By Karl Zinsmeister is the Editor-in-Chief of The American Enterprise.
WEB SITE. June 20, 2005
Forwarded by firstname.lastname@example.org via 1stAdmPAO
Your editor returned to Iraq in April and May of 2005 for another embedded period of reporting. I could immediately see improvements compared to my earlier extended tours during 2003 and 2004. The Iraqi security forces, for example, are vastly more competent, and in some cases quite inspiring. Baghdad is now choked with traffic. Cell phones have spread like wildfire. And satellite TV dishes sprout from even the most humble mud hovels in the countryside.
Many of the soldiers I spent time with during this spring had also been deployed during the initial invasion back in 2003. Almost universally they talked to me about how much change they could see in the country. They noted progress in the attitudes of the people, in the condition of important infrastructure, in security.
I observed many examples of this myself. Take the two very different Baghdad neighborhoods of Haifa Street and Sadr City. The first is an upper-end commercial district in the heart of downtown. The second is one of Baghdad's worst slums, on the city's north edge.
I spent lots of time walking both neighborhoods this spring-something that would not have been possible a year earlier, when both were active war zones, where tanks poured shells into buildings on a regular basis. Today, the primary work of our soldiers in each area is rebuilding sewers, paving roads, getting buildings repaired and secured, supplying schools and hospitals, getting trash picked up, managing traffic, and encouraging honest local governance.
What the establishment media covering Iraq have utterly failed to make clear today is this central reality: With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over. Egregious acts of terror will continue-in Iraq as in many other parts of the world. But there is now no chance whatever of the U.S. losing this critical guerilla war.
Contrary to the impression given by most newspaper headlines, the United States has won the day in Iraq. In 2004, our military fought fierce battles in Najaf, Fallujah, and Sadr City. Many thousands of terrorists were killed, with comparatively little collateral damage. As examples of the very hardest sorts of urban combat, these will go down in history as smashing U.S. victories.
And our successes at urban combat (which, scandalously, are mostly untold stories in the U.S.) made it crystal clear to both the terrorists and the millions of moderate Iraqis that the insurgents simply cannot win against today's U.S. Army and Marines. That's why everyday citizens have surged into politics instead.
The terrorist struggle has hardly ended. Even a very small number of vicious men operating in secret will find opportunities to blow up outdoor markets and public buildings, assassinate prominent political figures, and knock down office towers. But public opinion is not on the insurgents' side, and the battle of Iraq is no longer one of war fighting-but of policing and politics.
Policing and political problem-solving are mostly tasks for Iraqis, not Americans. And the Iraqis are taking them up, often with gusto. I saw much evidence that responsible Iraqis are gradually isolating the small but dangerously nihilistic minority trying to strangle their new society. With each passing month, U.S. forces will more and more become a kind of SWAT team that intervenes only to multiply the force of the emerging Iraqi security forces, and otherwise stays mostly in the background.
Increasingly, the Iraqi people are taking direction of their own lives. And like all other self-ruling populations, they are more interested in improving the quality of their lives than in mindless warring. It will take some time, but Iraq has begun the process of becoming a normal country.