The offensive put several serious Iraqi military problems on display -- tough, immediate medicine -- but what matters is how the leadership corrects them. Desert Storm demonstrated that some soldiers in some Iraqi units are unreliable. In 1991 and 2003, American forces exploited this moral flaw. During the early stages of Knights Charge, a disgusting percentage of Iraqi soldiers fled combat. The Iraqis have since sacked and publicly shamed 1,300 soldiers, which says Iraq's current leaders intend to fix the flaws.
When Knights Charge began, I wrote that the Maliki government knows first and foremost it is waging a political war. Long ago, it decided to isolate and "suffocate" Sadr. In the wake of Knights Charge, Sadr is being publicly mocked.
Fierce Iraq Kurd and Sunni Arab political support for Knights Charge has strengthened Maliki's government -- that's nation-building by the Iraqis themselves. I believe this was the Iraqi government's key strategic domestic objective. In over their heads or a heady move?
Knights Charge demonstrates the Iraqi democratic government's expanding reach and increasing effectiveness. Iran's mullah dictatorship will always try to destabilize Iraq, that's a given. But now Tehran says publicly it supports the Iraqi government's counterinsurgent efforts. Why? Fair bet the smart mullahs have noticed the political success of Knights Charge as well as the Iraqi military's improving counterinsurgency capabilities. Unfortunately, the Basra blunderbusses in the American media haven't.
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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