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Thread: Iraq: What Went Right
11-21-07, 06:46 AM #1
Iraq: What Went Right
IRAQ: WHAT WENT RIGHT
By RALPH PETERS
November 21, 2007 -- THE situation in Iraq has im proved so rapidly that Democrats now shun the topic as thoroughly as they shun our troops when the cameras aren't around.
Yes, Iraq could still slip back into reverse gear. And no, we're not going to get a perfect outcome. But the positive indicators are now so strong that the left's defeatist lies are losing traction among the American people.
Attacks of every kind are down by at least half - in some cases by more than three-quarters. A wounded country's struggling back to health. And our mortal enemies, al Qaeda's terrorists, have suffered a defeat from which they may never fully recover: They've lost street cred.
Our dead and wounded have not bled in vain.
What happened? How did this startling turnabout come to pass? Why does the good news continue to compound?
Some of the reasons are widely known, but others have been missed. Here are the "big five" reasons for the shift from near-failure to growing success:
We didn't quit: Even as some of us began to suspect that Iraqi society was hopelessly sick, our troops stood to and did their duty bravely. The tenacity of our soldiers and Marines in the face of mortal enemies in Iraq and blithe traitors at home is the No. 1 reason why Iraq has turned around.
Without their valor and sacrifice, nothing else would've mattered. Key leaders were courageous, too - men such as now-Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno. Big Ray was pilloried in our media for being too warlike, too aggressive and just too damned tough on our enemies.
Well, the Ray Odiernos, not the hearts-and-minds crowd, held the line against evil. Only by hammering our enemies year after year were we able to convince them that we couldn't - and wouldn't - be beaten. If the press wronged any single man or woman in uniform, it was Odierno - thank God he was promoted and stayed in the fight.
Gen. David Petraeus took command: Petraeus brought three vital qualities to our effort: He wants to win, not just keep the lid on the pot; he never stops learning and adapting, and he provides top-cover for innovative subordinates.
By late 2006, mid-level commanders were already seizing opportunities to draw former enemies into an alliance against al Qaeda. Petraeus saw the potential for a strategic shift. He ignored the naysayers and supported what worked.
Oh, and under Petraeus our troops have been relentless in their pursuit of our enemies. Contrary to the myths of the left, peace can only be built over the corpses of evil men.
The surge: While the increase in troop numbers was important, allowing us to consolidate gains in neighborhoods we'd rid of terrorists and insurgents, the psychological effect of the surge was crucial.
Pre-surge, our enemies were convinced they were winning - they monitored our media, which assured them that America would quit. Sorry, Muqtada - that's what you get for believing The New York Times.
The message sent by the surge was that we not only wouldn't quit, but also were upping the ante. It stunned our enemies - while giving Sunni Arabs disenchanted with al Qaeda the confidence to flip to our side without fear of abandonment.
Fanatical enemies: We lucked out when al Qaeda declared Iraq the central front in its war against civilization. Our monstrous foes alienated their local allies so utterly that al Qaeda in Iraq is now largely a spent force - the hunted, not the hunters. The terrorists have suffered a strategic humiliation.
Religious fanatics always overdo their savagery - but you can't predict the alienation time-line. Al Qaeda's blood-thirst accelerated the process, helping us immensely.
The Iraqis are sick of bloodshed and destruction: This is the least-recognized factor - but it's critical. We still don't fully understand the mechanics of black-to-white mood shifts in populations, but such transitions determine strategic outcomes.
What we do know is that, when tyrannical regimes collapse in artificial states such as Iraq (or the former Yugoslavia), a lot of pent-up grudges play out violently. People seem to need to get suppressed hatreds out of their systems.
The peace-through-exhaustion mood swing happened abruptly in Iraq. Suddenly, the people have had their fill of gunmen and gangsters who claim to be their defenders. Heads-down passivity has morphed into active resistance to the terrorists and militias.
We're all sober now, Americans and Iraqis. And peace is built on sobriety, not passion.
As Thanksgiving approaches, consider a vignette from Baghdad:
As part of its campaign to eliminate Iraq's Christian communities, al Qaeda in 2004 bombed St. John's Christian church in Doura, in the city's southern badlands. By last spring, local services had stopped completely.
Our Army's 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry stepped up. Under Lt. Col. Stephen Michael (a Newark native), our soldiers methodically cleaned up Doura - no easy or painless task - and aided the reconstruction of the church.
