Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Reality in Iraq

As I've noted a number of times now, the lefties continue to weave new tales of failure in Iraq almost daily.

One of these attacks is the "
neo-imperial project" slur, which gets a new twist from Duncan Black:

...from the perspective of U.S. as imperial power the "'single-minded' focus on Iraq" has also been an utter disaster. For those who think that one way or another the US should be throwing its weight around everywhere (by invading random countries, by various forms of economic imperialism, or by controlling and using the power of international institutions), Bush has pretty much set that agenda back substantially. That these people have been and continue to be his biggest supporters is a testament to the fact that their egos are more important than their dreams. But that's no surprise either...
In other words, the administration's attacked not only for seeking "permanent bases," but the meme's taken futher in that Iraq has destroyed the alleged fantastical neocon designs for world imperial domination.

Few doubt the impact of Iraq as a constraint on the exercise of American military power. What is at issue is whether Iraq's a "disaster," not to mention whether the war's peripheral to the contempory national security challenge facing the country.

At today's Wall Street Journal, Frederick Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, and Jack Keane report on their recent visit to Iraq, laying out both the successes and continuing dangers of the deployment:

Family Plays in Baghdad

All of the most important objectives of the surge have been accomplished in Iraq. The sectarian civil war is ended; al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been dealt a devastating blow; and the Sadrist militia and other Iranian-backed militant groups have been disrupted.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has accomplished almost all of the legislative benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration. More important, it is gaining wider legitimacy among the population. The attention of Iraqis across the country is focused on the upcoming provincial elections, which will be a pivotal moment in Iraq's development.

The result is that we have an extraordinary – but fleeting – opportunity to advance America's security and the stability of a vital region of the world.

As far as the civil war is concerned, there have been virtually no sectarian killings recorded for the past 10 weeks. Violence is still perpetrated by organized groups, but AQI, the remnant Sunni insurgents and Shiite fighters are now focused on attacking their own members who have defected to our side. This is a measure of their weakness. The Iraqi population is increasingly mobilizing against the perpetrators of violence, flooding American and Iraqi forces with tips about the locations of weapons caches and key militant leaders – Sunnis turning in Sunnis and Shia turning in Shia.

The fighters have not simply hidden their weapons and gone to ground to await the next opportunity to kill each other. The Sunni insurgency, as well as AQI, has been severely disrupted. Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or detained many key leaders, driven the militants out of every one of Iraq's major cities (including Mosul), and are pursuing the remnants vigorously in rural areas and the desert.

The Shiite militias have also been broken apart, sending thousands of their leaders scurrying for safety in Iran. Iraqi forces continue to hammer Iranian-backed Special Groups and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al Mahdi that have been fighting with them in Sadr City, Maysan Province and elsewhere. At this time, none of these networks can conduct operations that could seriously destabilize the Iraqi government. But both al Qaeda and the Iranians are working hard to refit their networks.

The larger strategic meaning of these military and political advances must be kept clearly in mind. Iraq remains a critical front in al Qaeda's war against the U.S.
The authors continue by indicating that current suggestions for an early withdrawal of American troops are seriously misguided:

The blunt fact is this. In Iraq, al Qaeda is on the ropes, and the Shiite militias are badly off-balance. Now is exactly the time to continue the pressure to keep them from regaining their equilibrium. It need not, and probably will not, require large numbers of American casualties to keep this pressure on. But it will require a considerable number of American troops through 2009.

That's not an argument for a permanent presence in Mespotamia, but it is a reasonable assessment of the military/strategic efficacy of a continued large-scale deployment.

See also, Christopher Hitchens, "
Who Says We Can Only Face Our Enemies in One Place at a Time?", and Betsy Newmark, "Obama's Weaknesses on Iraq and Afghanistan."

Photo Credit: "A boy enjoys a ride at a park in Baghdad, Wednesday, July 9," Wall Street Journal.