The Christian Science Monitor reported the following from Nouri al Maliki yesterday regarding the Baghdad security crackdown:
Two days of relative calm in the capital prompted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to declare a "dazzling success" in the security clampdown, as officials reported an 80 percent drop in violence.
That was before yesterday when sixty people were killed in dual car bomb attacks in a market area. And before a US military installation was attacked and 3 soldiers were killed and several others wounded.
That was before today when when a suicide bomber insinuated himself into a funeral procession and killed at least 18 people.
This seems to be the modus operandi of the insurgency. Periods of relative calm followed by a shattering of that calm. I'm not sure where the correlation lies. Is it because of the deliberate psychological effect of shattering a false sense of security? Is it because they want to prove wrong them (Coalition Provisional Authority, US Military, Nouri al Maliki) who announce that things are going much better? I think it's the latter.
Maybe the trend of violence and death really is down. Maybe it's a good thing to talk in terms of reduced numbers of deaths. But that is a precarious supposition anyway, especially when many insurgents seemed to have left Baghdad until the 'storm' clears. Last February, we were sure we had turned a corner because the number of US deaths was the lowest in several months. And then boom!!! The Samarra Mosque was bombed.
I guess my underlying point is this. From square one, we have underestimated the insurgency. And we continue to underestimate the insurgency. We needed 3 times as many forces in Iraq than we had following the invasion. And we need that many now. Iraqi military forces have made significant improvements, but not to the tune of the 250,000 more US troops we need. Insurgents can still come and go essentially at will.
It would be wonderful if it worked, but I don't imagine that the surge will work. The insurgents will continue to strike with abandon until we have enough forces to ensure that they cannot come back to the strongholds that we flushed them out of. There are places near Baghdad that we have not even patrolled yet. There are "black" areas that we do not even patrol because of their danger.
I'm sure the surge is making things marginally better in Iraq, but it's ironic to say that we're having "dazzling success". It encourages people to put their guard down so that they're ripe for the next knockout.
Until we start doing it right, it's going to be a long and usually discouraging haul, punctuated by periods of apparent gain, which are then followed by large scale attacks to remind us that we're really not doing it right. Until we stop fooling ourselves, we won't take the steps necessary to bring true peace to Iraq.