Monday, June 2, 2008

Patience: The Key to the Confusion of Our Enemies

From our various wars, we have two interesting items. First, a WaPo editorial:
Iraq passed a turning point last fall when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Now, another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country, dispersing both rival militias and the Iranian-trained "special groups" that have used them as cover to wage war against Americans. It is -- of course -- too early to celebrate; though now in disarray, the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the U.S. and Iraqi elections this fall. Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments -- and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the "this-war-is-lost" caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
Next, this from the Telegraph:
Missions by special forces and air strikes by unmanned drones have "decapitated" the Taliban and brought the war in Afghanistan to a "tipping point", the commander of British forces has said.

A member of 2 Scots acquires a personal escort as he patrols the town of Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province
The new "precise, surgical" tactics have killed scores of insurgent leaders and made it extremely difficult for Pakistan-based Taliban leaders to prosecute the campaign, according to Brig Mark Carleton-Smith.

In the past two years an estimated 7,000 Taliban have been killed, the majority in southern and eastern Afghanistan. But it is the "very effective targeted decapitation operations" that have removed "several echelons of commanders".

This in turn has left the insurgents on the brink of defeat, the head of Task Force Helmand said.

"The Taliban are much weaker," he said from 16 Air Assault Brigade headquarters in Lashkar Gah.

"The tide is clearly ebbing not flowing for them. Their chain of command is disrupted and they are short of weapons and ammunition."
Like all wars, these two have been mind-bending in their waste, strategic error, and stupidity. But that's simply the way that war is conducted. We may have been lulled into a sense of complacency by the first Gulf War, which was exceptional for its limited scope and rational planning. The two we're involved in now are much more typical.

This is not to say that the Bush Administration can be excused in any way for the mess it made in Iraq, even as it now finally cleans up that mess. But it should be given credit for its patience and resolve.

If you're going to fight a war--even a "war of choice"--you have to be willing to fight it to the end. If you have that resolve and you are the stronger party, two things will eventually happen:
  1. No matter how inept you are, you will learn enough to formulate a winning strategy. You will be able to bring the proper combination of technology, statecraft, and simple management to bear.

  2. God still fights on the side of the heaviest artillery. When you're stronger than your enemies, you eventually grind them down.
We are headed for victory. The satisfaction that that victory will bring will surely be tempered by the knowledge that it was bought at much too high a price and took much too long to achieve. But the benefits of victory will nonetheless accrue to the West in general and the US in particular. Those benefits are not inconsequential.

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