Q&A Friday #5: What’s The Problem With Security In Iraq?

Question: “It seems (and I stress seems) as though the US occupational forces in Iraq have been slacking off on their job of providing security in the region. Why do you think this is? Is it because of waffling on part of the transitional government in pursuing operations against insurgency? Or do you think it has to do with rising timidity on part of US offensive strategists in the face of potential uprising? Or perhaps the age old money problem?” — The_Big_Fat_Lobster

Answer: In my opinion, while our performance certainly hasn’t been perfect, the current violence in Iraq has more to do with the “insurgents” desperately trying to ramp up the number of attacks in order to hurt Bush’s chances of getting reelected, and in order to stop the January elections, than it does with anything we are or aren’t doing.

Adding to that, there are several different keys to lessening the level of violence in Iraq.

— A Bush victory would help dishearten the resistance because he has shown he isn’t going to back down, whereas a Kerry victory would give them hope that America would cut and run.

— National elections, which are scheduled for January, will make things tougher for terrorists because once Iraqis have their own elected leaders running the country, they’ll start to view terrorist attacks as attacks in a different light. It’s one thing for terrorists to attack foreign soldiers, but Iraqi police and soldiers who are working for a Democratically elected government? The outrage level over attacks will escalate dramatically.

— Unemployment is high partially because of security issues. But, because of security issues, it’s more difficult for outside companies to come in and provide jobs. It’s a vicious circle.

This is also the area in which I think we’ve done the poorest job. Only about 6 percent of the reconstruction money approved by Congress last year has been spent. That’s nuts. Spending that money buys goodwill in Iraq and men who have jobs are going to be much less inclined to take money to fire potshots at American soldiers.

— They key is, was, and has always been for the Iraqis to be able to handle their own security without a lot of American help. That should occur at some point next year (estimates vary). When it does, then they’ll use the carrot (oil money and US contracts for areas that cooperate) and the stick (Iraqi troops doing raids and crackdowns in the areas that don’t) to beat the “insurgents” that are still alive into the ground. Time is on our side, not theirs.

Also, keep in mind that despite the impression you get from the papers, the worst of the violence is still confined to the Sunni Triangle and is being driven by terrorists, criminal gangs, and Sunni dead-enders who are still holding out for a return to a Sunni run dictatorship.

Furthermore, as Donald Rumsfeld has said before, multiple times, the violence is probably going to continue through the Iraqi elections in January…

“There’s no question but between now and the end of the year, the terrorists are determined to try to prevent the elections from taking place, and from taking place on time. They’re going to be going after coalition countries; they’re going to be looking for weak spots; they’re going to be going after people who are running for office.”

Personally, I’m still very confident that we’re on track towards an Iraqi Democracy. It may not be as quick and easy as we’d like, but nothing worth doing ever is. We’re just going to have to stick it out and do the job we went there to do…

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