Last week, a grateful congregation returned for a service that was, literally, a resurrection. Fifteen local Muslim sheikhs attended the Mass to support their Christian neighbors. Could there be a more hopeful symbol?
Those long-suffering Iraqi Christians will celebrate Christmas in their neighborhood church this year. "Peace on earth" will mean more to them than mere words in a carol.
As for the grunts of 2-12 Infantry who made it all possible, their motto is "Ducti Amore Patria," or "Having been led by love of country."
On Thanksgiving Day, be thankful for such men.
Ralph Peters' latest book is "Wars of Blood and Faith."
11-21-07, 07:04 AM #2
In Iraq, Signs of Hope and Peril
By David Ignatius
Wednesday, November 21, 2007; A17
Thanksgiving day is a moment to celebrate the news from Iraq of declining violence and increased security. But it's also a time for honesty and humility about what this good news portends.
The signs of improvement in Iraq are clearer every week. The latest numbers show a 55 percent drop in attacks since the surge of U.S. troops reached full strength in June, and a 60 percent drop in Iraqi civilian casualties since then. This translates into the beginning of a return of normal life, with people going to restaurants, taking walks, having weddings. The New York Times bannered this human story across its front page this week: "Baghdad Starts to Exhale as Security Improves."
Only someone with a heart of stone would not rejoice at this news. When you think of the suffering Iraqis have endured -- through the decades of Saddam Hussein's brutality, the years of punishing economic sanctions, the U.S. invasion and the terrible aftermath of insurgency and sectarian killing -- even a little bit of progress is worth a cheer.
But what accounts for these welcome changes? That's where we need to be careful. This isn't an American victory over a well-defined adversary; it's not that kind of war. And Iraqis aren't showering their American liberators with flowers now any more than they were in April 2003. A more complicated set of factors is at work, and it's worth examining two of them carefully.
First, it's clear that al-Qaeda in Iraq is losing, even if we aren't exactly "winning." A senior State Department official in Baghdad said this week that "al-Qaeda is in disarray and even in retreat." Its Hussein-like tactics of intimidation have backfired badly and triggered a revolt among Sunni tribal leaders. This "Awakening" is spreading across Sunni areas of Iraq, drawing in former Baathists as well as the tribal sheiks.
Even Osama bin Laden understands that al-Qaeda has stumbled badly in Iraq. In an Oct. 22 audiotape that attracted too little notice at the time, bin Laden scolded his followers for tactics that alienated Iraqis. "Mistakes have been made during holy wars," he said. "Some of you have been lax in one duty, which is to unite your ranks."
Bin Laden's self-criticism was "possibly the most important message" in al-Qaeda's history, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, an Arab journalist who has interviewed bin Laden and written an insightful biography. "It is the first time that bin Laden recognizes the error committed by the members of his organization and in particular the excesses committed in Iraq."
Second, the recent security gains reflect the fact that Iran is standing down, for the moment. The Iranian-backed Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr has sharply curtailed its operations. The shelling of the Green Zone by Iranian-backed militias in Sadr City has stopped. The flow of deadly roadside bombs from Iran appears to have slowed or stopped. And to make it official, the Iranians announced Tuesday that they will resume security discussions in Baghdad with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
I suspect the Iranians' new policy of accommodation is a tactical shift. They still want to exert leverage over a future Iraq, but they have concluded that the best way to do so is to work with U.S. forces -- and speed our eventual exit -- rather than continue a policy of confrontation. A genuine U.S.-Iranian understanding about stabilizing Iraq would be a very important development. But we should see it for what it is: The Iranians will contain their proxy forces in Iraq because it's in their interest to do so.
As a caution against over-enthusiasm about the surge, it's useful to consider what happens in a "draw play" in football. Defensive linemen go charging toward the quarterback, congratulating themselves on evading the blockers, when suddenly the opposing running back races past, and they realize, "Oops! We've been suckered." A Syrian analyst draws a similar picture of what's happening now in Iraq. He notes that former insurgents are regrouping and forming alliances among Sunni and Shiite militias that oppose the United States. "This will be known as the era of deception," warns my Syrian friend.
Al-Qaeda's mistakes and Iran's tactical retreat don't diminish the importance of what Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. forces are accomplishing. But the hard work of building a stable Iraqi state is still ahead. The Bush administration needs to seize this moment and speed the transition to Iraqi control. If our troop levels in Iraq are "conditions-based," and conditions really are improving, then a whole lot more soldiers should be home next Thanksgiving.
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