More: AQ Recruiting Problems

Michael Goldfarb: Killing Terrorists is Good

I’ve always been dubious of the notion that it didn’t matter how many terrorists we killed because that number would always be outpaced by recruitment (because, in general, it is American foreign policy that breeds terrorism, and in particular the Bush administration).

Killing terrorists is an inherently good thing. And if it’s not an end in and of itself, it’s pretty darn close.

Make no mistake. Killing these guys is vital to success. There is a lot more that needs to be done, of course, for long term victory. But killing these guys, particularly the veterans, is absolutely essential to holding the line and pushing back while other methods of attacking the problem have a chance to work.

Sure, there’s a lot of “whack a mole” going on, and many times our killing of some of these bastards is going to create more bastards. But if we keep chipping away at their leadership and NCO-type levels, the foot soldiers of the jihad are going to become less and less effective over time, easing the transition from all-out counterinsurgency to peace and stability type efforts.

UPDATE: Bill Roggio writes that while the terrorists’ move toward women and children is partially due to attrition and recruiting problems, there’s more to it than just that:

By using women, children, and the handicapped as bombers, al Qaeda seeks to undermine the bonds of civil society. When soldiers and police–or even civilians–can no longer trust people who were once presumed to be noncombatants, the effect is widespread terror. And for al Qaeda, the tactic has the added bonus of increasing the likelihood that security forces will kill or wound the innocent for fear of attack.

Absolutely. First of all, what is Murdoc going to do? Argue with Bill Roggio?

Secondly, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen these sorts of tactics. And it certainly won’t be the last.

But, as Roggio notes, this tactic is a long-term loser with the locals. Ultimately, the battle we need to win in Iraq is not with terrorists and insurgents but with the population. If they agree that living in peace is best, we win. If they don’t, we can keep killing bad guys until Kingdom Come and get nowhere.

We’ve already seen large segments of the Iraqi population become disenchanted with the terrorists and foreign jihadists over their methods. There’s little reason to expect that the decision to use chidren, women, and the disabled will sit any better with them.

If the shift to children as fighters in Iraq is increasing, it well could be a signal that the enemy is running low on qualified recruits and that they’re growing more and more desperate.

Either way, there is a lot of fighting left. Though the insurgency appears broken and the terrorist networks appear to be reeling under the pressure of our operations and the improved Iraqi security forces, no one is in their “death throes” just yet. And, to be honest, I expect we won’t really realize that the bad guys are finally dying until after they’re dead and gone.