The Glass Half Full

In Iraq today, there are intense, oftentimes rancorous, political debates and discussions. For the first time in this ancient land, open political disputes among elected representatives are being argued before the eyes of constituents. Or, as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld described this very familiar—to—Americans phenomenon in a recent press conference, there is a lot of 'politicking.' 

The insightful website, Iraq the Model provides excellent commentary on this 'democratic sausage' being made in Iraq as the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA, Shiites), Sunnis and Kurds jockey for power.  Here is an excerpt providing a bit of the flavor of democratic horsetrading politics in Iraq today:

Right now, the only way Jafari can be appointed as PM is probably through making huge concessions to the Kurds and Sunni and secular blocs. In the Kurds' case, the UIA will probably promise them to put article 58 of the TAL concerning Kirkuk into action and to extend the jurisdictions of the president (Talabani). The Sunni Arabs will probably be promised to get one of the security—related cabinet posts in addition to agreeing to establish a "National Security Council" with equal representation for all the major blocs but of course all this depends on considering that the 4 blocs will have enough trust among them to buy promises.

As Winston Churchill once said, 'To jaw—jaw is always better than to war—war.'  Yes, and there is no civil war in Iraq.

In Iraq, terrorists continue to bomb and to kill.  However, taken on a month—to—month basis over the past year, the frequency of attacks is down. The terrorists have not achieved their goal, as Donald Rumsfeld reminded us in 17 February 2006 remarks before the Council on Foreign Relations:

'They tried to stop (Iraqis from) having elections on January 15 and failed. Insurgents and terrorists tried to stop them from crafting a constitution, and they failed.  They tried to prevent the constitutional referendum on October 15, and they failed.  They tried to stop the elections that took place on December 15, and they failed. They're now trying to prevent the establishment of a decent government, and I think they'll fail.'

We can add here there that they've failed to incite a civil war.

In Iraq, the glass of optimism and hope for a stable, democratic future is half full.  Or as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Peter Pace phrased it in a recent press conference,

'The Iraqi people — Sunni, Shia, Kurds — have walked up to the possibility (of civil war). I believe they've looked into the abyss and have said, 'This is not where we want to go.''

The potential has always been there, but there is no civil war.

Nobody in the administration, or the Pentagon, or among the commanders in country takes a rose—colored view of the situation in Iraq.  They're all aware that the country is at a critical stage.  US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad has stated as much in an LA Times interview 

'The potential is there for sectarian violence to become a full—blown civil war.' 

He also said that

'The U.S. vision for a broad—based government reflects the aspirations of the Iraqi people' and described the 'day—to—day political jousting as healthy. This is a much better way than with guns.' 

And he noted that

'Once a national unity government is formed, the effort to provoke a civil war will face a huge obstacle.'

Exactly, and this is why the terrorists have abandoned their previous strategy and are now attacking civilian targets.

As politicking proceeds and as terrorists continue to kill, steady progress is being made in Iraq. With the barrage of negative news, it's difficult to recall that Iraq has its own stock market and a fairly stable currency, with new businesses being started on a regular basis. In Iraq, a free press flourishes.  And as SECDEF Rumsfeld reminded us in his February 17 remarks,

'There are four provinces with 60%  of the population where 90% of the (violent) incidents occur.' 

The majority of Iraq is peaceful and stable.

More and more battlespace is being turned over to Iraqi forces. Iraqi divisions and brigades are taking control of more and more bases from American forces.  More and more police are being trained at the six academies inside Iraq.  Every ten weeks, 3500 new policemen graduate, most of them trained by Iraqis.

Iraq now has its own counter—terrorist unit.  On the evening of March 8, the 2nd Counter—Terrorist Battalion, 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade planned and executed an assault east of Taji, freeing an Iraqi government official being held hostage. No one was killed and two suspects were taken into custody.

More and more Iraqis are providing information leading to the killing or capturing of terrorist bomb makers and insurgents.

Responding to a tip, soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division and 1st Battalion, 66th Armor (US), detained a terror suspect on March 1 northwest of Baghdad, a suspected member of a bomb—making cell responsible for an attack that killed a US soldier. In the ongoing Operation Sayyid in Al Anbar province, coalition forces, having secured vital intelligence, planned and executed a raid that resulted in the apprehension of 61 members of Zarqawi's Al Qeada in Iraq organization hiding in a training and bomb—making facility.  Several high level operatives were among those captured.  A large weapons cache was confiscated.

And in Habbaniya province on Thursday, coalition forces raided 15 safe houses to flush out terrorists. Ten suspects were captured and detained and large weapons caches were found and destroyed.  These kinds of successes continue to occur on a regular basis in Iraq.  Don't count on the antique media to let you know about them.  It is up to you to go to www.mnf— and and and inform yourself.

From the beginning, it was understood by the Bush administration that, ultimately, the war on terror and Operation Iraq Freedom in its subsequent phases would be a battle of wills. Terrorists understand this and perpetrate violence to undermine both Iraqi and American morale.  Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has stressed this aspect of our present conflict many times.  In his March 7 press conference he said:

'Nearly 56 years ago, in 1950, the Truman administration issued what would become a framework for America's Cold War strategy for four decades. In a formerly classified document called NSC 68, the Truman administration said quote, 'Our fundamental purpose is more likely to be defeated from lack of will to maintain it than from any mistakes we may make or assault we may undergo because of asserting that will' unquote.  And again, the toughest challenge will be to maintain our national will to persevere and to prevail.'

You don't have to be a cock—eyed optimist to understand, to know, that the glass of optimism and hope for Iraq's democratic future is at least half full.

John B. Dwyer is a military historian and frequent contributor.

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