11:53 13 July 2003

The 4th Infantry Division (“The Ivy Division”) has launched a significant anti-insurgent operation in central Iraq. With a number of Baathist anniversaries approaching, I guess the military thought the best defense is a good offense. Increased attacks against US forces are expected on and around the anniversaries, so attacks against groups expected to take part may help blunt their effectiveness.

Every cell we can break up, every AK-47 or RPG we can capture, every attacker we can kill, capture, or discourage is obviously a good thing. Despite negative commentary in the press, operations like this in Afghanistan have been cumulatively effective. But we must be careful to have our information straight and our tactics need to be strong but not brutal if we want to to more good than harm.

The military situation in Iraq is progessing more or less as I expected, but the rebuilding has lagged so far behind what I thought were minimum required levels that we’re working against ourselves at this point. Taking out insurgents, especially those that have come to Iraq from other countries for the opportunity to kill Americans, is important, but to “win hearts and minds” we have to, um, win hearts and minds. We aren’t going to do that by killing and/or arresting large numbers of disgruntled Iraqi citizens. While the need to deal forcefully with attackers is great, the need to help Iraq become a place where people can live without fear (or a reason to hate the very sight of Americans) is far greater. We aren’t doing that very well, and until we do, our quick military victory will be overshadowed by a social and political defeat.