If Iraq war is lost it will be on home front

Paul Greenburg:


A new commanding general now has been called in, complete with a new strategy and a new team of subordinates to carry it out. His approach is an open book, specifically the U.S. Army's new counter-insurgency (COIN) manual published just last month. The new commander -- Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, Ph.D. -- should know it well; he was the strategist responsible for putting it together.
The new manual lays out the challenge now facing American forces and our allies in Iraq, and how Gen. Petraeus proposes to respond to it: Clear and hold enemy strongholds. We've cleared them before, but neglected to hold them. The general does not propose to repeat that strategic error. His aim will be to isolate the enemy from popular support. He understands that not all the insurgents can or need be killed or captured to achieve that aim -- so long as they are neutralized.
Already the first tentative but hopeful results of such a strategy are being reported in Baghdad, where leaders of Muqtada al-Sadr's murderous Mahdi Army are being rounded up. Armed gangs are disappearing from the streets of Sadr City as they go into hiding. Meanwhile, Sunni terrorists try to kill as many innocent civilians as possible in hopes of keeping the sectarian violence going, the country ungovernable, and American public opinion demoralized.
As the debate over the war mounts this week, here is what may be the most relevant excerpt from the new counter-insurgency manual, with emphasis added:
"Most enemies either do not try to defeat the United States with conventional operations or do not limit themselves to purely military means. They know that they cannot compete with U.S. forces on those terms. Instead, they try to exhaust U.S. national will, aiming to win by undermining and outlasting public support."
Militarily, the new strategy may work, but only if given time, patience and support. But what about politically? None of the lessons from this new manual will avail if the war isn't won on the decisive front in any such conflict: the home front. That is where another war was lost, the one in Vietnam.
In the long shadow of that defeat, it became easy to forget that the now-defunct Republic of Vietnam was holding its own, thanks to American air and logistical support, until Congress pulled the props out from under the Vietnamese. The same impulse can be seen in today's demands that American troops be withdrawn from Iraq, or at least not reinforced.
To quote Gen. Petraeus' manual again, our enemy will "try to exhaust U.S. national will, aiming to win by undermining and outlasting public support."
A number of resolutions withdrawing support from the war are being readied in Congress, with Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Joe Biden leading the push to oppose the new strategy and the additional troops it requires. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama will be right behind them, with an eye on next year's presidential election.
The desperation for defeat in the Democrat party is palpable. Many wanted defeat for teh Iraq operation from day one. Their slanderous attacks on the President and his polices have had the effect that the enemy wanted. They have weakened support for the war and given hope to a hopeless enemy. Now many of them want to add more symbolic hope with a resolution designed to undercut the new general they have just approved for the job in Baghdad. It is hared to imagine a much more reprehensible course of conduct by a political party and some truncoat Republicans like Chuck Hagel. They are a pretty disgusting lot and the public should reject everyone of them.


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