Joel Mowbray

As the violence heats up in Iraq, the level of concern voiced by politicians and commentators alike is understandably increasing accordingly.  But such pessimism is both counterproductive and wrong.

What most fail to understand is that Shi?ite Islam?the religion of 60% of Iraqis?actually provides the best opportunity to establish democracy in the Middle East.

The Senate?s most famous Democrat, Ted Kennedy, this week called Iraq ?George Bush?s Vietnam.?  Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) appeared to agree, comparing the latest conflict to the 1968 Tet Offensive.  Biden seemed to hint subtly that support for Iraq is about to rapidly decline; the Tet Offensive was a watershed moment when American attitudes about the Vietnam War forever turned.  Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) was far less subtle, encouraging a complete capitulation in Saddam?s former country. 

Perhaps it was not coincidental that as Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera was broadcasting the Democrats? remarks nearly round-the-clock, more and more Iraqi insurgents worked up the courage to fight the U.S.-led coalition forces.

For a period of several months, there was relative calm in Iraq.  The American commitment to the country seemed ironclad.  The moment that perception dissipated, though, so did the peace.

The murder and mutilation of four Americans in Fallujah was not just devastating for the immeasurable suffering and loss of life, but because of the weakness America showed in its response?or rather, the lack of one. 

The thugs in Fallujah had free reign to drag charred bodies through the streets and stone headless corpses hanging from a bridge because no one in the coalition forces responded to rescue the Americans.

It wasn?t very long after that that the U.S.-led coalition forces were facing full-fledged conflagration in the Sunni triangle and in parts of the Shi?ite south.

As soon as Shi?ites loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took up arms and took over several towns in southern Iraq, the topic of conversation on cable news and editorial pages turned to question of whether or not Shi?ites could become a functioning part of a democratic Iraq.

Whenever the issue of Shi?ites and democracy arises, Iran is inevitably discussed.  But despite the appearance of a democratic government?holding elections every few years that are 90% fixed by the ruling mullahs?Iran is run by a highly unpopular handful of tyrants.  In fact, if an honest election were held in Iran tomorrow?particularly among the 70% of the population under age 25?George W. Bush would beat the reigning mullahs in a landslide.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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