War has totally disrupted family, education, and culture.
"Iraqi mothers want the same thing for their children American mothers want for theirs," President Bush has said. "A place for their child to grow up and get a good education and be able to realize dreams."
The president is correct. The two institutions Iraqis prize most are family and education. But the US military occupation and the insurgency have produced a total disruption of both. Can Iraqis return to social normalcy so long as US troops – and their enemies – are engaged there?
One has to look no further than the Palestinian territories to discover the long-term effects of children not going to school. Israel's occupation and perennial lockdown of Palestinians created a new uneducated generation seeking salvation through the radical Islam of Hamas.
In Iraq, disruption of education and family life seems to be having a similar effect. A UN report suggests that "non-state armed groups" are ratcheting up their recruitment of Iraqi children. Witness the recently released Al Qaeda-in-Iraq videos showing preteen boys in paramilitary training. Iraqi Interior Minister Fawzi al-Hariri has acknowledged this problem. He hopes a $5 billion job creation program will offer an alternative to militia or gang activity.
The lesson should be obvious: Foreign military occupations of Muslim lands from the Crusades to the present are disruptive of indigenous cultures, destructive, and sooner or later, hated.
In the months ahead, whichever faction – including the Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr – nurtures the Iraqi passion for education, family, and community is likely to win Iraqi public support.