Some Senior Officers in Iraq Say: We’re Winning Battles, Losing the War
George W. Bush’s elective decision to besiege Fallujah in revenge for the killing of four Western private commandos produced revulsion throughout Iraq. It is an example of how the US can win the battles but lose the war. And, some senior officers are afraid that US policy in Iraq is producing such a dire result, according to veteran military affairs reporter Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post.
Ricks writes, hauntingly: ‘ Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, “I think strategically, we are.” Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. “Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically,” he said in an interview Friday. “I lost my brother in Vietnam,” added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. “I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don’t understand the war we’re in.” ‘
Some military analysts apparently are privately calling the Iraq enterprise “Dead Man Walking.”
Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Iraqi newspaper editorials continue to be angry about the photographs prison torture that have surfaced, and are demanding concrete steps to correct the abuses.
Cole here: The US has lost ground in Iraq by being exclusionary rather than inclusive. Radical debaathification and a punitive attitude toward Sunni Arabs pushed them into insurgency. The Americans excluded the Sadrists early on, and are now having to fight them everywhere in the South. If they actually do kill or capture Muqtada al-Sadr, it will be Americans killing or holding a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, husband of the daughter of revered Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, and beloved son of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. A lot of Shiites who are now on the fence will turn against the US, maybe radically.
Contrast these policies to Afghanistan, where the US has been inclusive, even of the Pushtun cousins of the Taliban, and where there is much less anger toward the US and much less in the way of violence against US troops. That is a remarkable comparison. Afghanistan was supposed to be the graveyard of empires, and Iraq was supposed to be a cakewalk, according to the Bushies. The answer to the puzzle is that situations are fluid, and are what you make of them. If you screw up, you create disasters.