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A War We Just Might Win

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by trickblue, Jul 31, 2007.

  1. trickblue

    trickblue Old Testament... Zone Supporter

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    Link

    Op-Ed Contributor
    A War We Just Might Win
    By MICHAEL E. O’HANLON and KENNETH M. POLLACK

    Washington


    VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

    Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.


    After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

    Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

    Everywhere, Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people. Yet in each place, operations had been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. As a result, civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began — though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done.

    In Ramadi, for example, we talked with an outstanding Marine captain whose company was living in harmony in a complex with a (largely Sunni) Iraqi police company and a (largely Shiite) Iraqi Army unit. He and his men had built an Arab-style living room, where he met with the local Sunni sheiks — all formerly allies of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups — who were now competing to secure his friendship.

    In Baghdad’s Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has seen some of the worst sectarian combat, we walked a street slowly coming back to life with stores and shoppers. The Sunni residents were unhappy with the nearby police checkpoint, where Shiite officers reportedly abused them, but they seemed genuinely happy with the American soldiers and a mostly Kurdish Iraqi Army company patrolling the street. The local Sunni militia even had agreed to confine itself to its compound once the Americans and Iraqi units arrived.

    We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi Army troops cover the countryside. A local mayor told us his greatest fear was an overly rapid American departure from Iraq. All across the country, the dependability of Iraqi security forces over the long term remains a major question mark.

    But for now, things look much better than before. American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq).

    In addition, far more Iraqi units are well integrated in terms of ethnicity and religion. The Iraqi Army’s highly effective Third Infantry Division started out as overwhelmingly Kurdish in 2005. Today, it is 45 percent Shiite, 28 percent Kurdish, and 27 percent Sunni Arab.

    In the past, few Iraqi units could do more than provide a few “jundis” (soldiers) to put a thin Iraqi face on largely American operations. Today, in only a few sectors did we find American commanders complaining that their Iraqi formations were useless — something that was the rule, not the exception, on a previous trip to Iraq in late 2005.

    The additional American military formations brought in as part of the surge, General Petraeus’s determination to hold areas until they are truly secure before redeploying units, and the increasing competence of the Iraqis has had another critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.

    In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

    These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.

    Another surprise was how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

    In some places where we have failed to provide the civilian manpower to fill out the reconstruction teams, the surge has still allowed the military to fashion its own advisory groups from battalion, brigade and division staffs. We talked to dozens of military officers who before the war had known little about governance or business but were now ably immersing themselves in projects to provide the average Iraqi with a decent life.

    Outside Baghdad, one of the biggest factors in the progress so far has been the efforts to decentralize power to the provinces and local governments. But more must be done. For example, the Iraqi National Police, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry, remain mostly a disaster. In response, many towns and neighborhoods are standing up local police forces, which generally prove more effective, less corrupt and less sectarian. The coalition has to force the warlords in Baghdad to allow the creation of neutral security forces beyond their control.

    In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.

    How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

    Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kenneth M. Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.
  2. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    I will remain jaded until I see major changes. I have heard too many times how it is getting better but still seeing it as a quagmire that needs leadership change and different strategies. So in that essence I am jaded till I see different.

    However the article does sound promising.

    I really liked the idea of staying in a specific areas instead of playing, as the article puts it, Whack a Mole with the groups.

    This is what I meant about being jaded because I heard good things before.
    Before we would hear one area was cleared out. Than they would move and and the terrorists would just come right back.

    With this new strategy it SEEMS like they are finally learning.

    I hope this pans out...jaded but still hoping.
  3. trickblue

    trickblue Old Testament... Zone Supporter

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    I'm just happy we are making some gains...

    I could care less about how it makes Bush look...
  4. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    Really it is, and IMO never has been, on the military.

    This is all a combo of the administration but just as important, if not more, the Iraqi Government.

    Hard to give them all the tools to do the task if they will not step up to bat.

    I think that frustrates me more than anything. This whole thing, pass or fail, hinges on how the Iraqis do no matter how much effort we may put into it.
  5. Dallas

    Dallas Old bulletproof tiger

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    Blah blah - blah blah blah Zzzzz


    Your drum-beat continues the same.


    You remind of an ever present fence rider. Never choosing to carry the flag for either good or bad. Just as long as you can come out somewhere in between. Somewhere in the grey area.

    One post - its good - the next - Its bad.

    Now you are Jaded.

    We will never understand the tattoo that is you BP.
  6. Rackat

    Rackat Active Member

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    The thing that pissses me off about the Iraqi government is that right at this moment they are missing a golden opportunity to bring the population together. Witht he national Futball team winning the Asia Cup, there is an opportunity for them to bring the sects together. The National team has all factions represented, they came together over adversity, and they prevailed. So what does the government do? Go on vacation. Frigging politicians. If they were smart they would have come back in and used the victory to help establish better relations.
  7. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    Thank you for your Support and Attention you give me kind Sir!

    A signed copy of the book Dealing with Your Anger: Self-Help Solutions for Men is in the mail.
  8. jterrell

    jterrell Penguinite

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    This guy has some credibility at least:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Michael_E._O'Hanlon

    I am not at all a big fan of an article staing "we" saw, "we" heard but at least this guy is an experienced and possibly un-biased voice.

    Unfortunately many more seasoned war veterans do not appear to believe him.

    I like BP's fence-sitting. It makes him amenable to arguments for both sides. Flag carriers are generally hard-headed buffoons who vote for idiots because they won their parties nomination and nothing more.

    Politics is not Religion. You shouldn't vote based on faith one party or the other is better but instead vote the issues and the histories of the actual politicians involved. At the same time we have very few people actually capable of being elected and you want to be cognizant of that as well.
  9. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods

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    No accountability on either side of the aisle--blame it on the Iraqi government in order to shift responsibility for turning that country upside down.

