Sunday, June 01, 2008

Acknowledging Success in the Counter-Insurgency

Replying to the last post,* suggesting that Senators Obama and McCain consider holding a Presidential debate in Iraq, I got a funny but sarcastic e-mail from one friend and regular reader saying, "Obama can stay there after the debate." I also replied sarcastically in turn, "Heh. Maybe he could be a community organizer." Another sardonic e-mailer followed with: "And let Senator Byrd be the moderator."

But that got me thinking. Addressing the situation on a more serious level, one thing that continues to surprise me is that Senator Obama does not acknowledge, in any respect, the extraordinary work and sacrifice of our military over the past year by specifically addressing the notable success of the counter-insurgency operation, implemented through the leadership of General Petraeus.

In spite of the risks, that strategy has turned the tide in huge areas of Iraq.

Here we have in Senator Obama someone who should be able to appreciate first-hand the difficulties of confronting demagoguery and building trust in a situation involving severe social dislocation, through his work as a "community organizer." Obviously, I am not suggesting there is a direct correlation, given the exponentially greater dangers our military encounters, but certainly he could candidly recognize and acknowledge their work in winning the support of Iraqis, in reversing the explosive potential we faced before the surge began.

Whether or not one opposed the initial incursion into Iraq, is simply immaterial in that sense. Lawrence Wright, the author of "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, arguably the seminal book on the rise of al-Qaeda, has acknowledged in an interview with Hugh Hewitt that, though he opposed the incursion into Iraq, he is now finds himself opposed to the withdraw.

From Hugh's interview with Wright:
Lawrence Wright: "Well, you know, there are two really important intellectual centers in the Arab world. One is Egypt, the other is Iraq. And the idea behind the invasion of Iraq, which I was opposed to, was to set up this model democracy that would then become a beacon for reform all over the region. It’s going to be really hard to achieve the goal that we had set out, although now, I am in the awkward political position of being opposed to withdrawing. I think we should stay there as long as we can to try to hold this entity together until they are able to remain stable, create a fairly reliable electoral process, police force, and that kind of thing, and take care of themselves. I don’t know if we can achieve that, but it’s hopeful to see that Iraq has been, you know, I don’t want to say that they’ve been put to death completely in Iraq, but they certainly are in retreat. And that’s critical, because if al-Qaeda won in Iraq, who knows how far it would go."
I also believed that the Democrats' 2006 demands for immediate withdraw and redeployment, or even their silly withdraw schedule amendment last summer, containing the unworkable "targeted counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda" language so effectively responded to on the Senate floor by Senator McCain, were utterly irresponsible. Hamstrung in the ability of our military to respond as a result of the myriad Democrat limitations, we could now be witnessing a real humanitarian debacle, had we simply "cut and run" the way they intended.

Who can dispute that al-Qaeda in Iraq, and indeed the entire movement, would have gained a huge victory by our military defeat, underscoring their history of tempestuous rampage, and perhaps even justifying it in the minds of many people throughout the world?

And who can also doubt that this would have spelled out a major strategic setback for the United States in the most dangerous region in the world?

As it is, Lawrence Wright now reports reports in his article in The New Yorker (H.T.Hugh Hewitt, here) that even a "mastermind" behind the al-Qaeda justifications for the employment of extreme violence, Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, aka, "Dr. Fadl," a man whose early works were used to underscore the "justification" for such extremely violent jihad, has now openly repudiated those views.

A year ago, Dr. Fadl sent out a fax outlining his latest views from where he is confined in Tora prison in Egypt.

From the beginning of Wright's article in The New Yorker:


Fadl was one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; Al Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. Now Fadl was announcing a new book, rejecting Al Qaeda’s violence. “We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that,” Fadl wrote in his fax, which was sent from Tora Prison, in Egypt.

Fadl’s fax confirmed rumors that imprisoned leaders of Al Jihad were part of a trend in which former terrorists renounced violence. His defection posed a terrible threat to the radical Islamists, because he directly challenged their authority. “There is a form of obedience that is greater than the obedience accorded to any leader, namely, obedience to God and His Messenger,” Fadl wrote, claiming that hundreds of Egyptian jihadists from various factions had endorsed his position.

By all means, please read the New Yorker article, and Hugh Hewitt's extremely important interview of Lawrence Wright.

And if you have not done so, please try to pick up a copy of The Looming Tower. It is truly an extraordinary read.



*(This post began as my own comment on our prior post, but took on a life of it's own.)

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