Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Ramadi Miracle

Here is another report on how former Iraqi insurgents are banding together with American troops to fight Al Qaeda. Allowing this realignment of sides was a major strategic error by Al Qaeda, but I've said it before, one should expect irrationality from fundamentalists. The deluded world view that creates them in the first place likely will end up being their undoing.

Sometimes it seems we're trying to beat them at that game, perhaps because President Bush is a fundamentalist in a way.

Things are not going swimmingly despite this good news. The story is heartening because dropping by 1/3 attacks in Ramadi, one of the heaviest concentrations of the insurgency, is a great achievement, as is getting many former insurgents to switch sides. The article is right to point out that this reversal comes with its own dangers, of course, such as many of our new allies being former insurgents themselves, a lack of pay for new policemen, and the inordinate authority still in the hands of local sheiks.

The report is also maddening because so many of the methods we're using now to improve the situation there were long obvious, and yet we didn't implement them. As Andrew Sullivan writes,

Just to anger up the blood some more, it's now clear, thanks to the latest Congressional report, that this president was warned starkly about the dangers of "a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups" as a result of an invasion of Iraq. He was told that Iraq was "largely bereft of the social underpinnings" for democracy. He was explicitly informed that there was "a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so." And yet he still sent a pathetically insufficient occupation force in 2003 - and refused to increase it for three years of growing chaos and mayhem. Even if you excuse the original recklessness, the persistence in it - until our current point of no return - is and was criminal negligence - a callous disregard for your security and mine.

The emphasis is rightly on the word "persistence." Assuming a further deterioration of our position in Iraq, which is likely but not certain, Bush's mismanagement and seemingly willful blindness, and the strong emotion they have engendered on all sides, will likely prevent a reasonable assessment of proper lessons from the war. That is tragic, terribly frustrating, and yet historically not uncommon.

1 comment:

redbarb said...

A quick comment based on only a scan of this article, but readings of several others on Anbar Province in particular. The change in support from locals against foreign fighters has more to do with a tactical change by Iraqis who have figured we are a way to get rid of these foreigners who they don't want around any more than they want us around. One Iraqi local leader in Anbar was quoted as saying that once we help them with these foreigners they'll go back to fighting us so we'll leave. I have old articles saved on how our military tried to foster local connections early on along the lines they had used in Bosnia. They got little support from Rumsfeld's DOD or W's appointed provincial authority. This temporary alliance is just that temporary and will not bring the long-term stability sought in Iraq.