Friday, August 25, 2006

A Broken Windows Approach To Iraq

Fire of Liberty

For anyone whose familiar with the Op/Ed pages of the Washington Post, you've more likely than not have come across various pieces by columnist David Ignatius. Now while most of Ignatius's pieces have been critical of our efforts in Iraq and tend to present a realist foreign policy approach on par with folks in the Department of State and Council of Foreign Relations(Some contenders for DNC Prez Bid - Joe Biden), he seems to at least offer a balanced look at the situation on the ground in Iraq from time to time. Well today he offers an interesting piece that points out that even though there is a great amount of sectarian violence in Baghdad and its surrounding neighborhoods, the combined efforts of US and Iraqi military in these areas has created a situation that has put a significant dent in sectarian violence. What makes Ignatius's piece so interesting is that he went out of the "Green Zone" on patrol with Gen. John Abizaid and experienced first hand what our forces have achieved during "Operation Forward Together." Just take a look at Ignatius's sober look on our efforts in Iraq:
As our convoy of armored Humvees rumbled down Amal al-Shaabi Street, we approached a little store selling toys and knickknacks. Abizaid, a Lebanese American who speaks Arabic well, bounded out of his vehicle and began conversing with the owner, a man named Firas. The shopkeeper seemed amused to meet an American general who asked in Arabic, "How's it going?" His message to Abizaid was repeated many times by others during the afternoon: Sunnis here are glad to see the Americans restore order; they tolerate the Iraqi army, but they distrust the Iraqi police; they want basic services such as water and electricity. As for Maliki's government, "It doesn't do anything," the owner of an ice cream parlor called Afna told Abizaid.

We stopped a few minutes later at Abbas Mosque, a small Sunni shrine. Sheik Khaled Mohammed al-Ubaidi, dressed in a knitted white prayer cap and a long white robe, came out to greet Abizaid. The general asked if security had improved and the sheik answered: "Thank God, yes!" Now that U.S. forces are going after Shiite death squads, he said, Sunnis here "understand the Americans are serious about the rule of law." (In the past three weeks, the U.S. military has killed about 25 death squad leaders and captured more than 200, according to Thurman.)

The cleanup has brought a similar respite to Doura, the second neighborhood we visited. You can still see the pieces of red tape on the front gates of each of the homes that were swept. The murder rate has fallen by 83 percent in August, compared with the 30 days before the crackdown began. For Baghdad overall, the murder rate has dropped 41 percent this month.
It's true that Ignatius points out there's a lot of work on behalf of the US military and the Iraqi government to secure the areas around Baghdad, he does note that at least for the moment the current approach to violence in Iraq is working. The way I see it, the military is putting boots on the ground, conducting no-nonsense patrols in the neighborhoods, and establish a good report between the villagers and the combined forces thus applying a "broken windows" approach to these areas in Iraq much like Rudy did against crime in New York City.(I believe there's a lot of sociology/criminal justice students in the military. They're probably getting the small war/insurgency fighting manuals down pat.) Here's hoping that the combined forces keep up such good work.

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