Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world

3/12/2006

Means and Ends in Iraq

Filed under: World — Dangerous Dan @ 2:06 pm

Sunnis and native insurgents in Iraq are starting to band together to kick out foreign al-Qaeda fighters. This isn't the first report I've seen on the phenomenon and it isn't terribly surprising. The problem is that the three groups do not share the same ends. The insurgents' primary end is to get Americans out of Iraq, the Sunnis' is to regain power, and al-Qaeda's is to kill infidels. That is, the ends are nationalistic, political, and ideological, respectively.1

When the U.S. first invaded, these three groups were natural allies in attacking American forces. The insurgents thought doing so would bloody our nose and get us out of the country, the Sunnis thought it could drive us out so they could reassert their authority, and al-Qaeda wanted to kill soldiers of the Great Satan. So, for the insurgents and Sunnis, attacking Americans was a means to a further end, whereas for al-Qaeda, it was an end in itself.

Things have changed, however. Following the first general elections in Iraq in January 2005 and Bush's insistence on not withdrawing, it started becoming apparent to the native insurgents and especially the Sunnis that outright violence was becoming a less and less effective means to achieve their ends. After the Sunnis largely boycotted that election and were excluded from the government-building process, they realized that if they wanted any power in the new Iraq, they were going to have to start participating in its nascent government and elections. The path to political power lay in democracy and not the old-fashioned tyranny to which they had been accustomed.

While some (many?) insurgents continue violence against Americans, others have realized that the best way to get U.S. forces out of Iraq and regain control of their country is to make Iraq stable and self-sufficient. That is, the reason for the U.S. being there needs to be removed, control needs to be centered in a truly Iraqi government, and perhaps the new government can even request that America remove all its forces. Again, the best means to achieving their end has changed.

Al-Qaeda, though, never saw killing Americans as a means to something else (as the insurgents or Sunnis did), but as an end in itself. They accordingly have continued their violence and, as it becomes more difficult to kill U.S. soldiers, have turned their ire on the Sunnis and other Iraqis whom they see as collaborators with America because they are participating in the political process.

Thus, the insurgents, Sunnis, and al-Qaeda are no longer the natural allies they once were. Since foreign al-Qaeda fighters who fight for ideology are now harmful to the ends of the insurgents and Sunnis (as well as to their lives), the insurgents and Sunnis have a potent interest is ridding the country of al-Qaeda.

(link via CQ)

Others blogging: TigerHawk


  1. I'm roughly lumping them into three different groups with specific interests, but there is obviously gray here and overlap among them such that, say, a native insurgent is both nationalistically and ideologically motivated and some native insurgents are purely ideologically motivated. Nevertheless, I think these divisions describe the primary end they seek and I'm describing native insurgents as not ideologues. [back]

1 Comment »

  1. “BAGHDAD, March 14 — Police recruits sank their shovels into a shallow grave alongside a highway this morning and turned up a grisly find: the bodies of 29 unidentified men, bound, blindfolded and freshly shot.”

    There is your ends. Democracy building. Freeing the people. It is good to know that the people of Iraq are better off now than under Saddam. But the “people have a choice” apparently – kill or be killed. There is a choice.

    Comment by Anonymous — 3/14/2006 @ 8:43 pm

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