Well, if you’re on a long journey, you need to accept that the course is going to take some time to complete. In yesterday’s post on Senator Joe Biden’s op-ed, I noted another writer who was thankful for something from a politician besides President Bush’s “stay the course” message.
I’ve been told this so many times over the past couple of years. “Stay the course isn’t a strategy!” and “”How long will we keep beating our heads against the wall?” and “Stay the course is what they said about Vietnam, too, you know…”
Dismissing those who are just plain opposed to Bush and/or the invasion of Iraq, I think the biggest problem is that so few seem to conceive of the scale of what’s going on. They don’t understand the time tables we’re looking at here. They just don’t get how long this is going to take, and they’d be happier if we were moving faster, even if that meant doing things wrong. At least it would look like something was being accomplished.
If you’re driving from New York to Los Angeles, and six hours in the kids start asking “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” do you change destinations because St. Louis is a “substantive alternative”? Not if Los Angeles is where you want to go.
Meanwhile, for those who believe nothing’s being accomplished in Iraq, there’s Al Qaeda Declines in Northern Iraq, Military Officer Says:
Army Col. Robert B. Brown, commander of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division’s Stryker Brigade Combat Team, reported from Mosul, Iraq, during a videoteleconference that things are looking up in northern Iraq, where “the Iraqi army is being rebuilt” and citizens clearly “want freedom.”
The situation in Mosul is “improving on a daily basis,” Brown said. “Normalcy has come back into the city.”
That wasn’t the case prior to the Iraqi elections held in January, Brown recalled, when his soldiers “faced a foreign fighter that was very well-trained.” However, the situation has changed significantly since then, he said.
After Fallujah was taken down last November, it appeared that many of the terrorists and insurgents that escaped relocated to the Mosul region. Months of operations (“staying the course”, as it were) have seriously weakened those forces and cut off much of their supply line from Syria.
Many key al Qaeda leaders in Iraq have been captured or killed in recent months, Brown said, affecting terrorist operations. Brown said enemy mortar attacks in his area have decreased to about six a month, compared to around 300 monthly prior to the January elections.
And “we have not seen well-trained foreign fighters” since the elections, Brown said. Foreign terrorists captured these days are poorly trained and “very young,” he noted, ranging in age from 15 to 17 years old.
Al Qaeda is “clearly our biggest threat” in Iraq, Brown said. Of 550 terrorists killed during U.S.-coalition operations in northern Iraq during February and March, he estimated between 60 percent and 70 percent of enemy casualties were foreign fighters.
15- to 17 years old and poorly-trained. That’s not exactly the story we generally get about the resilient Al Qaeda network, is it?
Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail notes that we seem to have taken out, driven off, or captured a large percentage of the “middlemen” in northern Iraq. We’ve hurt, perhaps crippled, their corps of junior officers and senior NCOs.
It seems that staying the course is working.