The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Saturday, October 20, 2007
If you think about it, the turnaround in less than one year is nothing short of miraculous. If there is anyone these days who truly makes me feel proud to be an American it is the men and women who are making it happen over there.
In the early phases of the conflict, the people remain as neutral as they can, simply trying to stay alive. As the war escalates, they are eventually forced to make a choice, to place a bet, and that bet becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The people have the winning piece on the board: intelligence. Once the Iraqis decided that we were going to win, they provided us with information about the terrorists: who they were, where they were, what they were planning, where their weapons were stashed, and so forth.
It's easy to say, but quite beside the point, that any smart Iraqi would prefer us to the terrorists. We're short-termers, while the terrorists promise to stay forever and make Iraq part of an oppressive caliphate. We're going to leave in a few years, and put the country in Iraqi hands, while the terrorists -- many of whom are the cat's-paws of foreign powers -- intend to turn the place into an alien domain. We promise freedom, while the jihadis impose clerical fascism and slaughter their fellow Arab Muslims.
But that preference isn't enough to explain the dramatic turnaround -- the nature of the terrorists was luminously clear a year ago, when the battle for Iraq was going badly. As Galula elegantly observed, "which side gives the best protection, which one threatens the most, which one is likely to win, these are the criteria governing the population's stand. So much the better, of course, if popularity and effectiveness are combined."
The turnaround took place because we started to defeat the terrorists, at a time that roughly coincides with the surge. There is a tendency to treat the surge as a mere increase in numbers, but its most important component was the change in doctrine. Instead of keeping too many of our soldiers off the battlefield in remote and heavily fortified mega-bases, we put them into the field. Instead of reacting to the terrorists' initiatives, we went after them. No longer were we going to maintain the polite fiction that we were in Iraq to train the locals so that they could fight the war. Instead, we aggressively engaged our enemies. It was at that point that the Iraqi people placed their decisive bet.
Herschel Smith, of the blog Captain's Journal, puts it neatly in describing the events in Anbar: "There is no point in fighting forces (U.S. Marines) who will not be beaten and who will not go away." We were the stronger horse, and the Iraqis recognized it.
To each an every one of our men and women in uniform: Well done. And thank you for your sacrifice.
As for the Defeatocrats in Congress who have tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every step of the way: stick that in your pipe and smoke it. And enjoy your 11% approval ratings.