Whichever Comes First

Milblogger Greyhawk at The Mudville Gazette makes this observation about the current opportunity to stabilize Iraq and the history of the insurgency with a soldier’s irony.

We may have had a similar opportunity in 2003. Some have made that claim, though I’m not certain it’s accurate. I’m more certain that at the time there were those who were bound and determined to violently oppose any effort on the part of the coalition to bring about a free and democratic Iraq. Only now can we gauge the depth of that commitment in the vast majority of the members of that group: death or about 4.5 years, whichever comes first.[emphasis in original]

Yes. War is dynamic. Beliefs tend to be more static. That is one reason why the former is sometimes required to change the latter. Militarily the turning point in Iraq came in mid 2006 with the birth of the Sunni Awakening movement in Anbar province and our consequent success in removing al Qaeda in Iraq from its declared capital – Ramadi. I have argued that in the United States the turning point came a year later at the end of July 2007 with the publication in the New York Times of A War We Might Just Win by O’Hanlon and Polack of the Brookings Institution. Not to quibble with Greyhawk, but the Sunni Awakening was well underway after 3.5 years. It was the Stateside Awakening that took 4.5 years.

Given that Bill Roggio and many milbloggers was reporting events as they happened in Anbar province in mid 2006, the lag between the two events seems longer than necessary. Viewed in terms of information war, however, the delay is somewhat understandable because the military turning point has only become clear in retrospect. Still, for those of us who were paying attention it was already obvious in January of 2007 that the Sunni insurgency had turned on al Qaeda even as General Petraeus was unanimously being approved by Congress to lead the surge. Less understandable was the choice of timing by Senator Warner (R-VA) when he dramatically called on President Bush to withdraw from Iraq on Aug 24, 2007. Now, about three months later, Congressman Murtha (D-PA) – the ex marine who assured us that our military was broken – is saying that the surge is working. Unlike our soldiers in Iraq, these observers have the luxury of declaring victory or defeat – whichever comes first.

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