Analyzing The Insurgency

PBS’ FrontLine has a show in the insurgency in Iraq – on their website they have an excellent piece by an American counterinsurgency expert on if/how the insurgency in Iraq can be completed. Sepp’s analysis is quite frank, outlining the mistakes we’ve made in the past, but also acknowledging that progress has been made.

He notes that the “model” for successful anti-insurgency operations, the British suppression of the Malay insurgency after World War II, took three years to truly develop into a successful campaign. The first three years were marked with major mistakes in tactics and strategy. The beginning of the post-war period in Iraq was the same – America has never fought this kind of war, and we were learning as we went. It took us two years to get the right strategy, which involved advancing both the military and political tracks to develop a native Iraq counter to the insurgency. We are also greatly fortunate that the insurgency is so disunited – al-Zarqawi’s brutality and lack of leadership has ensured that the insurgency has never gained majority support in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shi’ite population, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has has spoken out directly against sectarian violence and demanded the disarmament of militias. Now that the political track is once again back on course, the progress that had been made in Iraq can continue. This is a crucial step towards establishing further legitimacy for the central government and restoring order throughout Iraq.

Sepp is right, we’re in the middle of a long war, unlike those we’ve fought before. However, contrary to the prophets of doom who seem to want us to lose, the situation in Iraq is getting slowly better. Al-Maliki seems like a much more acceptable leader than al-Jafaari was. As Sepp notes:

I remain concerned but encouraged. We can’t be defeated by the insurgents or their criminal and extremist allies. But we can fail to help build a new Iraq with viable economic, political and social institutions. Without these, civil war may consume the country, or a dictator may come to power, or Iran may intervene militarily. Looking back on each of my four tours of service in Iraq, from January 2004 to December 2005, I have seen distinct and steady improvement in the coalition and Iraqi counterinsurgency fight, from near-chaos to a disciplined, purposeful campaign. We may yet succeed. We certainly have the capacity; the question may ultimately be one of will.

Sepp is right, ultimately this is a question of will. When we have a sizable amount of our own population cheerleading for defeat, that makes it all the much more harder. However, there is no doubt that our interests are tied to the concept of a democratic Iraq, and our military has the will, the tools, and the knowledge to bring it out, even if they are frequently betrayed by those they serve to protect. The most dangerous insurgency may not be in Iraq, it may be those Americans who put partisanship above country.

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