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The Beginning of the End? August 29, 2007

Posted by Sobek in News.

From CNN.com:

“Anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a suspension of his Mehdi Army militia for up to six months for restructuring, a senior aide said Wednesday.

“The move follows battles in Karbala and Baghdad between the Mehdi Army and Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq — hostilities that left more than 50 people dead and scores injured.”

Where I come from, “suspending” your army of crazed fanatics is synonymous with realizing that you’ve just lost.  Am I over-reading this?

“‘For the sake of public interest, we have decided to issue the following: Suspend the Mehdi Army, with no exception, for a maximum of six months starting from the date of this release, to restructure it in a way that would preserve its ideological principles,’ al-Araji said.”

Restructure?  Is Muqtada al-Sadr really the pointy-haired boss from Dilbert?  Getting scores of your insurgents wiped out by the Iraqi Army isn’t restructuring, so much as it is “down-sizing.”  Or “right-sizing,” if you want to get optimistic.  The bit about this quote that really catches my attention, however, is the bit about ideological principles.  Mookie’s ideology has two basic foundations: (1) he wants to be the boss, and (2) Islam will inevitably triumph over the West.  I think the mounting evidence that the surge is working fundamentally strikes at both of these principles, because (a) Mookie doesn’t get to be the boss if the Americans go into Sadr City weapons free, and (b) radical Islam is obviously not triumphing when the Americans are simultaneously destroying the insurgents and quieting Iraq (most noticeably in Anbar and the more unruly parts of Baghdad).

I’m trying to be pessimistic, here, as is my default position when reading about the Middle East, but there’s just too much about this story which suggests cause for hope:

“In response, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, said, ‘We have always said we welcome those who want to participate positively in the future of Iraq.'”

At a minimum, it looks like Garver interprets al-Sadr’s statement the same way I do — a concession of defeat.  In addition, allowing al-Sadr to “participate positively” in the future of Iraq is a brilliant move — if nothing else, then even the appearance that he is cooperating with the Americans on a temporary basis co-opts him and makes him look like a Western stooge.  Any savvy would-be successor can easily leverage that into a coup, which means in-fighting among the insurgents, which means red on red violence. 


1. compos mentis - August 29, 2007

Now is the time to hunt them down and crush them.

2. Lipstick - August 29, 2007

Exactly. Don’t let them use this time to re-group and re-arm.

3. Michael - August 29, 2007

The Mehdi Army should be granted amnesty on the condition that they pledge to fight global warming.

4. Moses - August 29, 2007

Crush your enemy totally.

5. Sobek - August 29, 2007

“Now is the time to hunt them down and crush them.”

My philosophy on the proper conduct of war is to win, to win decisively, and to win quickly to minimize the destruction.

All that said, perhaps we’re dealing with a situation where the “hunt them down and crush them” plan fails to acknowledge the new kind of war we’re fighting. The insurgents’ plan all along has been demoralization through steady, random violence. If the insurgents are told to stand down, every day the streets of Baghdad are quiet is a loss to them. People will get used to not being blown up, and they will be less sympathetic to anyone who tries to go back to the bad old days.

Furthermore, people might get it into their heads that it was the continuing presence of American troops that led to the drastically-reduced violence.

6. cranky - August 29, 2007

Sobek, your point that Mookie will now be seen as “owned” by the infidels is particularly sharp. I may be incorrect in saying that Michael Yon, in one of his recent dispatches, wrote something similar. But I’m pretty sure it was Yon who wrote that part of any successful counter insurgency strategy is to cause as much internal friction, jealousy, and doubt among your opponents so as to create red on red violence.

General Petraeus strategy for Iraq seems to be working. It is good for us domestically and in Iraq and it is good for the people of Iraq. It has the added benefit of being bad for Iran and Syria. Too bad the MSM continues to ignore the success of the surge.

7. compos mentis - August 30, 2007

Why give them the opportunity to regroup and recruit only to start this crap all over again? The insurgency is like a bad infection. Unless you keep applying the antibiotics even after it is seemingly gone, it won’t be wiped out and can come back. No, the new Iraqi forces need to continue to crush the resistance, find their training camps and completely destroy the enemy.

I’m all for getting our troops out of there in a timely manner, but just because al-Sadr called “timeout!” doesn’t mean we should quit.

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