Thursday, April 19, 2007

Woe Are We

Fire of Liberty

Harry Reid and his fellow Dems might think it's good politics to announce that the war in Iraq is lost but more cooler heads like Frederick Kagan(Who studies the counter-insurgency fight in Iraq daily) beg to differ. Here's a look at what Kagan had to say in the most recent edition of the Weekly Standard on Iraq:

Critics of the war also argue that the Sunni insurgency is no longer the central problem in Iraq, that sectarian violence has become the greatest and most intractable challenge. Sunni-Shiite hatred is centuries old, we are told, and American troops should not be put between hostile factions engaged in primordial violence that will spiral inevitably out of control. Facts on the ground do not support this conclusion. At the beginning of the current Baghdad Security Plan, both Moktada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leaders of the two dominant Shiite militias, ordered their followers to support the plan and stop conducting attacks against Sunnis. Sectarian attacks, also known as extra-judicial killings, dropped dramatically. In recent weeks they have risen somewhat as Sadr s militia, the Jaysh al-Mahdi, has begun to fragment and rogue elements have resumed their attacks. But even so, the levels remain below what they were before the Baghdad offensive began in February. This pattern is the opposite of the one we saw last year during Operations Together Forward I and II in Baghdad, when sectarian killings reached new peaks a few weeks after the start of those undertakings.

The fact that extra-judicial killings dropped when Sadr and Hakim ordered them to do so shows that the sectarian violence is not a reflection of primordial and unreasoning hatred, but rather a calculated use of force by particular individuals to advance their own agendas. If Iraqis really hated each other to the extent that an endless cycle of killing was inevitable, they would not so readily have followed the orders of their leaders.

Hurriya is a neighborhood in central Baghdad that was once mixed and is now predominantly Shiite. Jaysh al-Mahdi fighters have been working to drive out the remaining Sunni families. When new U.S. forces arrived in the neighborhood and established Joint Security Stations (JSS), they sent out word and a telephone number, asking for tips. In a story that became national news, a Sunni woman called that number and reported that three Shiite gunmen were attempting to drive her family out. American forces responded and captured two of the gunmen, but the third escaped and managed to kill the woman the next day. The story was prominently reported as evidence of the failure of the Baghdad Security Plan, with the added detail that her family left the area the next day. In truth, as the soldiers manning the Hurriya JSS told me in early April, the family left only to attend her funeral and is still living in its house. One would have expected the tip-line to dry up, of course, since the Mahdi Army had proven that it could punish informants. On the contrary. Tips to that unit have increased dramatically, and it is now receiving tips even from Shiites about IEDs that have been placed to kill U.S. soldiers, and about Mahdi Army efforts to terrorize Sunnis. Why? Because the Iraqis in Hurriya have had enough. They resent the fighters, Sunni or Shiite, who bring violence and death to their neighborhood. They want to help those, American or Iraqi, who can protect them and bring them peace.

The key to this change in attitude, which is not confined to Hurriya, but is spreading throughout Baghdad, lies in the establishment of trust between Iraqis and Americans. In the Hurriya JSS, Iraqi and American soldiers live together in a single building. They eat together, plan together, analyze intelligence and tips together, and fight together. The locals know that they are there, and know that they can respond quickly. They trust them, both Americans and Iraqis, to try to protect them from violence. This trust comes from the permanent presence of American forces in the neighborhood and from the belief that they will be there for a while. As any policeman can attest, trust is essential to getting good information about bad things happening in a neighborhood. It is as essential to fighting terrorism as it is to fighting crime. And it can happen only when American and Iraqi forces work together to protect the population they live among.

Even when our soldiers and our Iraqi allies are slowly turning the tide(Expect many dark days of the enemy counter-attacking ahead before the storm ends), you still have the leader of the US Senate calling(in his hushed tones) them and their mission a failure. Defeatism is not a key to the White House for the Democrats in 2008.

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