Seizing Fallujah

Citing this NYT account [AP-no RSS] of early Marine success in battling Sadr’s militia in Fallajuh, Matthew Yglesias praises the skill of the Marines but wonders,

Were we coming to Iraq in order to seize and permanently control it’s territory, then killing a bunch of armed people and basically putting the town on lockdown would be a reasonable objective.

The local population isn’t going to hate us less after we’ve demolished several square blocks of it, killed their local heroic resistance fighters, and taken down a few people’s sisters, wives, and children to boot. So then the Marines go back to their barracks and things start up again. Right?

Establishing minimal levels of law and order is pretty much a threshhold requirement for the rest of the mission. One hopes that the supply of people willing to kill Marines or die trying is rather finite. Further, there’s reason to think that killing insurgents–while doing our level best to protect noncombatants–will sap the hostile will of other would-be insurgents.

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    Further, there’s reason to think that killing insurgents—while doing our level best to protect noncombatants—will sap the hostile will of other would-be insurgents.

    And that reason is? Seriously.

  2. capt joe says:

    In many ways, it will be difficult to get a real picture of what is happening for several days. Any blogger who believes he does is spinning a political point (pro or con). The fog of war is definitely applicable at this point.

    So I figure we at least 3 groups of insurgents. First Sadr and his goons operating in at least 3 towns. Some ba’athist supporters in the Sunni triangle and a variety of Aq/misc islamists operating elsewhere. My estimate is that these other groups are capitalizing on Sadr’s initial attack. They believe they see an opportunity

    What will happen is really hard to determine at this moment. What will happen some months from now is far more important.

    I think that certain politicians attempts to make political hay out of this are reprehensible. Perhaps this should be called the “Ted” offensive (named by John Moore after attempts by Ted Kennedy to gain cheap political points)

  3. James Joyner says:

    Fear that they, too, will be hunted down and killed? It’s a rather time honored technique, actually. And judging by their performance in 1991 and 2003, Iraqis will gladly surrender if death seems the altenative.

  4. capt joe says:

    I wasn’t sure if that was a question to me or not. Were you asking saying that this was a general uprising. And if so, would enough violence stop it?

    I am not really sure how much these insurgent groups draw support from the general populace. Reports I read seem to indicate that they don’t have it and that Iraqis are trying to stay out of the way for the moment. Some reports indicated that the populace was helping the US troop by supplying cars to get the US wounded out. Others including Sistanis groups were declaring Sadr to be an outlaw. Various polls indicate that the populace is not for attacks on coalition troops. As well, there Cori Dauber’s take on this at

    Hey, maybe every Iraqi wants us dead. Who really knows. I sure don’t, but (liberal but 😉 my intution tells me not.

  5. capt joe says:

    My own feeling is that if certain politicians can cause a feeling that this is “Tet” for the iraq situation then that may be the beginning of the end.

    We reap what we sow. I would not what to be John Kerry if this is the basis for his entry to the Oval office. The consequences of running with our collectives tails between our legs from Iraq will the the beginning of truly dark times ahead. We have to succeed there or else.

    That is my greateat fear.

  6. capt joe says:
  7. McGehee says:

    My own feeling is that if certain politicians can cause a feeling that this is “Tet” for the iraq situation then that may be the beginning of the end.

    Exactly — I expected a deliberate effort to do this when it first broke out, and Ted Kennedy certainly didn’t disappoint. Except inasmuch as such politicking on the deaths of Americans is disappointing on its face…