Saturday, March 26, 2005

Who Matters

This article rightly notes the reduction in US casualties since the January election. Although it correctly notes that last February, our casualties had dropped even more before the spring uprisings in Fallujah and by Sadr's goons, the article makes a grave error:

"I think what you get is a mixed picture in Iraq," said Pena of the Cato Institute. "Whatever progress we're making in terms of violence against U.S. troops, it is being offset by violence against Iraqis and Iraqi security forces."

This seems to be arguing that the reduction in US casualties is irrelevant because Iraqi civilian and security force casualties are increasing. Thus a net constant loss number.

But the very fact that the insurgents are targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians is significant. Before, the US forces were the key force preventing the Baathists from winning. So naturally, our forces were the target of the attacks. Now, with the new Iraqi government shaping up, the insurgents can see that the key force preventing their victory is the Iraqi government and its security forces.

As long as American troops were the key factor keeping the Baathists down, attacks against our forces could hope to destroy American morale on the home front. Now, the price paid in blood by the insurgents for attacking tough US forces is no longer purchasing the possibility of victory by driving America from Iraq. Instead, free Iraqi forces will beat the Baathists and the Baathists can see that. This is the political victory that we need and not a mere military victory, as General Casey noted:

"The average counter-insurgency in the 20th century was about nine years, so it takes time to snuff out the insurgency. And also, I think you know, most insurgencies are defeated by political means rather than necessarily by military means," Casey said in Washington earlier this month.

But you know what? I think Casey is too pessimistic about how long it will take to beat the insurgents. This insurgency we fight is narrowly based and brittle, and lacks enough outside support to carry on in the absence of local support. This insurgency will collapse faster than people think.