Daily Wisdom

December 05, 2007

Success in Iraq: Just Dumb Luck?

By Hawkeye

Some have suggested recently that the reduced violence and increased stability in Iraq has nothing to do with the U.S. "surge", and has everything to do with just plain old "dumb luck". They have implied that the U.S. military has had little or nothing to do with the success we are now seeing on the ground, and that all the credit should really go to the Iraqis themselves who suddenly, and without warning, began turning against Al-Qaeda in April of 2007. According to them, we Americans just got "lucky", because the Sunni insurgents simply got tired of Al-Qaeda imposing sharia law on them, chopping off body parts for various crimes against "Islam", and killing many of their tribal and family members.

[Editor's Note: I first posted an article about the 'Anbar Awakening' at my Victory Against Terror website on April 21, 2007. Go HERE, and scroll down to April 21 to see the article entitled "Iraqi Tribal Chiefs Forming An Anti-Insurgent Party" for more information.]

Well, let's think about that concept for a minute. If you recall, things seemed out of control in Iraq at the end of 2006 into early 2007. Al-Qaeda had stirred up a hornets' nest with the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. Sectarian violence was rampant. The media was wailing and moaning about an Iraqi civil war. The Democrats were screaming for immediate pull-out. The Iraq Study Group was pushing for some kind of gradual pull-out to be started almost immediately. From captured documents we know that Al-Qaeda was waging a media war against us, and was betting that the U.S. would soon tire of the war and begin withdrawing troops.

So what did George W. Bush do? On January 17th 2007, he nominated General David Petraeus to succeed General George Casey as commanding general of MNFI to lead all U.S. troops in Iraq. On January 23rd, Petraeus testified before the Senate on his ideas for Iraq, particularly the "surge" of increased U.S. presence in Baghdad necessary as part of a new counterinsurgency strategy which he helped to develop. This new counterinsurgency strategy is documented in Field Manual No. 3-24, otherwise known as FM 3-24 for short.

The real difference of this new strategy was in how the U.S. troops began to interact with the Iraqi citizens. The troops came in to various areas - one neighborhood at a time - and set up camp there, living among the Iraqis. They not only pushed out Al-Qaeda and the insurgents, but they lived in those neighborhoods instead of immediately retreating back to a base somewhere (often referred to as the "light footprint" strategy). The troops started immediately helping the local citizens with distributions of food, medicine, school supplies and toys for the children. They even gave some Iraqis jobs. As a result, the Iraqis started to feel more secure about giving tips and info on Al-Qaeda terrorists and Shi'ite militants to the Coalition Forces. And then the tide began to turn rapidly. The Iraqis started signing up for the police force. Concerned Local Citizen (CLC) groups started coming together. There was a ground swell of support both against Al-Qaeda and in favor of the Coalition.

How the Iraqis were treated by the U.S. troops, versus how they were treated by Al-Qaeda, was like night and day. The troops were caring and concerned. Al-Qaeda was oppressive, imposing sharia law with its harsh sentences for "crimes" and misdemeanors, and freely killing any Iraqis who did not support their radical agenda. This difference in modus operandi had to provide at least some of the incentive for renewed cooperation with the Coalition. It also became clear to the Iraqis that the U.S. forces weren't going anywhere anytime soon. It was obvious that the Al-Qaeda strategy of trying to get the Americans to pull out by waging a media war was not only failing, but more U.S. troops were on their way via the "surge". The Iraqis no doubt began asking themselves why they should suffer along side a group whose strategies were failing.

I am also convinced that there must have been some kind of secret negotiations going on between the U.S. military and the Sunni leaders who started the "Awakening" movement. I mean, let's face it... these guys were formerly violent Sunni insurgents who fought alongside Al-Qaeda. Why would they suddenly turn against Al-Qaeda if they didn't have some kind of assurances from the U.S. that they wouldn't be captured and prosecuted for past crimes? How can anyone believe that an insurgent group - especially a Sunni one, allied with Al-Qaeda and former Ba'athists, against a primarily Shi'ite-run government and the Coalition - would NOT expect to face some kind of retribution or retaliation, even after they changed sides? And why is it that the U.S. military seemed to immediately open its arms to these former insurgents? And why did Sheik Abdul-Sattar abu Risha (founder of the Sunni "Awakening" movement) say that one purpose of his new movement was to promote a better image of American-led forces to the Iraqis? And why did he say that his tribes would also participate in a U.S.-backed effort to reestablish a court system in Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar province?

