Still fighting

Here are some links pertaining to the recent uprising and our attempts to put it down:

Intel Dump: “There’s only one front, and that is the country of Iraq.”

This is the most intense combat that American forces have seen since the war, and in many respects, it is more intense than the combat seen by American forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The casualty reports support this argument. The most intense fighting of the war occurred in two places: Nasariyah, where the Army’s 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed and 18 Marines were killed in one day; and Baghdad, during the final assault on the city by the 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines. Those engagements included thousands more troops than the battles being fought right now, and yet the casualty numbers were lower than they are today. Moreover, U.S. troops did not engage in this kind of bloody streetfighting during the war — they simply backed off and used standoff firepower to respond to dug-in threats. The need to minimize collateral damage and win decisively has meant the increased use of infantry to do the job this time, and the result has been more American casualties.


In a half-dozen other cities across Iraq, Shi’ite forces aligned with the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are battling with U.S. and allied troops. Sadr now appears to be in control of Najaf, a city of 500,000 that’s one of the most holy in the Shi’ite faith.

It’s clear from reports like this that Sadr’s militia wouldn’t pose a hint of a threat to allied troops — if this was open combat, traditional war. But it’s not.

Austin Bay on Strategy Page: Fallujah Islamo-fascists Meet The Marines

The Fallujah fascists and al-Sadr think they can defeat or at least deflect America by causing U.S. casualties, then parading the bodies before Peter Jennings and Al Jazeera. Al-Sadr adds another wrinkle: multiple “hotspots” to seed the impression of broad insurrection. It’s a clever gambit, staging gunfights in Basra, Kut and Baghdad, and leverages contemporary cable Tv’s appetite for 24-7 repetition and magnification. The goal is a “Tet effect,” an echo of North Vietnam’s 1968 offensive, which was a battlefield disaster for the North Vietnamese but a media (and hence political) victory.

Michael Williams: Iraqis Need To Stand Up and Be Counted

America needs Iraq for military purposes, but if the Iraqis can’t get their act together we may have to give up on reforming them politically. Our troops aren’t leaving any time soon, but once we turn the government over to the natives they’re going to have to fight these battles on their own. If the emerging Iraqi government wants to be respected, it has to demonstrate that it has the support of the population. That means the Iraqi people need to take responsibility for their country and not let it be torn apart by dead-enders.

Andrew Olmstead: Dark Hours

Since success in Iraq rides on our ability to turn the country over to the people without it collapsing into anarchy or civil war, that means Coalition troops have to act in such a way that they’re seen as allies, not adversaries. This requirement stands in direct opposition to military requirements to suppress Sadr’s uprising. If we can’t balance our need to capture or kill the most aggressive of Sadr’s militia with a need to avoid massive collateral damage, we could end up winning the battle and losing the war. And that risk is increased when emotions are running high on both sides.

Note that I don’t necessarily agree with the posts I’ve linked to, or even with the excerpts I quoted. But I do believe that they all make good points that need to be considered when we look at the current situation in Iraq.


  1. Well, I happen to think you’re right on the money with your thoughts about needing Iraqis to contribute more and take responsibility for their own country. We can help. We can provide muscle when needed. But they need to do the real work. Nothing we ever do will ever matter if they don’t take ownership.