    Civil wars sometimes take decades to play themselves out. Perhaps the proponents of the war should have given that some consideration before going gangbusters into the land of the two rivers.
  10. TheKey

    TheKey Faster than Felix

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    I have been a supporter of this war from the beginning, and still am. This sounds good, but we are still losing too many lives. The Iraqi gov't is to blame, why they are taking vacations because it is too hot, our soldiers are carrying 100 lbs of equipment around all day. If we can continue on this course and secure the border with Iran, I think things are moving in the right direction.
  11. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods

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    Things have been "moving in the right direction" for a long time now according to the supporters of the war. Remember all the hoopla surrounding the elections? Those heady days seem like a lifetime ago.

    Polls show that the majority of the Iraqi population does not want us there (Link). Why are we still there? What does it mean when our military is in a country against the will of the host nation? On what grounds can people argue that our troops should remain in a country where we are not wanted?
  12. TheKey

    TheKey Faster than Felix

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    On the grounds that we have the right to protect ourselves without asking anyones premission. Whether or not you want to accept it, doing away with terrorists is making us safer. If a bunch of US citizens were getting killed because another nation was in our cities ridding us of the bad people, you would not want them there either, but you are still getting safer. We could have been gone a long time ago if the people complaining would step up and take responsibility for their country, but we have to do it for them.
  13. arglebargle

    arglebargle Well-Known Member

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    The only thing that gives me hope about the present situation is the presence of Gen. Petraeus. He was the one guy who got it right, right from the beginning. After years of 'denial of reality' PR and Napoleonic Complex planning from this administration, they finally put a highly competant leader in charge, someone who understands the territory and whose planning goes far beyond the fairy tale happy-ever-after visions of those in the executive offices. There's a chance he might succeed in leaving a stable Iraq. Too bad it is so late in the game.

    The most likely outcome is still the bare knuckles section of the present civil war between the Saudi backed Sunnis and the Iranian backed Shia.
  14. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    I agree about Patreus (sp?). I think he should have been there long ago.

    Sad thing is that no matter how good the military does, how much they could turn things around. We still are at the mercy of the Iraqi Government and people. That is the frustrating thing IMO.
  15. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    Problem is that we are very short of really competent senior generals. Most of the ones we have now were promoted soley due to their ability to play military politics from the early 90s on. No Patton would ever make it to general in this day and age. Frankly, Swartzkoff probably would not make it now.
  16. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods

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    Protect ourselves against possible future attacks like killing someone who might commit a crime in the future? Doesn't strike me as being a solid moral basis for determining policy, and, whether or not people want to admit, our international moral standing and reputation will go a long way to determining how we fare in our future endeavors.

    As for "doing away with terrorists," Iraq has accomplished the opposite. (LINK)
  17. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    We seem to be killing plenty in Iraq, have to run out sooner or later.
    A lot of the "terrorists" are using Iraq as an EXCUSE. They would find another easily enough. Someone who is willing to kill innocent people like these peices of garbage do will kill no matter what.
  18. jterrell

    jterrell Penguinite

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    Wow. Are you really that ill-informed?

    We are seeing a strong Al-Qaeda as a result of our efforts in Iraq where Al-Qaeda was very weak when we first attacked.

    Even the President has acknowledged the issue is back in Pakistan and Afghanistan where Bin-Laden is actually most likely to be hiding.

    How are we making ourselves safer?
    Our military is spread thinly and all across the globe not here protecting us.

    Al-Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan troubling

    President George W Bush said on Saturday he was troubled by a US intelligence report that Al-Qaeda has become entrenched in a safe haven in Pakistan's tribal region near Afghanistan.

    But Bush offered support for Pakistan's embattled president, saying he believes Pervez Musharraf is committed to fighting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

    Part of the National Intelligence Estimate made public this week found a "persistent and evolving" threat to the United States from Islamic militant groups, especially Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda.

    Bush, in his taped weekly radio address, said the report's assessment that Al-Qaeda was gaining strengthen in the tribal region of Pakistan was "one of the most troubling".

    The United States, after being hit by Al-Qaeda's attacks on September 11, 2001, led an invasion of Afghanistan later that year to oust the Taliban religious movement that had seized power and to root out bin Laden and his followers.

    Musharraf, an army general, has been an important ally to Washington but must contend with a violent campaign by Islamic militants and porous mountain borders that make it hard to halt the flow of fighters, weapons, opium and other drugs.

    The White House has acknowledged that a truce Musharraf reached in September with tribal leaders had not worked.

    Bush, now more than four years into a war in Iraq that has stretched the US military, said Pakistan's tribal leaders had proven unwilling or unable to police the area themselves.

    "President Musharraf recognizes the agreement has not been successful or well-enforced and is taking active steps to correct," Bush said.
  19. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    actually, Jterrel, you are the one who is ill informed.
    Al Queda is a popular boogey man. For all intents and purposes it really does not do much anymore since it has been driven mainly underground. However, copy cat types are the problem now. They may claim to be allied to Al Queda, but all intel has shown that there is very little input from Al Queda to those other groups.
  20. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    Agreed.

    Much of the group in Iraq just use the name to align themselves to OBL. OBL is not in charge of those groups.


    However you also have to consider that they are not currently aligned with him, they may NEVER wind up being truly aligned with him...it is far from being a boogeyman as they are still a threat to forces in Iraqi and could be a threat to others in other areas.

    I understand what you mean by the idea of boogeymen because they are not under OBLs power or aligned with him. However they still are a threat.

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