

    Your probably right but the Kurds have already offered to send Kurdish militia units, which by all accounts are quite skilled and motivated, into the Sunni triangle. To date, the offers have not been accepted because the goal is to create an Iraqi national army and not one based on ethnic groups.

    But if the national Army does not coalesce soon we may see something like that happening. Strategy page is already worried that Shia are assassinating Sunni leaders associated with the insurgency.

  3. Al Queda’s strategy in Iraq has got to be one of the most inept, politically and militarily, of all time. The idea that slaughtering people at random on a continuous basis is a viable method for gaining their support is absurd.

    They’ll go on, I’m sure, killing people, if for no other reason than sheer frustration. However, they’ve already lost they just haven’t come to terms yet with that fact. The Iraqi population has already moved on.

  4. One argument I’ve seen is that a possible goal of the current action is indeed to start major-league inter-ethnic warfare. Not, mind, because those behind it think that the Sunnis will win.

    But rather because it would mean the end of any hopes of a unified government, causing the nation to descend into virtual anarchy, which would mean that criminal gangs could become de-facto local governments in whatever areas they were able to dominate. In other words, the goal isn’t to convert Iraq into Syria (or into Iran), the goal is to convert Iraq into Somalia, which for all practical purposes has no government beyond a handful of warlords.

  5. The goal seems to be to make the country ungovernable, on the theory that anything is better than a successful Iraqi government along the lines developing now. That is not necessarily an irrational strategy. Keeping the country under control by abject terror was the method used under Saddam, now it is being used by the resistance. Keep people cowering due to threats and violence, skip hearts and minds and just go straight for constant kicks in the testicles. Let them know that the most outrageous violence is to be expected, and show them that neither the Americans nor the new government’s forces can stop you. That is a strategy. It is basically a way to stay viable, waiting for the Americans to leave, so you can carve out enclaves you can control once they are gone. It does reflect, as SDB suggests, a recognition that controlling the whole country is not possible. It is about staking out gang turf. If these people are not totally crushed, the strategy may well work.

  6. I agree with much of the comments above and the post. However, it seems to me that their campaign may not be aimed at any kind of terrorizing or provocation of Iraqis; it may, in fact, simply be an effort to keep the Coalition from being able to claim final victory. The toll on our troops certainly has portions of the media and a great many of my acquaintences convinced that our own government is inept and that the war is a mistake.

    They may not scare the Iraqis, but if their goal is to wear down the resolve of the U.S. public–well, they aren’t doing the worst possible job, are they?

  7. if their goal is to wear down the resolve of the U.S. public–well, they aren’t doing the worst possible job, are they?

    Scott, That is exactly why, as I’ve said all along, our prime objective needs to be getting the Iraqi armed forces stood up as quickly as possible while simultaneously moving forward with political progress. As long as Iraqis have a solid, hopeful alternative to chaos, they’ll choose it.

    Politically, this insurgency is on its’ last legs. Militarily, they can continue to kill for some time. As long as the Iraqis continue to stand up military and police forces more quickly than the terrorists can reconstitute themselves we’re all on the correct side of those converging events.

  8. Given the overwhelming negetivity and my initial expectations going into the war, especially as of late, I’m always amazed how low actual casualty numbers are.

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