A recent study conducted by the BBC has shown that Iraqis are feeling increasingly secure as the level of violence in Iraq drops. What’s interesting to note is the disparity between people who feel safe in their own homes, yet still think the rest of the country is unsafe. The same factors that explain why many Americans feel secure in their own finances yet thing think that the country as a whole is in recession apply to the Iraq data. People tend to only have limited and largely anecdotal contacts with places outside their own perception—so what they think of the outside world is shaped by the media. And the media runs on the maxim “if it bleeds, it leads.”
Looking at the survey data, it does look as though the security situation in Iraq is finally calming down. That doesn’t mean that there will not be sporadic acts of violence—as long as the opportunity costs are so low, groups like al-Qaeda will continue to launch a low-level campaign of intimidation. However, it’s a numbers game. Al-Qaeda has to launch enough attacks to keep the Iraqi populace in fear. The Iraqis are continuing to supply intelligence to the Iraqi police and military as well as the coalition. More terrorists get caught, which leads to more captures, until entire cells are compromised.
The situation in Iraq will be one long rollback, but that which was supposedly impossible has already been done—Iraq’s slide into anarchy has been halted. The security situation has begun to stabilize. Political progress has been made on key issues like oil and de-Ba’athification. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is losing, and losing decisively.
The war in Iraq was pronounced to be all but lost only one year ago—and now the situation is looking anything but lost. In war as in life, fortune favors the bold, and the boldness of men like Col. H.R. McMaster and Gen. David Petraeus have ensured that the situation in Iraq is vastly improved from where it was just one year ago.