Monday, October 15, 2007

Neighbourhood watch

The paragraph below is quoted by Michael Yon in his latest dispatch. It's from an email by LTC James Crider of the 1-4 CAV stationed in Baghdad.

While the situation is always fragile, we have the initiative and the enemy here spends much more time reacting to us than we do to him. He can hide from us but he cannot hide from his neighbor.
[My emphasis]

That is exactly the situation as it should have been almost from the taking of Bahgdad. That is, a policing operation where criminals (people who break the law and work against the public good) are fenced in first by the very people they threaten most and are captured by the forces of order. Thankfully, al-Queda are so distant from sane as to allow this situation to come into being. The American army is gradually becoming a police force.

When the War on Terror was first declared, I thought it was overblown rhetoric and did too much honour to the bombers. My view was that it should be basically a police operation. Nevertheless, I supported the invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq because such countries were dangerous in what they could allow to be projected from them. I also believed in the democratising project of the neo-cons, and that the Middle East was a mess and would remain a mess unless we gave it a shove. In addition, the American government had not reacted to attacks on its people and property for too long and was sending a signal of weakness. And what is more provoking than weakness?

I never imagined how desperately bloody it would be or how the powerful a weapon was the bloody-minded determination to sow chaos, no matter what the cost. That tactic has now been turned on itself - the lures of blind nationalism and religious identity merely led to complete breakdown and have brought forth their opposite, a citizenry united in the hunger for order. Thankfully, they had a man like Petraeus there to answer the call.

But make no mistake; it began with the Sunnis of Anbar and their recognition that Islamism is a dead end. That awareness seems to be spreading across the country and towards the south. People want order and a half-decent life and the American army is the instrument. That's what Petraeus' new strategy comes down to - giving the people what they want. And, finally, they want what he can give.

Good policing. And that's how we should approach international terrorism. They cannot fight us in a war, but they can provoke us into unwise ones. Sometimes it will be necessary to escalate, but rarely. When that happens, the end-state to be sought will be more or less what is happening in Iraq now: becoming police (but more quickly), ensuring the order that people need to live their lives free of those who would 'save' them. The result in Iraq will not be what most of us would like to inhabit, but it will be better than Saddam and far better than it has been recently. It'll all happen again in one form or another. May we learn the lessons.

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