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April 21, 2005

War In The Headlines

Yes, yes, yes:

JUST a couple weeks ago, politicians and pundits were pointing to the sudden reduction in the number of assaults on coalition forces in Iraq and speculating about the collapse of the insurgency. After all, attacks had decreased to fewer than 40 a day from a high of 140 a day just before the Iraqi presidential election in January. On April 10, Pentagon spokesmen began whispering to reporters about plans for an early withdrawal of American forces.

In contrast, the last week's papers have been full of reports about the increased sophistication of insurgent attacks on Americans, the growing violence against Iraqi civilians, and the audacity of an operation in which perhaps 150 people were reported to have been taken hostage in the town of Madaen. Now those same policy makers and pundits are warning that the insurgency is making a comeback.

In fact, neither proposition is true. The insurgency was not collapsing then and it is not resurgent now. Insurgencies are very long struggles - in modern military history they have lasted on average 10 to 15 years, and many - Palestine, Sri Lanka and Vietnam - have gone more than a quarter-century.

It is folly to predict long-term trends based on a few weeks of rebel activities. The only way a counterinsurgency can truly be successful is to establish effective, fair government that is accepted by the people - and that takes time.

It is interesting to watch casualty statistics. I noted a while back that combat fatalities were, at least temporarily, in decline. But as someone who looks at trends all day I had to ask myself: is it surprising to see a dip in the wake of the Fallujah offensive and the January elections?

The hopeful side of me enjoys taking an eyepoke at the lamestream media's constant "Monthly/daily/hourly Casualty Rates are Up Up Up!" cries-du-coeur, but the cynical side wonders what the numbers mean, and whether a dip this month will be followed by a spike next month or an increase in targeting of Iraqis (which of course won't show on the chart).

We keep looking for easy indicators of success or failure, and most often the measures we choose are generated by our forces because that's the data we have available. But as Colonel Hammes points out, truer measures of success are harder to find and may not become apparent for many years.

Much to the pundits' discomfiture, the astonishing 3-week, Powerpoint war isn't going to be followed by an equally-gratifying soundbyte declaration of peace: add water, stir, and voila - instant democracy. I don't know where this expectation came from. It would have made for great TV, but certainly no one who reads history books seriously expected it. But then who has time to read history books anymore?

With all our technology, space-age warfighting equipment, TV cameras, satellites, and computers that beam words and data around the world in an instant, in the end the success or failure of this whole glorious experiment has come down, not to jets and smart bombs but to tired, dusty men with rifles and packs and MRE's.

The oldest force in the world. Combat arms. Boots on the ground. Marines and soldiers willing to stop a convoy and ask a little Iraqi girl why she is sitting in the middle of the road. Who work hand-in-hand with Iraqi forces to wrest their troubled country from the insurgency that threatens to overturn everything they've accomplished. To hearts and minds.

And in the end, the ultimate success of this venture goes beyond those men and women who journeyed to foreign shores to free a people they'd never seen, to the Iraqis themselves. For only they can take and hold what they have been given. Only they can feed the fragile flame of freedom until it becomes a shining beacon that lights the way for an entire region.

Somehow, I think they will do that. I think they will justify the faith we placed in them.

Freedom's torch has been passed. It's time to stop the constant second-guessing and watch, and hope, and be there if they falter. Our task now is to hold fast: to demonstrate a resolve that equals their own. To show them we still believe in those lofty words we toss around on July 4th.

Because if we don't back those words up with action, they aren't worth the paper they are written on. Some people seem to have forgotten that.

Posted by Cassandra at April 21, 2005 06:56 AM

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» War, War, Always with the War. from The Sundries Shack
Villanous Cassandra has a wonderful post about how Democracy grows versus how fast the MSM seems to want it to grow. Here's a taste: Freedom's torch has been passed. It's time to stop the constant second-guessing and watch, and hope, and be ther... [Read More]

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Comments

Because if we don't back those words up with action, they aren't worth the paper they are written on.

You mean we have to get out hands dirty? I didn't sign up for this. You sign up for this? You in the back there, You sign up for this?

I didn't think so.

We thought we were here to talk about problems and the appearance of solving them. We never said anything about actually doing something about it.

-- Intellectual Liberal

Posted by: Masked Menace [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 21, 2005 09:35 AM

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