Everyone's talking about Fallujah these days. Captain Ed thinks we're making a mistake by showing sensitivity while we should be showing strength, as showing sensitivity rather than strength is what brought on 9/11:
For twenty-seven years, going back to Teheran, we have delivered the same message. No one doubts (any more) that we have an overwhelming military advantage in the Middle East and anywhere else, both in personnel and in technology; the three-week fall of Saddam demonstrated that beyond doubt. What we lack is both political will to win a war, and the political will to recognize that we're in a war. Negotiation with terrorists brought us to 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and instead of learning the lessons of the past quarter-century, we seem to be repeating them in Fallujah. This vacillation only communicates a sense of weakness, negating our tactical and strategic superiority, as political weakness always does (see: France, 1939-40).
It's doubly frustrating because Fallujah does not have the tactical disadvantages we face in Najaf, with the Shi'a shrines complicating our ability to attack al-Sadr's militia. Fallujah, in fact, holds the center of the Ba'athist reaction to the Coalition's regime change, and as such makes the case much stronger for direct military action. Instead of acting under a war-time paradigm, the CPA has turned the Marines into a SWAT team with better weaponry, which is a strategy for failure. We cannot be the new police force in Iraq; we must see the war to its conclusion first.
Time to quit fooling around and parleying with terrorists and unreconstructed Ba'athists, and fight the battle of Fallujah from the offense rather than the defense that the past 24 days have brought. The sooner we demonstrate our will to use all of the resources available to us to crush those who would take up arms against us, the sooner other pesky militias and insurgents will recognize that their battle has already been lost. Further delay only gives them hope of outlasting us.
Donald Sensing, as I mentioned in my previous post, thinks that we're pursuing a strategy to isolate the insurgents and we're about to go after them. I hope that Sensing is right, but I'm not sure. This news report from Fox News has me scratching my head:
Coalition officials said they have three or four different negotiation tracks taking place. One of them includes using Iraqi security forces to enter the city under the command of coalition leadership.
Sources said the coalition remains committed to a peaceful resolution to the current standoff in Fallujah.
I don't know why we'd want a peaceful resolution. I tend to think that the enemy in Fallujah are bad guys, whom we want to either capture or kill, not negotiate with, thus leaving them to fight another day and encouraging others to think violence will get them what they want. I think the real key, however, isn't what we want, but what the Iraqis want. I don't think we were pausing out of sensitivity as Captain Ed thinks, or in order to corral them as Donald Sensing believes, although both of those may have been considerations. I think our primary reason for waiting has been to give us a chance to bring in the Iraqis. Remember, the handover is on June 30th. By then, the Iraqis will have to be able to handle their own problems. Oh, we'll still be there, and we'll still be hunting down terrorists and Ba'athists (assuming there's a difference), but the more the Iraqis do for themselves, the better. They'll look less like US puppets, they'll develop their own sense of mission and pride, and in many ways, they can be more effective in this job than we can. By bringing them in now, while the US is still in control, we're teaching them how to handle the problems they'll deal with later. It's like having the training wheels of American support as they learn to ride the bike of self-rule... Okay, I'll stop now before this metaphor becomes like one of Dave Barry's. Of course, there's still a paradox here: can we develop Iraqi strength without showing American weakness? If they want a negotiated settlement, which is the opposite of what we want, should we let them have it? That I don't know, and as I said below, I'll just have to trust that the commanders in the field know what they are doing.