Thursday, December 15, 2005

Victory Standard

In the first battle for Fallujah -- the one al-Jazeera undermined and the Bush administration foolishly called off for political reasons -- the Iraqi troops sent in to aid the U.S. Marines either mutinied or fled without firing a shot. Seven months later, in November 2004, the Marines went back to finish the job after a summer of chaos in Iraq caused by the insurgent magnet in Fallujah. This time, the two Iraqi battalions sent into battle fought well, and won praise from the Americans.

But their U.S. advisers were chagrined to see that, after the battle was won, the Iraqi soldiers changed into civilian clothes before going home. The risk of wearing a government uniform off-duty was too great. The insurgents might have been driven from Fallujah, but they still had the ability to inspire fear, and to find a man's family if they wanted to.

Bing West, in his splendid account of the Fallujah battles ("No True Glory"), considered this and came up with a benchmark for victory in Iraq:

The insurgents would be finished when an Iraqi soldier in uniform boarded a bus, got off at his local market, and walked home.

Now, that's not a military objective. It's a consequence of victory. But I've taken that as a standard. When you see that, then you'll know Iraq has turned out right. And certainly the Americans alone can never bring the country to that point. It has to be primarily an Iraqi act of will. It would require a political and a military aspect. And I don't intend it to mean the Iraqi soldiers lived free of intimidation by insurgents because the insurgents are running the country.

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