A Good Start By John Cole

A little pressure is exerted, and all of a sudden some people want to play ball:

The Iraqi government said today that it had captured a half-brother of Saddam Hussein, a man who for several years headed the country’s domestic intelligence and security service, once the most feared agency in Iraq.

The half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti, was No. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis that the American government compiled after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. On the deck of cards portraying the 55 men, Mr. Tikriti appears as the six of diamonds, and a black-and-white portrait on the card shows him as a young, smiling man with a thin moustache. Two other half-brothers of Mr. Hussein who were on the list, Barzan al-Tikriti and Watban al-Tikriti, were seized right after the Hussein government crumbled.

The American government had put out a $1 million bounty for the capture of Sabawi al-Tikriti. The Associated Press reported that he had been captured by Syrian authorities and that he had been turned over to Iraq as a gesture of good will.

Diplomatic niceties and nervous hand-wringing have never achieved results, particularly in the Middle East. The lowest level of motivation is compliance, and there are three criteria that must be met in order to achieve compliance from a party that does not otherwise wish to comply- concern, control, and scrutiny.

When trying to gain compliance with otherwise uninterested and unmotivated parties, they must be sure that you are concerned with the issue at hand and serious in your intentions and proclamations. They must believe that you are able and willing to do something punitive should they fail to comply. Finally, they must believe that you will be able to detect a failure to comply. All three of these elements must be in place- an absence on any one of the elements will result in an unapologetic, recalcitrant, and non-compliant party.

Let’s take speeding as an example. Everyone is aware that governments at every level are concerned with speed limits, as this is expressed best by the numerous speed limit signs posted alongside every road. We are all (except for the truly socially deviant in society) aware that the police have the ability and willingness to follow through with punitive action, should we be observed breaking the speed limit.

Why, then, do so many speed? Because we all are aware that the police can’t be everywhere. The scrutiny is missing, and we all know it. Everyone reading this knows where the speed traps are in his/her hometown, and likewise where the police never have a presence. With just one of the three elements of concern, control, and scrutiny missing, compliance breaks down. There may be other issues as well – the perception that the punishment is not severe enough is another example.

I am not going to go into detail about the failures of the Clinton administration, and I will leave it to the reader which elements were not present. It is important to recognize, however, how right Bernard Lewis was about this:

These anti-American forces fall basically into two groups. The first, and in the long run the more important, come from the camp of al Qaeda and related religious movements. For them, America is now the leader of Christendom, the ultimate enemy in the millennial struggle which they hope to bring, in their own time, to a victorious conclusion. In the writings and speeches of Osama bin Laden and of his allies and disciples, hatred of America is less significant than contempt–the perception that America is a “paper tiger,” that its people have become soft and pampered–“hit them and they will run.” This perception was bolstered by frequent references to Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia, as well as to the feeble response to subsequent terrorist attacks in the 1990s, notably on the USS Cole and on the embassies in East Africa. It was this perception which undoubtedly underlay the events of Sept. 11, clearly intended to be the opening barrage of a new war against the Americans on their home ground. The response to this attack, and notably the operations in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, brought a rude awakening, and that is surely why there have been no subsequent attacks on U.S. soil.

When Bush declares that we will not be driven from Iraq, and that we aren’t going to run away from tough situations, many on the hard left chide him for ‘cowboy’ tough talk (or start with the chickenhawk nonsense), and it is their unwillingness or inability to understand the outcomes of their weakness that makes them so dangerous. We have paid a hefty price in both blood and treasure in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the War on Terror, and hopefully we are rounding the corner in the region. When vile and oppressive regimes who have previously thumbed their noses at the United States and the rest of the world begin to re-think their positions, it may be a sign that we are starting to see the real results of our dedication to the cause and our unwavering will.

Content used with the permission of John Cole from Balloon Juice. You can read more of his work by clicking here.

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