"Why is Moqtada al-Sadr still alive?"
...Kelly makes the same case Ralph Peters made a few days ago. We stay our hand at our own peril. One of the problems the US has had since liberating Iraq is that it wanted too much to act like a liberator, when there was still some conquest that was needed. This is one of the reasons why we did not impose a curfew and stop the looting.
Mr. Sadr has the blood of dozens of Americans and thousands of Iraqis on his hands. There is evidence he has been coordinating with al-Qaida.
Yet Mr. Sadr is not dead. He is not in prison. He is in the government. And people wonder why U.S. policy in Iraq is failing.
Victory depends less on sending more soldiers to Iraq than on permitting the ones who are there to kill our enemies.
In April of 2004, when we should have killed Mr. Sadr, he was not a very popular figure among Iraq's Shiites. Now he's the most powerful figure in Iraq, eclipsing the more-or-less moderate Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
"In Shiite areas, the militias hold the real control of the city," e-mailed an Army sergeant in a Baghdad intelligence unit to The Wall Street Journal's Jim Taranto. "They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions . . . all the while U.S. forces do nothing."
Two years ago, the Sadr cancer could have been excised with relative ease. But it wasn't. Now it has metastasized. Yet still we hesitate to apply the necessary treatment.
So why is the Moqtada al-Sadr still alive?
Whenever we've attempted to apply a political "solution" to what is essentially a military problem, bad things have happened. An example is when we broke off the first battle of Fallujah in May of 2004 at the insistence of those Sunni leaders (more or less) supporting the government. This handed al-Qaida a major (though fortunately only a temporary) victory.
We hesitate to act decisively against Mr. Sadr in order to preserve the facade of Iraqi democracy and sovereignty, even though Mr. Maliki's hapless government wouldn't last a week if U.S. troops withdrew.
To maintain this fiction, we won't take actions Mr. Maliki doesn't approve of. But he depends upon the 28 votes Mr. Sadr controls in the Iraqi parliament in order to maintain his tenuous grasp on power. Prodding from the United States has so far been insufficient to get him to give them up. Mr. Maliki has declared which side he's on, and it isn't ours.
If we act against Mr. Sadr, there will be an uprising. It will be bloody. But continued inaction pretty much guarantees slow motion defeat.
Our failure to stop the looting led potential insurgents to believe that there was little or no consequences to attempting to thwart our objectives in Iraq. The military decision on troops levels has also been politicized by Democrats who do not have the expertise or the courage to take on Gen. Abizaid about his reasons for keeping the troop levels relatively low, i.e. because he wanted the Iraqis to do most of the work in rebuilding the country.
Instead we had a phony argument about the Secretary of Defense keeping the troop levels artificially low against the advice of the military. This argument has been pushed by Michael Gordon at the NY Times and that papers editorial board, but it is a bogus argument. What is missing from all of Gordon's sources who have pushed this theory is any statement from any one in the chain of command who has requested troops and has not gotten them. Instead we get this ridiculous story that general officers in the military were intimidated into not asking for troops.