Iraq: Looking at the Big Picture

As if I needed more reasons to rely almost exclusively on blogs for military analysis, this week I found these excellent analyses on why the picture in Iraq today is much brighter than it was a few months ago.

There’s a fair bit of reading here, but it’s worth it.

The first is by Bill Whittle, and is in two parts: FORTY SECOND BOYD AND THE BIG PICTURE (Part 1) and FORTY SECOND BOYD AND THE BIG PICTURE (Part 2)

The other is from a blog called ErrorTheory: Rumsfeld’s victory: a retrospective look at our de facto flytrap strategy in Iraq.

Please read them. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. Note the in-depth analysis, the new ground being forged? The subtlety of the ideas? There is a lot more than that, but my main point is that this is hefty intellectual work being done here. And some excellent writing, as well.

And I’ve read some similar things over the last few months, from Michael Yon, and Bill Roggio, and Michael Totten, and Belmont Club, and Small Wars Journal, so I’m pretty confident that this analysis is based on solid data.

And since it reaches logical, sensible conclusions from that data, I’m pretty confident that it’s right, too. The fact that it runs rings around anything the lamestream media offers up is just a nice juicy bonus.

Here’s an example of the latter, from NPR. A “news” story — though it reads more like a press release by a single retired Colonel Macgregor — claiming that the main reason for the success is that we are paying Sunni informants $10 a day: Military Officials Disagree on Impact of Surge.

As for the central question of why “the surge” is working, and what grand strategies might be responsible beyond just sheer numbers of troops, this article can only guess.

It offers only a single quote from Gen. Petraeus, who just so happens to have co-authored a book on counterinsurgency, and who is the lead architect on the very plan that seems to be working so well. Might have been good to interview him too, eh?

Here’s the full extent of the Petraeus quote: “Improvements in security are a result of the greater number of coalition and Iraqi security forces and the strategy that guides the operations we conduct.”

What strategy might that be? This article has nary a clue. Actually, the author seems disinterested in even asking the question.

Of course, we already know, if we’ve read the above-linked pieces. Hint, hint.

So the article goes on to guess as to what happened:

If it wasn’t just the surge, how did it happen?

It could be, in part, exhaustion among Sunnis, tired of fighting and dying. Or also, in part, a cease-fire declared by the largest Shiite militia, others say.

But another part, and possibly the most significant, can be traced to the end of last May. That month, 126 U.S. troops died; it was the second deadliest month for U.S. forces during the war. Petraeus was under pressure to reduce those casualties.

“Petraeus seems to have concluded that it was essential to cut deals with the Sunni insurgents if he was going to succeed in reducing U.S. casualties,” Macgregor says.

Got that? It wasn’t because we had successfully convinced the Iraqi people that siding with us was a better idea than with the murdering terrorist thugs.

It was, instead, because we were lucky, and cynical, and desperate.

Let’s think this through for a second. Supposedly, a dire civil war was raging, fueled by ancient religious hatred and clan rivalries, yet we were able to buy off one side for only $10 per day per man? Really? That’s some pretty weak dedication to the cause, if you ask me. I know that $10 might buy a lot more food there than it does here, but still. Ten bucks to quell civil war? You’ve got to be kidding me.

It goes on:

That civil war has subsided, for now. It’s diminished because of massive, internal migration, a movement of populations that has created de-facto ethnic cantons.

“Segregation works is effectively what the U.S. military is telling you,” Macgregor says. “We have facilitated, whether on purpose or inadvertently, the division of the country. We are capitalizing on that now, and we are creating new militias out of Sunni insurgents. We’re calling them concerned citizens and guardians. These people are not our friends, they do not like us, they do not want us in the country. Their goal is unchanged.”

“Massive internal migration”? Huh?

First, Iraq has always been segregated by clan and religion, so any claims that it is only now that this segregation is problematic are a stretch. And I read an awful lot of military blog news, and I don’t remember anything about a “massive internal migration”.

Again, there is no “civil war”. It is a manufactured war, designed for the dutifully anti-American media, and run by various (non-Iraqi) foreign elements, and featuring Saudis and other foreigners prominently.

All in all, this appears to be a telling moment in history. If current trends hold, then a terrorist insurgency has failed. Miserably. And it will have failed because America outsmarted Al Qaeda.

Think for a moment about the power shift that could happen as a result of this pending victory. It has at least the potential to become a seismic event in human history.

And both Gen. Petraeus and President Bush should be portrayed as heroes for having the stones to implement this new strategy just when everything seemed lost. This is the very definition of leadership.

The ability to turn tail and run quickly is not usually a virtue, despite the attempts to spin it that way by weak-kneed politicians of various stripes and pedigrees and nationalities, from the safety of their secured locations, still free to speak their minds only because of sacrifices made by others on their behalf.

Again, if current trends hold, and if we manage a win with honor in Iraq, then the deaths of fine young men like Lance Cpl. Nick Larson and Capt. Kevin Landeck won’t have been in vain. They grew up here in Wheaton, Illinois, and they fought for freedom half a world away. And there, they died. Their graves are in the same cemetery, not far from here, and I go past it often; I’ve been to visit both of their graves more than once.

Standing near the graves of these two local young men, fine young men with many friends, who used to cruise the same school hallways as my own oldest son (now 19), is a hell of an experience. Visions of promises broken, and children unborn, echo through the hearts and minds of all who knew them — and even some who didn’t. Entire futures destroyed, lying cold and desolate under the green grass and the decorations and the pictures left by family and friends.

I truly admire the idealism and the commitment of our volunteer armed forces. These are some of the finest Americans we’ve got, but they toil mostly in obscurity until they die, at which point they become headline fodder for cynical news editors interested only in the number that died today, not in any of the stories about their deaths, or even what they were fighting for. It disgusts me, quite frankly. They deserve better.

And now to read a story claiming that cash payments of $10 a day created the only conditions under which we can succeed, and therefore, the only conditions under which fewer fine young Americans would be killed?

Sorry, I’m not buying any of that.

Even if it were true, I’m not buying it. I can’t afford to be that cynical. We can’t afford to be that cynical.

But I don’t believe it to be true, in any case. I’ve ready too many other sources that all say the same things about the reasons why we’re winning now.

It’s just an added bonus that those reasons don’t ask me to adopt a cynical stance that devalues lives lost, and injuries suffered, during war.

I think we owe Lance Cpl. Larson, and Capt. Landeck, more than that.

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