Ralph Peters has a provocative but important essay in The New York Post on why the US needs to loosen the rules of engagement to restore public order in Iraq:
With Iraqi society decomposing – or, at best, reverting to a medieval state with cell phones – the debate in Washington over whether to try to save the day by deploying more troops or withdrawing some is of secondary relevance.
What really matters is what our forces are ordered – and permitted – to do. With political correctness permeating our government and even the upper echelons of the military, we never tried the one technique that has a solid track record of defeating insurgents if applied consistently: the rigorous imposition of public order.
That means killing the bad guys. Not winning their hearts and minds, placating them or bringing them into the government. Killing them.
If you’re not willing to lay down a rule that any Iraqi or foreign terrorist masquerading as a security official or military member will be shot, you can’t win. And that’s just one example of the type of sternness this sort of fight requires.
With the situation in Iraq deteriorating daily, sending more troops would simply offer our enemies more targets – unless we decided to use our soldiers and Marines for the primary purpose for which they exist: To fight.
Our biggest failing in Iraq isn’t that we used violence, its that we used it too sparingly. Granted, you don’t want to kill innocents, but this is a war. You can’t win if you’re allowing the enemy to terrorize the people of Iraq. Our sense of political correctness is literally killing us — along with thousands of innocent Iraqis. How many innocent Iraqis would die if we cracked down — the harsh and unremitting logic of battle says it would be less than will die if we do nothing. Yet our culture, so ridden with guilt and self-doubt, isn’t letting us do what needs to be done.
Wars are ugly, brutal things, but right now the streets of Baghdad are running with blood because we’ve let thugs like the Mahdi Army take the upper hand. Many, many more Iraqis will die unless we’re willing to get the security situation under control. It was necessary three years ago, and it’s become absolutely crucial now.
All other considerations are now secondary: secure Baghdad, secure the country. That’s going to take more “shock and awe” than “hearts and minds” at the moment, and since the situation has gotten to this terrible point, we must stand ready to do what is necessary to restore order. Peters is absolutely right, that means killing the bad guys, including thugs like Moqtada al-Sadr. Only once all the militias know that the wages of violence is even more violence leveled right at them will the cost of bloodshed outweigh the gains.