The Defense Department is stressing “humanitarian” missions alongside the usual shock and awe. This al-AP story of course leaves out the rationale, and its only example is the assistance given to Indonesians smashed by the tsunami. It mentions Iraq en passant, but I suspect that the full DoD document (which I have not yet read) has a lot to say about counterinsurgency, in which the support of the public is the determining factor in who wins and who loses.
It’s worthwhile, I think, to go through the logic once again: counterinsurgency is a battle for both territory and “hearts and minds.” The people will invariably strive to withhold their support from either side as long as they can, because when they choose one, they will be targeted by the other. But once they do choose, their choice becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because they, the people, have the crucial information to win the war: who is on the other side, where does the other side hide/organize/train/get its materiel, etc. etc.
This has nothing to do with ideology, by the way. The people might prefer that the ‘nicer’ side win, but they’re going to join the side they expect to win. In Anbar Province, the people decided a) that the Marines couldn’t be beaten, and b) that the Marines weren’t leaving. Ergo, they went with the Marines.
Yes, they hated al Qaeda’s brutality. But they’d have gone with the jihadis if they had thought the Marines could be beaten, or were planning to leave.
And all along, the Marines were working with the people, not just killing bad guys. That made the choice a lot easier. They saw the Marines in the streets and on the soccer fields, which reinforced the conviction that the Marines were going to win.