Almost as if dismayed that the terrorist activity in Iraq did not cease immediately with the commencement of the Fallujah operation, the Associated Press is taking an oft-dubious look at the American and Iraqi efforts against the radicals.
U.S. commanders in Iraq say the insurgents are on the run. The problem is that when the insurgents are chased from one place, such as Fallujah, they pop up elsewhere, to deadly effect.
It happened in Mosul this week and in Baqubah â€” with car bombings and attacks on police stations â€” as well as in Ramadi, a provincial capital just west of Fallujah. The scope of violence in those places is far smaller than in Fallujah. It also shows that the overwhelming technology and firepower of the U.S. military have not broken the back of the insurgency.
It appears unlikely that the Pentagon will send substantially more troops to Iraq than the 140,000 already there. U.S. commanders believe a bigger force would just give the insurgents more targets.
The Pentagon seems likely to stick to its current approach: confront the insurgents wherever they appear, building up the number of U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and other security forces, and hoping the political footings of a democratic Iraq take hold quickly.
In the meantime, the U.S. death toll continues to grow. It now exceeds 1,200 since the war began in March 2003. At midmonth, November ranked as the second deadliest month for U.S. forces, with more than 90 dead.
The central question, many believe, is more political than military. Will support for the resistance grow or shrink as a result of what happened in Fallujah, which was the insurgents’ main base? More broadly, will enough Iraqis accept the Americans’ lead to form a viable government?
I know it’d be extremely difficult to gather and is rather ghoulish of me, but I’d like to see some reasonable estimates of bad guys bagged. I’ll wager it would go far into putting the American deaths into perspective.
I feel it would behoove our efforts to at least publish more information on the prisoners taken to date, information such as breakdowns of nationalities and, among the Iraqi nationals held captive, data on their backgrounds (e.g. prior criminals, Saddamists). This could crush any notion both home and abroad that we’re opposing a popular movement of the Iraqi people fighting occupation and are, in fact, facing the brutal, desperate efforts of thugs and radicals with either selfish or Islamist motivations.
“Whether the sparks (from Fallujah) light other fires all over Iraq or burn out” is still a question, said Jon Alterman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The signs so far appear unfavorable.
On Wednesday a suicide car bomb killed 10 Iraqis in the northern city of Beiji, U.S. forces fought insurgents for three hours in Ramadi. In Fallujah, there was sporadic fighting. On Tuesday a prominent Iraqi insurgent claimed the battle for Fallujah was only the start of an uprising.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a senior Central Command officer, said in an AP Radio interview Tuesday that once the Fallujah offensive began, the insurgents attacked in other parts of the country to show “they still were a potent force.” In his view, they lost more than they gained.
To hear him and other American officers tell it, the U.S. plan is working. They do not expect to end the insurgency. Rather, they aim to suppress it enough to permit people throughout the country to elect a national assembly, which would draft a new permanent Iraqi constitution.
Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, said during a visit to Iraq this week that the Fallujah offensive was a major blow to the insurgents. He said the only way the U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies can be defeated is if they lose their will.
“But we are also under no illusions. We know that the enemy will continue to fight,” he told the Pentagon’s internal news service.
Unlike the traditional guerrilla warfare scenario where the insurgents win by not losing and those in power lose by not winning, today’s Iraq stands as an exact reversal of that military rule. The closer the government and the Iraqi people get to representative democracy, the more they grasp self-rule and freedom, the greater the chance of failure for the terrorists. Just as the Americans and the interim government is on the clock to pull off elections, so too are the terrorists up against the wall to prevent public belief in the democratic concept and acceptance of any election results. An elected government that the Iraqi people feel they have a vested interest in would be greatly detrimental to the efforts of the so-called insurgency.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says the outcome ultimately rests in the hands of the Iraqi people rather than the U.S. military. He predicted that a “tipping point” will be reached that changes the momentum in favor of those who want democracy to succeed in Iraq.
“More and more of the Iraqis will be angry about the fact that their innocent people are being killed by the extremists … and they won’t like it,” he said recently. “They’ll want elections, and the more they see the extremists acting against that possibility of elections, I think they’ll turn on those people.”
The Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, made a similar point Wednesday in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
“This ultimately is not going to be won in the kinetic sense â€” in battle. It’s going to be won in having Iraqis taking ownership and investing their own personal sweat and blood,” he said.
However the AP tries to balance (read spin negatively) the news, progress is being made. We are killing the insurgents. By the freakin’ bushel. The effects of anger in the Arab world over the filmed shooting of a wounded bastard by a US Marine will be tempered by anger within Iraq at the execution of humanitarian worker Margaret Hassan. There is no more reporting of no-go zones for the US military. Every day is a day that the Iraqi national army grows in size and proficiency. Each Iraqi civilian death caused by the terrorists will become a sign of the terrorists’ impotence against those they actually wish to fight.
In short, we are not losing the peace and, because of that, we are winning it.