By Alan W. Dowd

Worth It

Even after months of occupation and postwar pitched battles, the vast majority of Iraqis believe that the ouster of Saddam Hussein and toppling of his regime was worth it.  

According to a Gallup poll conducted last fall in and around Baghdad, almost two-thirds of Iraqis concede that liberation from Saddam’s rule is worth the temporary privations of the US-UK-led occupation. And more than two-thirds believe their lives will be even better five years from now. The wide-ranging poll was conducted the old-fashioned way, through hundreds of face-to-face interviews.  

Gallup also found that fully half of those polled think the Coalition Provisional Authority is getting better at responding to their needs from month to month. In fact, the percentage of Iraqis who favorably view Paul Bremer, who heads up the CPA, is double that of those who view him unfavorably. As one Iraqi said of the US authorities, “They work hard to do the right thing.”  

Even so, President Bush’s favorability ratings in Iraq hover under 30 percent, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s are at 20 percent. 

Operation Iranian Freedom?

If ever there was a sign that times are changing in the Middle East, it’s Hussein Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, who led the Islamic revolution in Iran and subsequent terror takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. In a series of recent interviews, the younger Khomeini expressed a grudging appreciation for the United States and open contempt for the radicalism of his grandfather. 

According to the younger Khomeini, who currently lives in Baghdad and plans to move to the holy city of Karbala, what the Americans did in 2003 was “liberation” pure and simple. The cleric said he looks forward to the day when his homeland of Iran is also liberated. “People do not want an Islamic regime anymore,” he explained in an interview with essayist Chris Hitchens. And citing his grandfather’s “failed Islamic revolution in Iran,” he doubts that efforts to create an Islamic state in Iraq will succeed. 

“Iranians insist on freedom,” Khomeini told the New York Times. “If it was necessary for it to come from abroad, especially from the United States, people will accept it.”  

Once Iran is liberated, he vows to return.  

No Easy Task

Yet another news analysis, this one published in January, paints a grim picture of the situation overseas: "We've lost the peace…We can't make it stick," the analysis begins. “Instead of coming in with a bold plan of relief and reconstruction, we came in full of evasions and apologies.” 

Authored by correspondent John DosPassos, who spent three months in the region, the report blames Washington for “a tangle of snarling misery” that has left the region worse off than after the last postwar peace. Moreover, according to DosPassos, “Never has American prestige in Europe been lower…‘Have you no statesmen in America,’ they ask?” 

Sound familiar? It should, but not for the reason you might think. DosPassos’ analysis has nothing to do with postwar Iraq. In fact, it wasn’t even written about the Middle East. It was written about Europe—post-World War II Europe, to be exact. And while it was published in January, it happened to be January of 1946.  

Titled “Americans are losing the victory in Europe” and published in Life magazine, DosPassos’ article was recently unearthed and excerpted by the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com and “Jessica’sWell,” a Texas-based website devoted to media and public policy. The piece should serve as a reminder that building democracy on the ruins of terror and distrust is no easy—but nor is it hopeless. 

Filling the Gaps

The citizen-soldiers of the Army National Guard and Reserves are carrying a heavy burden in the global campaign against terror. According to a recent Washington Times study, in the last two years of fighting they have experienced their highest death toll since Vietnam.  

All told, some 169,000 reservists and Guardsmen are on active duty today. Three out of every four of them are Army troops. According to Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, who heads the National Guard Bureau, we can expect more of the same as the war continues: “The National Guard is and will continue to be used at a rate that is unprecedented,” at least in the era of the all-volunteer force. 

In response to this trend, key voices in Congress are calling on the administration to add as many four active-duty combat divisions to the Army. As the Washington Post has reported, Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who hold key positions on the House Armed Services Committee as chairman and ranking member respectively, want two new divisions. Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), who argues that the Pentagon needs to add personnel to every branch, estimates that between 90,000 and 150,000 troops are needed to fill the gaps.

Published monthly in the American Legion Magazine, Under the Radar provides a snapshot of current challenges in international politics, U.S. foreign policy and national security.