Winning the war

Saturday, November 24, 2007

From Forbes magazine: Congress is in full-throated debate over the Iraq war. The media are loaded with war-related stories. Ignore all of it.

The best media coverage of the war in Iraq was supplied recently in the New York Post by Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer turned consultant/pundit (click on Opinion at nypost.com for stories). He spent more than a week living with Marines and soldiers doing the nitty-gritty patrolling, fighting and rebuilding there. Having been a career military officer, Peters quickly saw the real situation. His conclusion: Finally, after four years, we're getting the prosecution of this war right. Our troops are making remarkable progress in routing the insurgents. If we stay the course, al-Qaida's forces in Iraq will soon suffer a catastrophic defeat, and the whole Muslim world will know it.

It's not that we've just poured in more troops. Thanks to Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, we have adopted a coherent and effective military strategy. Instead of clearing out a bad area and quickly turning it over to ill-prepared Iraqi troops or militias, we're staying. We're also pursuing the bad guys, preventing them from regrouping, gathering reinforcements and coming back after us.

This is Counterinsurgency 101: You can't win until you secure the population. Once people feel safe, they'll have every incentive to cooperate with us. They'll also start to create local self-governments, civil society and commerce.

Even though Iraq's national government remains weak, with endless bickering over patronage and too many officials seemingly intent on lining their pockets, effective governance is starting to reappear at the local level. Al-Qaida and its allies now have no more safe areas in Iraq. They will continue to slaughter civilians to create the impression that the situation is deteriorating, but their ability to take control of large swaths of Iraq has been obliterated. Their very cruelty, by the way, is a critical reason that more and more tribal leaders are now eager to work with us instead of fighting us.

Given its history and ethnic animosities, Iraq will not become a Jeffersonian democracy in our lifetime. But it could well grow into a thriving, tolerably governed nation with a weak central government and very effective local rule, a positive and vivid contrast to many other Middle East states, especially Syria and Iran.

The real danger now lies not in Baghdad or onetime al-Qaida-infested Anbar Province but in Washington, where political pressures may force us to draw down U.S. Forces prematurely.

American public perception is growing that the war is at last taking a turn for the better. But this change may not happen fast enough to stave off stupidity on Capitol Hill. Thankfully, President Bush's stirring throw-down-the-gauntlet speech in August at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention and his surprise visit to Iraq in September demonstrate that the Commander in Chief has no intention of undercutting our newfound successes in Iraq.

One big rap naysayers repeat is that the Iraqi government still doesn't have its act together (the fact that Iraq's U.S.-conceived constitution makes the prime minister a weak figure is overlooked). But badly governed or militarily weak allies haven't led to disaster in the past. American troops have remained on the Korean peninsula since the armistice in 1953. For decades after that truce, South Korea was incapable of defending itself against North Korea on its own. And Western Europe needed a U.S. Presence against the Soviet Union from the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War.

Even though we are now succeeding in defeating insurgents in Iraq, the White House still isn't getting everything right. Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on guerrilla warfare, in an otherwise favorable Wall Street Journal piece, takes the Administration to task for not doing more to stop Syria from being a sanctuary for Iraqi insurgents.

And, of course, President Bush has yet to deal with the biggest font of Islamic fanaticism today and soon-to-be nuclear power, Iran.

-- Steve Forbes


Hooah! It may take you two minutes to read this, but if you do not take the time to read this, you are one of the people this post is talking about:

You stay up for 16 hours. He stays up for days on end.

You take a warm shower to help you wake up. He goes days or weeks without running water and washes up with a wet one.

You complain of a headache and call in sick. He has blisters on his feet from walking miles in full gear and keeps going.

You put on your anti-war/don't support the troops shirt and go meet up with your friends. He still fights for your right to wear that shirt.

You make sure your cell phone is in your pocket. He clutches the cross hanging on his chain next to his dog tags.

You talk trash about your buddies that aren't with you. His buddies are closer than a brother and he would lay down his life for anyone of them' You walk down the beach, staring at all the pretty girls. He patrols the streets and mountains, searching for insurgents and terrorists.

You complain about how hot it is. He wears his heavy gear, not daring to take off his helmet to wipe his brow.

You go out to lunch, and complain because the restaurant got your order wrong. He gets to eat a cold MRE or beef jerky.

Your maid makes your bed and washes your clothes. He wears the same things for weeks, but makes sure his weapons are clean.

You go to the mall and get your hair redone. He doesn't have time to brush his teeth today.

You're angry because your class ran five minutes over. He's told he will be held over an extra two months.

You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight. He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home.

You hug and kiss your girlfriend like you do every day. He holds his letter close and smells his love's perfume.

You roll your eyes as a baby cries. He gets a letter with pictures of his new child and misses the sound of its cry.

You criticize your government and say that war never solves anything. He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting.

You hear the jokes about the war and make fun of men like him. He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the innocent that he is trying to protect.

You see only what the media wants you to see. He sees lives experiencing freedom and democracy for the first time.

You are asked to go to the store by your parents. You don't. He does exactly what he is told.

You stay at home and watch TV. He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep and eat.

You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable. He tries to sleep but is awakened by mortars and helicopters all night long.

You sit there and judge him, saying the world is probably a worse place because of men like him.

-- A Soldier's Life, from the Internet


"Capitalist heroes" is an 1,177-word column in the Oct. 10 issue of The Wall Street Journal. David Kelley wrote an informative article which stated: "Fifty years ago today Ayn Rand published her magnum opus 'Atlas Shrugged.' It's an enduringly popular novel -- all 1,168 pages of it -- with some 150,000 new copies still sold each year in bookstores alone. And it's always had a special appeal for people in business. The reasons, at least on the surface, are obvious enough.

Businessmen are favorite villains in popular media, routinely featured as polluters, crooks and murderers in network TV dramas and first-run movies, not to mention novels. Oil-company CEOs are hauled before congressional committees whenever fuel prices rise to be harangued and publicly shamed.

Read the book.

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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