Earlier today I watched Senators Biden(D-DE) and Gordon Smith(R-OR) in the well of the Senate and on vaious cable news shows carrying on and on about how the surge has failed and that we've got to "change the mission" by drawing down our forces and retasking them into an acilliary role which consists of training and providing rapid reaction support to the Iraqis. Now something that baffles me about this whole debate is how these Senators can stand in D.C. and tell us the sky is falling and Iraq is "lost" even when you've got excellent reporters like the NY Times' John Burns, independent bloggers like Michael Yon and Bill Roggio, and other outside experts reporting from the battlefield that the counter-insurgency is gaining results. If these politicians are really wanting to issue a serious blow to the terrorists of al Qaeda then you'd think they'd be more willing to stick it out in Iraq than give into polls and the menacing acts of terrorism. For me, I'm pretty much in the camp of Rich Lowry rather that the gas bags of the Senate after reading the following:
Al Qaeda relies on intimidation to impose itself on the Sunni community, and succeeds unless driven back by a stronger force, i.e. the U.S. military. In his report from Anbar province, John Burns notes that the Sunni “sheiks turned only after a prolonged offensive by American and Iraqi forces, starting in November, that put al-Qaida groups on the run.” He continues, “Iraqis, bludgeoned for 24 years by Saddam Hussein’s terror, are wary of rising against any force however brutal, until it is in retreat.”
This experience has been replicated in precincts of Baghdad, Diyala, province and other Sunni parts of Iraq, but the Republican senators want American forces, rather than al Qaeda, to do the retreating. Advocates of various forms of withdrawal argue that we can fight al Qaeda from our large bases or from Kurdistan. This is a fantasy that ignores that we are waging a counterinsurgency war against al Qaeda that requires on-the-ground relationships with key players and knowledge of the terrain.
And the main “compromise” proposal — adopting the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group — would have all American combat troops out of Iraq by the end of March 2008. It is self-evidently impossible to fight al Qaeda in Iraq without any combat troops to do it. What all those abandoning the surge essentially want is a return to the old failed Rumsfeld strategy of prematurely drawing down and handing over to unprepared Iraqi forces.
The surge has succeeded in reducing sectarian killings in Baghdad and civilian casualties overall, but at the cost of increased U.S. casualties and without the Iraqi legislative accomplishments that were established as “political benchmarks.” Those benchmarks shouldn’t be fetishized. The reason that they were considered so important is that they were thought necessary to entice Sunnis away from the insurgency. Instead, the Sunnis have swung our way anyway, in reaction to al Qaeda brutality and to our strength.
I just hope that the politicians in D.C. would look at the facts on the ground and await a report from General Patreaus and his commanders before they blow more hot air.