Friday, January 12, 2007

Just the Next in Line

Our changing approach to fighting in Iraq is not because we are losing but because we have a new enemy to fight.

When even supporters of the President can say this is it any wonder opponents blather on about mistakes and errors?

When you make such a significant tactical adjustment after three years of doing something else that didn’t work, it’s pretty clear that whoever was doing the initial strategizing screwed the pooch. Big time. The President knows the buck stops with him, and he did the right thing taking the blame. It is his fault.

What we did since March 2003 has worked. We've faced a number of primary enemies in Iraq over the last four years and we've overcome them.

To be more specific, in January 2006, it looked like we could draw down our combat brigades because we'd defeated the Baathists, the Sunni nationalists, and the jihadis. Oh, they still fought and killed, but they lost their chance to win as the Iraqi government strengthened. The main threat was Sadr and his Shia militias backed by Iran. Thinking that the government of Iraq could handle this threat, we planned to draw down.

The Samarra Golden Mosque bombing ended that hope. But it took a while to see this new reality. First, it wasn't clear that there would be a surge of violence that would last. Then it wasn't clear that the violence centered around Sadr's forces would spread.

When those trends became clear, we tried to send extra troops into Baghdad in the late summer with the same rules of engagement. This effort failed in the fall of 2006.

Our elections interrupted reaction to this failure, and now the President proposes a new approach (much of it non-military, though I am focusing on the military aspect) that rests on the new approach more than troops. Though it is hoped that the new troops will make the effort more certain to work.

Mackubin Owens recognizes the new phase of the war we are in:

In February 2006, when Sunni extremists destroyed the Shiite mosque in Samarra, sectarian violence exploded, especially in Baghdad. American and Iraqi troops had to redeploy to confront the new threat, and in doing so, the gains that had been achieved against the Sunni insurgents were lost.

The new plan is a response to these changing conditions. The main reason for the so-called surge is to provide enough troops to provide security for Baghdad while regaining the initiative against the Sunni fighters in Anbar. It also recognizes that the Shiite militias causing most of the deaths in Baghdad must be neutralized.

It includes not only a military component but political and economic elements, as well. The adage - to defeat an insurgency, "win the hearts and minds" of the people - is true. But to do that, the people must have security. And to achieve security, it is often necessary to kill and capture the insurgents. Thus, military success is a necessary, if not sufficient, cause for defeating an insurgency.

The President recognizes this fact, too. It is amazing how many critics who believe themselves the intellectual superior of the President fail to see this elementary fact.

Owens believes this plan can work. Can work. The enemy wants to win, too, so even with a plan that confronts the next enemy that we need to beat, we need to actually fight and kill this new enemy.

May Sadr and his murderous buddies join Saddam soon.