Thursday, May 04, 2006

Our Progress In Iraq
And A Prayer That Someday
The Left Can Take Credit

Wretchard has an excellent post up over at Belmont Club, wherein he analyzes recent reports on the situation in Iraq by one General Barry McCaffrey. Wretchard notes that General McCaffrey is cited by the media as a "skeptic on the war as early as 2003, and as "Secretary Rumsfeld's most outspoken critic".

Here's are excerpts from McCaffrey's report from 2005:

US Military Forces in Iraq are superb. Our Army-Marine ground combat units with supporting Air and Naval Power are characterized by quality military leadership, solid discipline, high morale, and enormous individual and unit courage. Unit effectiveness is as good as we can get. This is the most competent and battle wise force in our nation’s history.

The US media is putting the second team in Iraq with some exceptions. Unfortunately, the situation is extremely dangerous for journalists. The working conditions for a reporter are terrible. They cannot travel independently of US military forces without risking abduction or death. In some cases, the press has degraded to reporting based on secondary sources, press briefings which they do not believe, and alarmist video of the aftermath of suicide bombings obtained from Iraqi employees of unknown reliability. ... Military leaders on the ground are talking to people they trust instead of talking to all reporters who command the attention of the American people. (We need to educate and support AP, Reuters, Gannet, Hearst, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.)

The initial US/UK OIF intervention took down a criminal regime and left a nation without an operational State.
The transitional Bremer-appointed Iraqi government created a weak state of warring factions.
The January 2005 Iraqi elections created the beginnings of legitimacy and have fostered a supportive political base to create the new Iraqi Security Forces.
The August Iraqi Constitutional Referendum and the December-January election and formation of a new government will build the prototype for the evolution of an effective, law-based Iraqi State with a reliable Security Force.

Now, here are some excerpts from McCaffrey's latest report.

On the American military:

The morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring. In every sensing session and interaction - I probed for weakness and found courage, belief in the mission, enormous confidence in their sergeants and company grade officers, an understanding of the larger mission, a commitment to creating an effective Iraqi Army and Police, unabashed patriotism, and a sense of humor. All of these soldiers, NCOs and young officers were volunteers for combat. Many were on their second combat tour - several were on the third or fourth combat tour. Many had re-enlisted to stay with their unit on its return to a second Iraq deployment. Many planned to re-enlist regardless of how long the war went on.

On the Iraqi military:

The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent - most are adequate. ... The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni. The Partnership Program with U.S. units will be the key to success with the Embedded Training Teams augmented and nurtured by a U.S. Maneuver Commander. This is simply a brilliant success story.

On the Iraqi police:

The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program. The National Police Commando Battalions are very capable ... The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF and the Shia militia. They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption. This will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face. This is a very, very tough challenge ...

On the political situation:

The creation of an Iraqi government of national unity is a central requirement. We must help create a legitimate government for which the Iraqi security forces will fight and die. If we do not see the successful development of a pluralistic administration in the first 120 days of the emerging Jawad al-Maliki leadership - there will be significant chance of the country breaking apart in warring factions among the Sunnis and Shia - with a separatist Kurdish north embroiled in their own potential struggle with the Turks. ... There is total lack of trust among the families, the tribes, and the sectarian factions created by the 35 years of despotism and isolation of the criminal Saddam regime. This is a traumatized society with a malignant political culture. ...

However, in my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity. The intelligence picture strongly portrays a population that wants a federal Iraq, wants a national Army, rejects the AIF as a political future for the nation, and is optimistic that their life can be better in the coming years. Unlike the Balkans—the Iraqis want this to work.

The bombing of the Samarra Mosque brought the country to the edge of all-out war. However, the Iraqi Army did not crack, the moderates held, Sistani called for restraint, the Sunnis got a chill of fear seeing what could happen to them as a minority population, and the Coalition Forces suddenly were seen correctly as a vital force that could keep the population safe in the absence of Iraqi power. In addition, the Shia were reminded that Iran is a Persian power with goals that conflict with the Shia Arabs of southern and central Iraq.

On the "insurgency":

The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeated as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government. Aggressive small unit combat action by Coalition Forces combined with good intelligence - backed up by new Iraqi Security Forces is making an impact. The foreign fighters remain a serious tactical menace. However, they are a minor threat to the heavily armed and wary U.S. forces. They cannot successfully stop the Iraqi police and army recruitment.

Wretchard points out that McCaffrey's chief criticism was for the State Department:

... for the institutional inability of the State Department to "live and work with their Iraqi counterparts" for extended periods.

McCaffrey sums up the situation thusly:

The Iraqi political system is fragile but beginning to play a serious role in the debate over the big challenges facing the Iraqi state - oil, religion, territory, power, separatism, and revenge. The neighboring states have refrained from tipping Iraq into open civil war. The UN is cautiously thinking about re-entry and doing their job of helping consolidate peace. The Iraqis are going to hold Saddam and his senior leadership accountable for their murderous behavior over 35 years. The brave Brits continue to support us both politically and militarily. NATO is a possible modest support to our efforts.

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years.

We have few alternatives to the current US strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims?

It was very encouraging for me to see the progress achieved in the past year. Thanks to the leadership and personal sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of men and women of the CENTCOM team and the CIA – the American people are far safer today than we were in the 18 months following the initial intervention.

Click here to read Wretchard's commentary.

Let us now take a moment to remember how many of our leftist friends have said that this a war of imperialism, that we are dying "for oil", and in order to line Halliburton's pockets. Let us always remember that such was the debate, circa 2002 and onward.

Just as victims of massacres need to remember, the American public needs to always remember how we have been failed by the Left. That when we needed the kind of progress which is fostered by the dialectic of public debate, instead we received the rantings of pacifistic lunacy. That when we needed an informed public, a group of 1960's era reporters and executives steered our Mainstream Media instead made a mythology of anti-Americanism to serve the purposes of partisanship. That when our military and the Iraqi people needed support, leaders of the Democratic party such as Howard Dean, Teddy Kennedy, and Al Gore accused the President of the United States of taking the country to war under false pretenses, and engaging in torture and human rights abuses.

We must always remember these truths, and we must endeavor to ensure that this never happens again. If we can, somehow, capture the visceral reality of this virtual treason by segments of the American Left, as if in amber, then we can use it as a teaching tool when we are faced, once again, with the hard task of going to war in order to preserve, and extend, freedom.

Alas, one can not capture visceral reality in amber. The jagged reality of our time will sway in memory, gradually diffusing into something closer to a sentimental imitation of French Impressionism, and before we know it, we will all look back with pride in our country for the great work we did in Iraq. Progressives will speak of America's commitment to freedom in the Middle East, and will find a way to credit themselves for it, more than likely by contrasting it to their version of the history of the Viet Nam War.

I guess this is as it always is. All Americans like to credit themselves with our history. We all like to think we would have fought on the side of the Union against slavery, that we would have marched beside Martin Luther King in the streets of Alabama, that we would have stood with Patrick Henry proclaiming, "Give me Liberty or give me death."

Our soldiers have fought bravely for us to be able to credit ourselves as a moral people. Thank God for them, and thank God for the vision of those who have led us this far in our project in the Middle East. I pray that sometime in the near future Ted Kennedy and his friends will be able to speak with pride of their efforts in having brought freedom to the people of the Islamic world. I pray that they may be able to tell tales of their bravery in having stood down Ahmadinejad and the Mullah regime in Iran.

The Left could be heroes. Yes. And, we must always remember the truth.