All of this would be way too much to believe if we simply assumed that the Sunni insurgents woke up one day and said, "Hey, let's join the Coalition against Al-Qaeda. Let's help create a better image of the American-led Coalition. Let's participate in a U.S.-backed effort to reestablish a court system in Ramadi". It would be way too much to believe that the U.S. military simply fell into this situation by "dumb luck". Indeed, it is now clear that the U.S. military has been brokering various kinds of reconciliation deals all over Iraq since the Sunni "Awakening" began. The latest occurred only a few days ago on November 28th, when 6,000 Sunnis signed a pact with American forces. For more info on that recent pact, go HERE, and scroll down to the November 29th article entitled "6,000 Iraqi Sunnis Sign Pact With U.S.". Why should we assume that this brokering is something that started only after the "Awakening"?

Yes, Al-Qaeda made mistakes. Yes, the Iraqis may have been getting tired of the war. But so what? That just means that Al-Qaeda was doing the wrong things, and we finally started doing the right things. There's no "dumb luck" involved in changing strategies and going with something that works. That's how wars are won.

In conclusion then, rather than "dumb luck", I believe that our success in Iraq has been the result of the following...

  • The tenacity of President George W. Bush -- Though he could have taken the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and used them as an excuse to withdraw, he chose instead to fight on. He chose the path of potential victory over the path of assured defeat.
  • The brilliance of General David Petraeus -- General Petraeus had success in Iraq before he came back to the U.S. to literally "write the book" (FM 3-24) on counterinsurgency. Since taking command in Iraq, the situation on the ground has seen a dramatic turn-around.
  • The new counterinsurgency strategy -- The old "light-footprint" strategy was clearly a mistake. The new strategy is clearly working far better.
  • The excellence of our troops -- The dedication of our troops to helping the Iraqis cannot be underestimated. First, they freed the Iraqis from tyranny. Then they started rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure. Then they got caught in the middle of sectarian violence. Then they had to put up with calls for withdrawal from idiots in Washington, DC. Now they are making progress by working and living among the Iraqis. All the while, these fine troops have been America's good-will ambassadors, dispensing humanitarian aid, and putting their lives on the line.
  • U.S.-brokered reconciliation -- It is now obvious that the U.S. military has been brokering various reconciliation deals with the Iraqis (primarily Sunnis) all over the country. I would not be surprised to learn that the original Sunni "Awakening" in Anbar province was likewise a negotiated deal instigated by U.S. military forces. Such a revelation would suggest a far more active role by U.S. military forces than has been previously assumed.
  • Iraqi initiative -- We should not forget the role that the Iraqis have themselves played in the recent reduction of violence. Iraqis have taken a bold stance in favor of peace and democracy. Thousands of Sunni insurgents have turned against their former ally Al-Qaeda. Muqtada al-Sadr has declared a truce and ordered his Shi'ite followers to cease sectarian violence. Tens of thousands of concerned local citizens are banding together to provide the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces with tips on terrorist and insurgent activity. Tens of thousands have signed up to join the Iraqi Police force to bring law and order to their country.
  • "Dumb Luck" -- Yeah, there may be some of that too. I wouldn't give it a whole lot of credence considering how much work the Coalition and the Iraqis have put into turning things around. Nevertheless, if there is some of that too, then so be it.... and Thank God for it.

    At 12/06/2007 6:49 AM , Blogger camojack said...

    It's a new kind of warfare; we're learning as we go.

    And we are excellent students...

    At 12/06/2007 2:42 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

    Amen, brother.


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