March 19, 2008

Keep me English to my dying day: No surrender, no surrender, no surrender to the IRA

Fouad Ajami, one of the earliest and most strident backers of the Iraq War, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Iraq entitled 'No Surrender.' That title -- and the op-ed -- will no doubt appeal to many regular readers of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, but the words remind Abu Muqawama of the old football chant, and that gets him thinking about how the Irish insurgency of 1966-1998 ended 10 years ago this week. Did it end in decisive victory? Did it end with the 'terrorist' leaders killed and defeated?

Hell no. It ended with the IRA's statements practically written for them at 10 Downing Street. (Who knew that P O'Neill was actually A Blair?) This kind of collusion will no doubt disappoint hard-liners on both sides, but you know what? That is how bloody insurgencies sometimes end.

Abu Muqawama isn't even going to get into the heart of Ajami's op-ed -- the predictable slandering of the State Department, the even more predictable and uncritical love letter to the U.S. military -- because it's not worth it. But there's a lesson in the British experience in Northern Ireland for both sides. On the one hand, hand-wringers on the left shouldn't necessarily fret about the shady deals we're making with sectarian leaders on both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide in Iraq. These deals may be ugly, and they may come back to haunt us. But if you think it's all peace and love between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast these days, you're crazy. What's important is that the days of open warfare are over. We may have to deal with sectarian tension and violence for quite some time in Baghdad too.

And for those of you on the right who consider anything less than 'total victory' -- whatever that is -- to be for the weak-kneed, there's a lesson for you too: Martin McGuinness has the blood of British soldiers on his hands. But do you know how he keeps himself busy these days? Opening IKEA stories with Ian bleeping Paisley. And that suits most people just fine. Sometimes you can strike deals with your enemies, and that's crucial in wars you can't kill your way out of. So forget all that 'No Surrender' crap and get serious.