What as the Arab World Learned from the Iraq Debacle

I was inspired by astro’s recent thread:Assuming we limp away from Iraq debacle at some point, what lessons do we take away?

I viewed this debate as directed towards people in the US, and then towards the Western word, since it focused heavily on isolationist policies and the relationships between the first and third worlds. So I’d like to flip the debate around and address the same question by from an Arab perspective.

Since the end of the war I’ve noticed the following trends:
1.) Libia caves and gives up its WMD program.
2.) Iran denounces the practice of torture.
3.) The Arab summit talks about reforms.
4.) Saudi Arabia has had to face monthly terrorist attacks.

So what has the Middle East learned from the Iraq Debacle?

*Note: I use the term Arab World very loosely to represent the opposite of the Western World, such that it also includes ME/NA countries and Iran which were most directly impacted by the war.

This is one of those threads which Sam Stone was refering to in a recent pit thread where you have to definitely weigh the shit storm that will come down on you if you answer honestly.
What do I really think they learned? They learned that their militaries can’t possible compete with a modern military like the US has. But they kind of learned that during the first gulf war to be honest. It was just emphasized by first Afghanistan (which we made look incredibly easy from their perspective), and then Iraq…which we also made look easy, at least during the true combat phase before ‘peace’ was restored (snort).

The other thing I think they are learning is how vulnerable the US is to criticism of its actions, and how easy it is to divide our populations in long drawn out occupations/resistance movements by playing our faults off against us, and appealing to our very real concern with being the ‘good guys’ who do no wrong, who don’t abuse prisoners or kill women and children, etc. Again, this is a lesson that SHOULD have been truely learned in Vietnam…but is now being re-emphasized in Iraq. And I think the people of the ME are taking it to heart. Actions they wouldn’t bat an eye at if it was done by one of THEM are howled at with outrage and anger…and they are striking a cord here in the US and elsewhere in the western world. And you know what…they SHOULD strike a cord here, because we SHOULD be concerned when such things happen. However, its definitely our soft spot, and its something that can and is easily manipulated against us.

However, I think the biggest lesson they are learning is uncertainty. They can no longer be really sure what the US might do. We can go along for years in our shell, ignoring all kinds of provocations…and then suddenly (to them), spring forth for really no reason at all (again, to them…after all, Saddam really wasn’t doing anything new) and simply topple a country in the region with no appearent effort. We must seem almost a force of nature to some of them (actually, an Indian friend of mine described us as such, but I’ll assume that this isn’t TOO off base in the ME as well, for some folks anyway).

Finally, I think some of them might have gotten an inkling of how the US reacts when its attacked. It lashes out, and its anger is pretty terrible. I doubt this lesson is lost on many people there…not even on AQ and our pal ObL. Oh, I don’t think it will stop him from trying something spectacular again, but it had to give him pause at how fast Afghanistan and the Taliban folded when the US came after them.


I think that the Arab and Western worlds will be more divided than ever after the Iraqi war, simply because I see no way for America and its allies to leave without resentment from both sides.

What will we have learned over here in America? Nothing, I think, since Vietnam seemed to have taught us nothing, either. I wish it would teach us that trying to occupy countries will never, never work in the modern world, but I don’t think it will.

What will the Arabs have learned? Moderate Arabs will learn to hate Americans as much as radical ones do, and the radical ones will learn ever more effective ways to make terror.

I am trying hard not to be cynical about this situation, but all I see happening is hatred leading to intolerance leading to murder leading to injustice and tyranny.

We taught a good number of people that the militant extremists were right - America is out to target them and change their way of life.

[Homer Simpson]
They haven’t learned a thing.
[/Homer Simpson]

Zagadka is right - the main thing that Arabs have learnt is intense hatred, fear and resentment. And this includes a critical mass of intelligent, open-minded, even western-educated Arabs, the vast majority of whom opposed Saddam and sought regime change (but not by an illegal American invasion).

In this region, popular sentiment on the street varies from anger and hatred to ridicule and despair. I think many of you would be shocked and upset to discover how much your nation - and most specifically your president - is despised here. The violence of emotion against Bush etc is quite staggering.

This isn’t something that only started with US-led invasion of Iraq, it really began in the weeks and months after the WTC attacks, when Arabs and Muslims (the westernised, better travelled ones - often high level business people) began to suffer discrimination and great difficulty travelling to the US. NY JFK is apparently a particular blackspot for this - many have to reroute their trips to avoid it.

Then of course add in America’s continuing, blind, ceaseless, irrational support of Israel which dates from well before the invasion of Iraq.

Effectively, Iraq was just the cherry on the cake.

