Michael Totten

From Counterinsurgents to Peacekeepers

Associated Press Baghdad Bureau Chief Robert Reid and his chief military reporter Robert Burns published “a dispatch from Iraq”:http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jzxqARN0Huv38n5pgDfdBRwuoiZgD925HT7G0 over the weekend that should have made banner headlines. “It’s not the end of fighting,” they wrote. “It looks like the beginning of a perilous peace.” This is exactly right, but millions of Americans still have no idea. Coverage from Iraq has diminished as much as the casualty rates since General David Petraeus implemented an effective counterinsurgency strategy in early 2007. At least we’re finally seeing a media consensus emerge after a year and a half of looking at the data as though it were inkblots on a Rorschach. It’s nearly impossible to work in Iraq anymore and deny what has happened.
Even so, this is no time to get recklessly drunk on victory and declare “mission accomplished.” Nor is this the time to bolt for the exits from an unpopular war. The peace, as Burns and Reid say, is perilous and only just now beginning. The war is still not actually even over, though the fighting has been greatly reduced. Every single last inch of progress can be reversed. Keeping the relative peace will be just as difficult, though less dangerous, than making it in the first place. “[J]udging from the security gains that have been sustained over the first half of this year,” they wrote, “as the Pentagon withdrew five Army brigades sent as reinforcements in 2007 — the remaining troops could be used as peacekeepers more than combatants.”
That’s basically already happening. The transformation of American soldiers and Marines from counterinsurgent combatants to peacekeepers has taken place all over Iraq. In fact, the most radical of General Petraeus’s strategic overhaul was the positioning of troops as peacekeepers and the defenders of Iraqi civilians before the fighting even abated. That is what brought so many Iraqis over to the American side. Some places in Iraq were so horrifically violent that nothing resembling a normal life was even possible until someone stepped in to provide basic security. Al Qaeda in Iraq and Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia weren’t going to do it. They were the groups that threatened Iraqi security. And the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police were too under trained, under equipped, understaffed, and corrupt to do it themselves.
“Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/from-counterinsurgents-to-peacekeepers-11899.