Austin Bay

According to major media, America's "surge in Iraq" is suddenly working.

In an op-ed that appeared in The New York Times on July 30, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the left-leaning Brookings Institution called Iraq "a war we just might win." A week later, Robert Burns, who covers military issues for The Associated Press, wrote: "The new U.S. military strategy in Iraq, unveiled six months ago to little acclaim, is working. In two weeks of observing the U.S. military on the ground ... it's apparent that the war has entered a new phase in its fifth year."

Anthony Cordesman, in an essay titled "The Tenuous Case for Strategic Patience in Iraq," remains circumspect, warning, "It is important to note in this regard that while Americans are still concerned with finding ways to define 'victory' in Iraq, virtually the entire world already perceives the U.S. as having decisively lost."

Perhaps the "rest of the world" relies on U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. Months ago, Reid declared Iraq a defeat. For the rest of his political career, Reid will have to live with his declaration.

Is the surge working?

Militarily, the surge represents a change in operational emphasis and in tactical employment of U.S. and coalition troops. The United States has increased the "level of presence" in Iraqi neighborhoods.

Statistics suggest attacks have declined since April, but short-term statistics are subject to debate.

An observation in Robert Burns' report may be more telling than the numbers: "Commanders (in Iraq) are encouraged by signs that more Iraqis are growing fed up with violence."

A sign of war fatigue? Possibly -- but murder fatigue is more apt.

In Iraq, al-Qaida and Saddam's remnant supporters have spent the last four years murdering Muslims en masse. (The same can be said for the Taliban in Afghanistan.) For all the strategic and operational mistakes Washington has made, our tyrant and terrorist enemies' mistakes have been worse. StrategyPage.com, among others, noted in 2004 that while the "murder en masse" strategy seeded fear in Iraq and grabbed international headlines, al-Qaida was paying a huge political price in the Muslim world. In late 2006, several key Sunni tribes in Iraq's Anbar province began turning on al-Qaida -- al-Qaida's war on America had proved to be a bigger threat to them.

Cordesman notes that a number of tribes still align with al-Qaida. Still, there is a trend-line with roots three years deep -- and that trend-line has finally become a headline.

According to President Bush's speech in January, development and reconstruction would be key elements of "the surge," with new emphasis placed on provincial reconstruction and improving local and municipal governments.


Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
 
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