“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”
― Milton Friedman

“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Friday, January 12, 2007

The surge

The single most important indicator (that will be visible to us) of whether "the surge" will succeed will be the fate of the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr in the next several months.
Al-Sadr is a client-state-in-waiting of the Iranians, a virulent anti-American, the leader of the largest group of "insurgent" sectarian murderers in Baghdad and a key supporter of State Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki. He's a litmus test.

If al-Sadr is destroyed, we are almost certain to win. If he is marginalized, victory is very likely. Failing either of those occurrences, we need to withdraw into our laagers and tell al-Maliki that he has two years of intelligence, logistics and air support left in which to solve his problem.

Because his power is a crucial indicator, look for the MSM to downplay, or agonize over, any slap-down of al-Sadr. A preview of the headlines: "The fragile Iraqi government is threatened by...", "Al_Sadr vows to bring down Maliki government...", "Bush's plan foundering on the rock of al-Sadr...", "Mahdi Army kills 6 US soldiers in pitched battle...". The fact that al-Sadr is the one really threatened will be ignored, as will the likelihood in the last example that the Mahdi Army would experience 150 killed.

The President must not go wobbly on his own words:

In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods.
Rules of engagement based on the politics of al-Maliki's government must change. If we are not there to win, we should not be there. Lack of a commitment to win is a parallel to Vietnam and we should not stand for it. Killing the Mahdi Army is a strategic objective.

Victor Davis Hanson has a fine article on this. An excerpt:

[Will this work?] Only if the Maliki government is honest when he promises that there will be no sanctuaries for the militias and terrorists. So when the killing of terrorists causes hysteria — and it will, both in Iraq and back here at home — the Iraqi-American units must escalate their operations rather than stand down.

The American people will support success and an effort to win, whatever the risks, but not stasis. We saw that with the silent approval of Ethiopia’s brutal rout of the Islamists in Somalia, and our own attack on al Qaeda there.

The subtext of the president’s speech was that our sacrifices to offer freedom and constitutional government are the only solution for the Middle East — but that our commitments are not open-ended if the Iraqis themselves don’t want success as much as we do.

But why believe that this latest gamble will work? First, things are by agreement coming to a head: this new strategy will work, or, given the current politics, nothing will. Second, the Iraqis in government know this time Sadr City and Baghdad are to be secured, or it is to be “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya,” and they will be on planes to Dearborn. Finally, note the pathetic Democratic reply by Sen. Durbin, last in the public eye for his libel of American troops (as analogous to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others”). There was no response.

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