"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - George Orwell

Friday, November 19, 2004

Where Are We? 

There are conflicting reports about how successful our operations in Fallujah have been in turning the tide against the insurgency. The Washington Times reports that
The top Marine officer in Iraq declared yesterday that victory in the battle of Fallujah has "broken the back" of the Iraqi insurgency, while another commander in the war on terror said Osama bin Laden is all but cut off from his terrorist operatives.

The twin statements declare success on the two main war fronts — Iraq and Afghanistan — where the U.S. military is fighting a deadly insurgency and trying to create lasting democracies.
General Sattler goes on to say that we have "broken the back of the insurgency." Yet the same article reports that this optimistic assessment is disputed by other officers
They said this week that the countrywide insurgency has shown itself to be an adaptable band of dedicated killers that likely will be able to recruit new members and sustain some level of violence for years, not just months.
Fox News articles mirror this pessimism
The recapture of Fallujah has not broken the insurgents' will to fight and may not pay the big dividend U.S. planners had hoped — to improve security enough to hold national elections in Sunni Muslim areas of central Iraq, according to U.S. and Iraqi assessments.

Instead, the battle for control of the Sunni city 40 miles west of Baghdad has sharpened divisions among Iraq's major ethnic and religious groups, fueled anti-American sentiment and stoked the 18-month-old Sunni insurgency.

Our main objective now, says one general, is to keep the insurgents from regrouping.

One fears that General Sattler's statements were simply meant for public consumption.

We all know that the key is getting Iraqis to do the job for us. But StrategyPage tells us that the problem is not just in getting the appropriate numbers of people trained and equipped:
The Sunni Arab police too often just run. To a lesser extent, so do Iraqi soldiers. Such cowardice is traditional. The concept of "stand and fight" is not widely accepted in Iraq.
This is one reason, the author says, why the insurgent terrorists use roadside bombs; they don't want to engage in traditional shoot-outs.

Yet more pessimism abounds at Der Spiegel
But commanders say they are baffled over how to combat an effective intimidation campaign that insurgents are waging against Iraqis, from political leaders and police chiefs to the women who do the laundry for troops at American bases.

"People are affected every day by criminality," said Senator Reed, a former 82nd Airborne Division officer. "The situation has not - is not - turning around."
On the other hand, Joe at AbleKaneAdventures is at the scene of the action. He writes that the elections will help to calm the situation. He also reports that time is working against the terrorists, as he believes that they are running out of people. The Iraqis will be able to run their own security, given time.

The Big Picture

To get a handle on the strategy each side is employing, and where future battles will take place, I can find no better writer than Wretchard at Belmont Club. Be sure to read The River War and River War 2.

Stratfor thinks that we shouldn't expect to see any similar operations anytime soon. Rather, "The U.S. military will likely move into a wait-and-see posture before shifting troops and committing them to specific operatons."

The Good News

The first bit of good news is that John Kerry was not elected president. His idea of solving the problem by holding summits and going to the UN would have done nothing but provided nice photo shoots to bolster his ego.

The anti-Bush left attempts to portay the president as "out of touch" and manipulated by evil neocons. Those with access to the facts know better. Last month Rich Lowry wrote that George Bush is very unhappy with the situation in Iraq, and that changes would be made during a second term.

Recent changes in adminstration personnel seem to bear this out. Tom Donnelly writes that with the resignation of Powell, Bush "...has at last decided to try to take charge of his foreign policy establishment." What this means to me is a less acrimonious relationship between State and Defense. Bickering between the two departments was the cause of much of the problems that we now face in Iraq.

The Clock is Ticking

Elections in Iraq are scheduled for January. It doesn't take a military analyst to see that the probability that they will not go off as smoothly as they did in Afghanistan is low. We can all imagine the worst-case scenario; a result not judged legitimate by a significant plurality of the Iraqi people.

I hope I am not being overly pessimistic here, but I will confess that was not a fun post to write. But we can take heart; far from loosing we are at worst not turning the tide fast enough, the right person was reelected so we will not leave, and as time goes on more and more Iraqis will be trained and will thus join us in the fight.

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