Talks about reforms etc have been going on for years - long before the US-led invasion of Iraq. That has not in any way spurred reforms, more probably the opposite, because it has actually inspired a resurgence of extremism and islamism, and as we have noted, anti-western sentiment. Women’s situation has massively deteriorated in Iraq just for starters.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but “frustrated and upset” is probably more like it. Speaking as someone who protested the U.S. invasion, and pretty much every subsequent M.E. policy move made by the current administration, at every possible opportunity, I feel like I’m pounding my head against a brick wall. (And that’s without even going into the immigration- and discrimination- and civil liberties-related issues.)

To what extent do you think people in your neck of the woods differentiate among various sectors of American society/public opinion, or between the government and public opinion? Please elaborate however you feel appropriate. And is there any understanding that although we do at least nominally have an all-volunteer military, many people joined for things like college tuition benefits and aren’t necessarily bloodthirsty wackos who want to kill all the Arabs?

…an effort that started in the mid '90s under Bill Clinton, and had nothing to do with Bush’s “war on terror.”

Not entirely surprising, given the moderation of Iraq in the last ten years or so. Again, not conclusively proven to be related to Bush’s policies, AFAIK.

I’d be interested in seeing how many of these attacks were on Saudi Arabian targets themselves, and how many were against Western targets (office buildings, apartments, etc.) within Saudi Arabia. This distinction is seldom covered in the western media, but I think you’ll agree there’s a big difference in motivations for the terrorists as to what targets they’d choose.

I would not say “fear” or “hatred”. I would say intense disgust for which words fail to describe it. Which is not so new because everyone was already intensely disgusted by the blatant hypocrisy of US politicies. Especially regarding ME issues. But this has intensified unmeasurable.

True. Although I would not use the word “dispair” (don’t know exactly what you mean to describe by it).
I would say when it comes to those who were pro US : There is disbelief of what this president takes for “ME policy”. That idiot has betrayed everyone who ever was pro USA and ever tried to defend the USA. He brought them in an impossible position.
Yet I would add that it is not only in the ME that you find these sentiments expressed nowadays. You see a lot of the same in Europe.

This is partially true and can certainly be true on individual level. I never had problems but I know of people who had. Yet there still was a great amount of tolerance and understanding for US security mesures. I’m afraid that patience and good will is used up by now.
Again not only in the ME.

That was a point in the past but Lunatical Bush and Maffia really managed to destroy every belief that the USA might have in the back of their political minds “some” plan to help to bring an end at this situation. (I never had but I have my own reasons for this).

Well, the Iraq invasion was not only the cherry on the cake. The cake was iced long before. The Iraq invasion brought only the confirmation of what everyone already had made up their minds about when Gulf War I was launched. Which was the confirmation of what everybody already knew: The US ME policy and its support for “friendly” regimes has nothing to do with “bringing democracy” or “stabilize the ME” for the sake and benefit of the people of the ME.

One of the reasons they didn’t go after Saddam the first time -except the fact that they had no UN mandate for that, which Colin Powell managed just in time to bring across at the war hawks - was exactly because they had no idea who ever could replace him at the time. Creating such a power vacuum in Iraq would not only destablized Iraq, but had the potential to destabilize the whole region.
Yet that didn’t withhold them from amateuristic irresponsible instigation of a Shia/Kurdish uprising, hoping the job of removing Hussein would be done for them. This was the most shining example you could get at the time of the lack of every shred of insight in the nation, its people and even the regime of Hussein and its brutality.

Stupid Bush and his Maffia see themselves now caught in the nightmare Bush Sr. managed to avoid. If it wasn’t so tragic for all these thousands of victims of this lantical idiot’s stupidity which in fact now has the potential to indeed endanger the stability of the whole region… I would really find this extremely funny.

Quite right.
And the position of women in Iraq has indeed detoriated and is still detoriating. I’m sure they thank the USA for “liberating” them back to the shador and back to home, kitchen, children.
Surely you people can’t mean it that the ME has something to “learn” from the USA? If the ME can and wants to learn something it should get its examples in Europe.
Salaam. A

People only hear what they want to hear and retain what they want to retain in their memory.
What was retained was the US president calling for a “crusade”.
When I heard him say that, I got instantly visions of Qur’an waving lunatics recruting Jihadists by the hundreds. (You can imagine the reaction of the governments on this provocation of Arab/Muslim masses)
The media reacted in my opinion very good at this in the sense that there was much more coverage of the protests worldwide and with focus on the protests in the USA, then there was in my opinion ever shown on US media.

