When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

08 June 2006

Salvaging Iraq

The news of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death in an airstrike last night is welcome indeed.

But while this decapitation has important symbolic value, it isn't likely to stem the tide of savage, violent insurgency that plagues Iraqi civilians (primarily) and the US-led coalition (secondarily.) The insurgents work on a completely decentralized model; the best we can say is that we took out the leader of the local franchise last night.

David Ignatius's column in yesterday's Washington Post is well worth reading in its entirety, but here's the relevant excerpt for me (after all, anyone who follows the news is acquainted with the horrific body count):

What we're seeing in Iraq is a mismatch between ends and means: between a political strategy of unity and the reality of feuding factional leaders; between a military strategy of "clear, hold and build" counterinsurgency and the reality that most American soldiers remain hunkered down every day; between the goal of stabilizing the country and the daily reality of physical intimidation.

What can America do to mitigate the Iraq disaster? Certainly it doesn't need more strategy papers. The political and military strategies now in place talk the right language of unity and counterinsurgency, but this is still mostly Green Zone talk. Marine Capt. Scott A. Cuomo argues in the June edition of Marine Corps Gazette [unfortunately, not available online - bc] that the U.S. military should make "embedded training teams," living and fighting with the Iraqi security forces, its main effort. He says frankly of his own combat experience in Iraq: "We did very little to truly help indigenous security forces protect the populace from the insurgency."

Salvaging Iraq (David Ignatius, Washignton Post, June 7, 2006)


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