D-Day in Iraq

Thomas Friedman [RSS] makes an odd segue to a valid point:

There’s been some good political news out of Iraq in recent days. The newly installed — and now U.N.-blessed — Iraqi government is made up of some really decent people. There is hope. But it will not be realized if the sort of incident that happened last weekend keeps being repeated. Two American and two Polish employees of Blackwater USA, a security contractor, were killed in an ambush on the main road from Baghdad airport to downtown Baghdad. Remember a year ago when Saddam’s spokesman, the wacky “Baghdad Bob,” claimed that U.S. forces didn’t control the airport? We shouldn’t have laughed. A year later, we still do not fully control the main road from Baghdad airport to Baghdad. You can’t build anything under those conditions.

The fact that criminals can kill isolated bands of people is problematic, to be sure. But, by this logic, we don’t control the main road in any town in America. Certainly, the governments of Israel and much of Western Europe don’t control their streets, since terrorist attacks happen repeatedly.

We are up against some really evil, cynical forces: die-hard Baathists, Qaeda-inspired Islamists and criminals. They continue to kill large numbers of innocent Iraqis without ever spelling out a political demand. That’s because their only interest is that America fail. They have no coherent vision for Iraq. Their only vision is that America must fail. Because if the U.S. succeeds in tilting Iraq onto a more progressive track, Baathism and Islamism will be diminished everywhere.

There is nothing more difficult to fight than an enemy whose only interest is that you fail and who has no interest in building a positive alternative. That kind of enemy can only be overwhelmed and crushed. But the D-Day solution for Iraq is not for America to throw all its troops into Iraq. As I said, it’s too late for that. It is for America to throw all its resources into getting Iraqi soldiers trained and able to take on their own opposition. Only Iraqis will find out who their bad guys are and have the legitimacy to defeat them. As the Stanford University democracy specialist Larry Diamond, a former U.S. adviser in Baghdad, put it: “If you don’t have security in Iraq, you don’t have anything. We have to throw everything we have — everything — into getting the new Iraqi forces operating effectively.”

This is a truly brilliant idea! It’s a wonder that those who planned the Iraq War didn’t think of training an Iraqi security force and turning security over to them.

How close are we to that? I called Lt. Gen. David Petraeus in Baghdad, the widely respected U.S. commander for rebuilding the Iraqi Army. He told me that contracts for more than $3 billion worth of equipment, uniforms, training facilities, weaponry, bases and communications gear for the new Iraqi Army are finally being signed and executed — so by the end of the summer, a lot of it should be getting to units. Moreover, he said, the first battalion of Iraqi internal security forces, trained for urban warfare, will be deployed in Baghdad. If the training stays on schedule, says General Petraeus, a critical mass of trained Iraqi Army, civil defense and police forces should be up and running by January, in time for elections.

“Early on, just after we got here, we talked a lot about how to win Iraqi hearts and minds, and get them to like us,” General Petraeus said. “But we understand now that what we really need is for them to love the new Iraq. That is what needs to happen. . . . Bombs are going to go off every day, but what we need to do is somehow keep looking to the longer term and focus on building the new Iraq. . . . We just need to keep our heads down, be patient and keep driving on. This is really, really hard work.”

Ah. So, we’re already doing it. And expect to be essentially done in six months? Faster than we did the same thing in West Germany after WWII?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The day has long past when it was time to give up on Tom Friedman and his trite and banal “analysis.” His primary strength is that he can steal ideas that others have already articulated and his fans believe that they are his original and unique thoughts. Stop reading this fraud.