But I’m afraid that nowadays this “crusade” thing still lives its own life. Even among those who do not necessarily picture the whole Iraq invasion as “The US against Islam” or its variation “The West against Islam”.
The pictures and reports coming out of Iraq and now especially the pictures of the sadists in Abu Graib, the Fallujah story, the Najaf stories, the invasion of a mosque in Kufa, the last slaugthering of a village in the south… You don’t think that does much good to remedy this, no?.
On top of that we have stories about US soldiers torturing prisoners until they curse islam and thank Jesus for being alive.
This alone says thousand times more about “the real intention” behind this invasion then whatever amount of reports of US’ers demonstrating against the war can ever undo.

I think it is not a concern of the average people to even think about the US recruting system. Why would they?
Besides that: You must not be highly educated to know that if you volunteer to go in the army, you volunteer to get yourself trained in killing people.

Salaam. A

Absolutely nothing, if they had not gotten the message the first time , in 91 , why should this be any different.


What message? That we can kick their butts?

Why do some people think that is a good message?

They learned no such thing because they already knew it long before Iraq. There’s a long list of grievances I have over the Iraq war, this isn’t one of them.

Now, that is unfair and untrue. You are stereotyping the “average Achmed” with fundamentalist extremists. The greater number of Muslims were indifferent about the situation beforehand - now, they have seen what we are capable of doing, and they see us as a real and imminent threat. Even the Muslims who supported America overthrowing Saddam are turning vehemently against us, and not just in Iraq.

Because culturally they still have a 14th century warrior ethos. Which is fine, no real different from Japans bushido , but they have not moved on as a society.

To put a fine point on it , how many of their sons and daughters do we have to kill , maim, decapitate , etc , before they figure out its better to jaw jaw , than war war.

To their credit , they are not totally to blame , if it was not for the soviet uniion back in the seventies , this should have occured then.

What ever respect they are given , its based on the fact that we need to live with em for the near term, so chatting casually about crusades is not a good idea , but make no mistake , while individuals from that region may ilicit respect, the society in general is DEAD , we are just watching the corpse twitch.

The americanization of the middle east may take a century , but it will happen.


Get nukes if you don’t have them, because it is the only way to protect yourself.

Yep, you sure are representative of an advanced culture. Let’s put you on a poster!

Yea, lord knows America never did the exact same thing. Please.

Yea, everyone is better off as an American. We’re so glorious and flawless and advanced over those brutes, they could aspire to be something like us if they work real hard for a few hundred years while we stand around like slack-jawed morons wondering why everyone hates us. Brilliant!

You have an interesting way of making friends. Instead of punching them in the face to show that you are superior to them in every way and expecting them to adopt your behavior, why don’t you give talking a shot?

Your starting to sound like your taking this personally

Depends , I wont say your wrong , only that a whippin that the arabs should have gotten back in the seventies , was delayed by caution of the soviets , if the sovs had a paralell situation , I am not aware of it.

You however might be aware of such a thing.

Hmm, of the people , for the people , by the people , all men are created equally

Why are you of the opinion that its nessecarily an american franchise ,and not basically a human right for the above. LOL don’t tell me you expect the region to go back to being a caliphate do you
You do realise they (arabs) are the bad guys right ? Since 1970 , they have been asking for it.

Cause they are culturally incapable of abiding by a contract, the whole hostage thing started out , because some caliph or such like wanted garuntees that deals would be adhered to , thus hostages were exchanged to do so.

Talking is not the big deal , its adhering to contracts that they have problems with.


No, I’m not. And I don’t believe your notion that there is a large portion of “average Achmeds” who don’t hate the U.S. Everything I have read indicates taht the leadership and societies of the Middle East have taught thier people to hate the U.S. long before Iraq. The U.S. and Israel have been used as scapegoats for the shortcoming of dictators for a very long time over there. We are the official source of all the discomfiture they experience. I feel that it is a total mistake to base any U.S. policy on opinion in the Middle East until we stop getting scapegoating, because we’ll be hated if we use force, and considered contemptible weaklings if we don’t.

I’m not saying, “Let them hate us, so long as they fear us.” I’m saying, “They hate us no matter what, so lets’ do what we think is best and let their opinions go hang.”

I do take it personally, because you are talking about people, not statistics.

I’m not the one rambling on about Americanization of foreign cultures O_o

And we’ve been perfect, innocent virgins?

If you are really the culturally advanced ubermensch you claim to be, you would realize that someone “asking for it” doesn’t always deserve to “get it.”

Culturally incapable of abiding by a contract, huh. And once again, I suppose that America is the epic climax of the social distinction of abiding by contracts?