When the al-Maliki government failed to respond to the explosion in Sunni vs. Shia sectarian violence, things could only get worse -- and they have. In the weeks leading up to the U.S. elections, there was a near total breakdown of law and order in the Iraqi capital. Then, last week, a classified Marine intelligence report leaked to the media estimated that U.S. and Iraqi forces are "no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in Al Anbar province."
Neither this leak, nor its bleak assessment, should come as a surprise to anyone. Opponents of the Bush administration have been leaking with impunity whatever they deem necessary -- no matter how highly classified -- in order to bring down this administration. Unfortunately, it's equally apparent that the White House, Pentagon and State Department -- focusing on globe-spanning mini-summits from Asia to NATO to the Middle East -- failed to embrace a simple reality in the Marine intelligence report: The war in Iraq cannot be won by military means alone.
The Marines and soldiers we will join in Al Anbar win every battle. There is no Baathist, Sunni, Shiite, jihadist, or Muslim Brotherhood militia, no terror organization or "insurgent group" that can beat U.S. Army soldiers or U.S. Marines in a gunfight anywhere in Iraq. But our troops have scant support from any other part of the U.S. government. Only our military is on a "war footing."
Up to now, this war has been fought almost exclusively by soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines. U.S. Navy Sea Bees and Army engineers -- not skilled professionals from the U.S. Department of Energy -- are repairing pipelines and hooking up wires to help rebuild Iraq's oil and electrical infrastructure. Marines and soldiers -- not experts from the Department of Education -- are opening schools and stocking them with textbooks. National Guardsmen from America's heartland -- not specialists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- are helping Iraqi farmers find better ways of feeding their countrymen.
Engaging the rest of the U.S. government in winning this war has to become a priority for the Bush administration. And, as President Bush emphasized firsthand in this week's nearly aborted meeting with Prime Minister al-Maliki in Amman, time is not an ally for either government.
The Baghdad government must urgently assert control over renegade militias, initiate political reconciliation and put in place institutions of government that both provide security for the Iraqi people and protect their civil liberties. It's a tall order. But unless they rise to the necessity, a successful end to this war will be problematic.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.