As far as the situation on the ground is concerned, these raids might be a bigger deal in the long term than planting the Z-Man. The coalition forces should now have a blueprint, complete with names and addresses, of the entire al-Qaeda operation in Iraq and possibly elsewhere.
Al-Qaeda’s operations have been greatly diminished since September 11, 2001, partially because we’ve made it harder for them to get funding, and partially because their “middle managers” get captured or killed before they can expand the franchise. Al-Qaeda itself has not pulled off a coordinated, centralized attack in a long while, and the main threat now seems to be smaller, home-grown extremist groups. For all the talk about how the Global War on Terror is “unwinnable”, we seem to be doing a damn good job of rolling up al-Qaeda worldwide – and if the information we got in Iraq is any indication, the Iraqi division of al-Qaeda may have been wiped out in one fell swoop.
This was an effort that was based on months of exhaustive work, gathering intelligence, sharing data, working with local Iraqis, and ensuring that we could kill al-Zarqawi and take down a sizable amount of his remaining network in one night. No doubt that the groundwork for this amazing military action was in itself impressive.
We are slowly but surely learning how to deal with the conflicts we’ll be facing throughout this century – and Iraq is becoming our classroom. Those who wish to argue that this war is being fought “incompetently” have no clue how difficult it is to fight a successful counter-insurgency battle in unfamiliar territory where we don’t speak the language, are wedged in between two hostile regimes eager to start a proxy war, and are dealing in an age of ubiquitous communications technology. We’ve never fought a war like this before, and the story isn’t about how badly we’re doing, but how much progress we’re making and how fast we’ve begun to adapt our strategies to the realities on the ground. This series of raids shows just how far we’re coming in fighting a successful counterinsurgency operation. Training the Iraqis in our successful methods will mean that they’ll be able to fight the insurgency more effectively and help the political process move along free of violence.
Jim Wooten strikes the right tone:
This has always been the way that the war on terrorism would be won. One bad guy or one small group of them at a time, just as President Bush explained to the nation after Sept. 11th.
Patience. Patience in supporting the men and women of the free world who are taking the Al-Zarqawis out. Thatâ€™s all thatâ€™s ever been required of us. Itâ€™s been clear all along. The war will be won on the ground; if itâ€™s lost â€” if our great grandchildren still live under threat of the al-Qaida offsprings â€” it will be because we lost our will at home.
We’ve lost fewer than 3,000 soldiers in nearly 5 years of conflict. Compared to nearly any given war in our history, that is a paltry price in blood. For each of those families it was a supreme sacrifice – yet we can never forgot who we’re fighting and why. Our enemy’s only real hope is that we give up – and our media is their best and most effective weapon. So long as we don’t lose patience we will prevail. This is a long war, and we’re winning in a game of inches – and while we scored a major drive with al-Zarqawi’s death, there is yet a long way to go.