Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Setting the Tone

In any competitive setting the aggressor sets the tone. John Podhoretz today notes that that simple rule applies in war as well:

No matter how you slice it, the reason there could be no deal with the Palestinians then or now is that the Palestinians with whom you have to negotiate are utterly uninterested in improving the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians. They have an ideological and geopolitical aim, which is the destruction of Israel and (in the case of Hamas) the extension of Iranian power to the Mediterranean.

The sad truth is that you can have peace processes all you like, but if one side is committed to war, then it's war.

While it speaks of an entirely different situation, Michael Yon's latest offering about the now-ongoing offensive against Al Qaeda makes a similar point:

Smart politics leaves more people standing with their heads, and so discretion has to be seen as vital to the war effort. Reports claiming that no political progress is happening here because the Iraqi parliament seems stalled are tantamount to claiming that when the US Senate bogs down the stop lights don’t work on Main Street USA. At the same time, no one is interested in going for the broomstick once they’ve seen the man behind the curtain, so smart politicians don’t let that happen, especially when the stakes are this high.

Al Qaeda was never at this table and no one is planning to set a place for them now. They are mass murderers anywhere they can be: Bali, Kandahar, London, Madrid, New York and now, Iraq. This enemy is smart, resourceful and tough, and our early missteps created perfect conditions for the spread of their disease in Iraq.

Political solutions only work with people interested in a resolution where all parties can move forward. Al Qaeda is more interested in an outcome where they dominate through anachronistic anarchy. Our philosophies are so fundamentally different that fighting is inevitable. They want to go backwards and are willing to kill us to do so. We are unwilling to go backwards, and so they started killing us. Finally, we started killing back, but only seriously so after they rammed jets into our buildings, by which they hoped to cause the same chaos and collapse in America (where they failed) that they are fomenting in Iraq (where they are succeeding).

The doctor has made a decision: Al Qaeda must be excised. That means a large scale attack, and what appears to be the most widespread combat operations since the end of the ground war are now unfolding. A small part of that larger battle will be the Battle for Baquba. For those involved, it will be a very large battle, but in context, it will be only one of numerous similar battles now unfolding. Just as this sentence was written, we began dropping bombs south of Baghdad and our troops are in contact.

Northeast of Baghdad, innocent civilians are being asked to leave Baquba. More than 1,000 AQI fighters are there, with perhaps another thousand adjuncts. Baquba alone might be as intense as Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in late 2004. They are ready for us. Giant bombs are buried in the roads. Snipers—real snipers—have chiseled holes in walls so that they can shoot not from roofs or windows, but from deep inside buildings, where we cannot see the flash or hear the shots. They will shoot for our faces and necks. Car bombs are already assembled. Suicide vests are prepared.

The enemy will try to herd us into their traps, and likely many of us will be killed before it ends. Already, they have been blowing up bridges, apparently to restrict our movements. Entire buildings are rigged with explosives. They have rockets, mortars, and bombs hidden in places they know we are likely to cross, or places we might seek cover. They will use human shields and force people to drive bombs at us. They will use cameras and make it look like we are ravaging the city and that they are defeating us. By the time you read this, we will be inside Baquba, and we will be killing them. No secrets are spilling here.

Our jets will drop bombs and we will use rockets. Helicopters will cover us, and medevac our wounded and killed. By the time you read this, our artillery will be firing, and our tanks moving in. And Humvees. And Strykers. And other vehicles. Our people will capture key terrain and cutoff escape routes. The idea this time is not to chase al Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. When they are wounded, they will be unable to go to hospitals without being captured, and so their wounds will fester and they will die painfully sometimes. It will be horrible for al Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they sow, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest. They can only fight and die, or run and try to get away. Nobody is asking for surrender, but if they surrender, they will be taken.

We will go in on foot and fight from house to house if needed. We will shoot rockets into their hiding spaces, and our snipers will shoot them in their heads and chests. This is where all that talk of cancer and big ideas of what should be or could be done will smash head on against the searing reality of combat.

I strongly suggest reading the entire dispatch. It is clear and concise if not comprehensive in it's understanding of the problem and the knowledge that rides piggyback with it, namely how to deal with the situations we let fester for over two years.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, like Hamas in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon will not be negotiated with. They refuse and they do not relent. Podhoretz is correct; they have but one aim for and about which they are unashamed.

They can't and won't broker peace, they will either win or lose. From the American perspective, they must be defeated.

Does America still have a will to finish what we began even though it may look nothing like what was ostensibly promised us 4 years ago? I certainly hope so because the alternatives are not acceptable in my opinion and for a multitude of reasons.

That we can win this fight I am certain. Like Yon and others though I am not so convinced as to whether or not we will.

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