Iraqi Sunni Arab and Kurd political reactions to the attacks on the Shia militias has proven to be overwhelmingly positive, however. Iraq has progressed to the point where the political context is the dominant context and a democratic Shia-led government taking down Shia gangs was a step toward national reconciliation among ethno-sectarian groups.
Is this a surprise? Let's go to the chart: Petraeus' Anaconda chart demonstrates that the "political route of attack" can be as lethal as a kinetic (combat) operation -- perhaps more so if the goal is bringing the marginalized and antagonized into a democratic political process. In fact, in Iraq the political context is now the dominant context.
In the case of Basra and east Baghdad, at some point the Iraqi Army had to confront the Shia gangs. No, the fight wasn't perfect, but war is not the realm of perfect. War is the realm of "friction," as Clausewitz wrote, "the suck" in current lingo. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi government planned and executed the operation themselves. Failure? Don't think so. This is progress. As time passes, it is increasingly clear the Iraqi Army did a far better job than the Shia gangsters.
But we all know why the complex chart gets ignored and successes are glasses half empty: A presidential election campaign is on, and the Democratic Party has bet its soul on defeat.
"Hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, but most of all speak of no progress in Iraq." Thus Sen. Joe Lieberman, a member of the Armed Service Committee, deftly summed the last two years of Democratic Party posturing as well as the Democrats' talking points in the latest hearings.
Lieberman's maverick pal, Senator and Republican presidential nominee John McCain, spoke more bluntly, "Congress should not choose to lose in Iraq, but we should choose to succeed."
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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