By being in denial is to cause a self-inflicted wound, failure to acknowledge the facts will inexorably lead to one’s demise. Saddam Hussein punished one of his General for giving an accurate assessment of his imminent defeat during the first Gulf War. In the second Gulf War, the world witnessed the American tanks moving into the Iraqi capital, through the mass media. Ali Sahhaf, the Iraqi Information Minister continued to broadcast the imminent victory of the Iraqi forces, according to him the US troops were defeated and committing mass suicide at the gates of Baghdad, and that there were "no US tanks in Baghdad". For his performance, he was given the title of Comical Ali.
This disease of being in denial is not confined to secular Arabs; the religious ones also suffer from the same complex. During the first Gulf War, I was conversing with Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad about the situation, and to my surprise, he seemed optimistic. He stated to the reporters that the foreign forces would be annihilated; his reasoning was based on the battles that took place during the crusades, when the Muslim forces eventually expelled the foreign forces. Because the invaders were defeated and expelled in the past, it will happen again.
According to the Sheikh, Saddam Hussein laid a trap for the American forces, and when the Iraqi army took the town of Khafji inside Saudi Arabia, hopes were raised that American forces would suffer heavy losses. However, deep down I knew this is would be reversed quickly by the superior US firepower and technology. Indeed, it was, the entire event was televised like a movie. The fierce Apaches, F16s, Stealth Bombers decimated the Iraqi forces with ease, and Khafji was retaken easily. Iraqi Scuds were like crude slingshots of cave dwellers, when compared to the laser guided technology used by the US forces.
Before 9/11, Usamah Bin Laden stated that the US was weaker than the Soviets; implying that it was going to be easier to fight the American forces, after the Soviets were expelled from Afghanistan. Such naive statements were naturally dismissed by the educated faction in the Arab world, journalists and commentators saw this as further confirmation of the sheer gullibility of the Jihadist camp. The US-Soviet comparison was based on ignorance; the US is part of the capitalist block that has continued to dominate the world for the last four hundred years, whereas communism only lasted about 60 years.
Today, many inside the Islamic movements continue to believe the US forces have lost the war in Iraq and Afghanistan; they view the US as a weak nation that is on the verge of collapsing. Such idiotic claims are just as comical as the show exhibited by Comical Ali. Of course, there is resistance and the US has suffered losses, but nothing compared to the losses that it has inflicted, using a fraction of its firepower. It is a fact the US forces have successfully invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, destroyed the infrastructure, killed and maimed hundreds of thousands. Their soldiers have invaded the homes of ordinary Muslims, raped their daughters and mothers, sodomised their sons, imposed puppet regimes, and yet this is supposed to be a victory? Even if the US forces decided to leave these places, they have already made their point. The war was about projecting US power, reminding the Islamic world, the Jihadist camp in particular, that this is what we can do under the guise of international law, and spreading democracy and human rights.
Military power in the international arena is relative; it is not how much firepower you have in absolute terms, but in relation to your competitors. After the demise of the Soviets, for the first time in recent history we have a unipolar world that is dominated by a single super power. The massive budget allocated to research and development has meant the creation of more powerful conventional and semi-conventional weapons. Therefore, the US military strength in relative and absolute term has increased over the last two decades. There are more US bases in the Islamic world; its cultural influence continues to grow as it penetrates the homes of the masses using the ubiquitous media.
It is time for the Islamic movements to recognise the real world, and come out of their fantasy about being victorious and stupid conspiracy theories that are product of elderly Arab men gossiping in coffee houses. Warfare has changed considerably; a Woody Allen type of character can easily eliminate a brigade of fierce Mujahideen from the cockpit of a F16. The battles are not determined by the bravery of soldiers, but by possessing the means to fight a state with immense firepower. Since in practical terms, only a state can fight another state that brings to the subject of the return of the Islamic State (Caliphate). Unfortunately, this word seems to have intoxicated those who advocate the Caliphate, their thought process is simplistic - once the Caliphate returns, it will unify the Muslim nations and displace the US leadership. Of all the people, one would expect Islamic activists to be sober, and take heed from history. Therefore, remember the Caliphate was destroyed once by the Capitalist state, thus they can do this again, the return of the Caliphate would be just the beginning of perilous journey.
Yamin Zakaria (email@example.com)
Published on 25th December 2010