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William Kulin: Victory At Fallujah!

Victory at Fallujah!

By William Kulin

A senior American commander made the mistake of telling reporters that the military offensive that eventually captured a largely depopulated and destroyed Fallujah had ''broken the back of the insurgency'' across Iraq. It did not, of course. It could not. The American-led offensive was loudly announced in advance to empty Fallujah of its 200,000-plus civilian populace. Civilians weren't the only ones who left. Along with them went the top leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's gang of foreign terrorists and many of his fighters and other local insurgents. The capture of a single strongpoint does not break the back of an insurgency as widely spread and deeply motivated as the one that has tormented Baghdad and the cities and towns of the Sunni triangle.

It can be fairly argued that we Americans created the insurgency that today bedevils us and takes the lives of four to six American soldiers every day. The Bush administration had planned to clean out the top few layers of Saddam Hussein's Sunni dominated Baath Party. But when the time came, former Ambassador Paul Bremer instead purged Iraq of every Baathist down to kindergarten teachers and then disbanded and dismissed without pay the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Saddam's army.

American commanders on the ground are asking for more soldiers and Marines to boost strength above the 140,000 now fighting in Iraq so they can secure the rebuilding of Fallujah, keep the insurgents from coming back in, and chase them to the cities and towns elsewhere in the triangle where they have resumed their deadly business. We now face the plain fact that the insurgency is growing. A year ago the enemy was able to mount 15 to 20 attacks a day in Iraq. Recently that number has escalated to near 150 attacks per day - attacks that now include daily car bombings of our convoys and occasional mortar and rocket attacks in the heart of Baghdad.

Why does my mind keep going back to the Powell doctrine, which the current civilian leadership in the Pentagon declared dead and gone while they were doing their victory laps and praising their own strategy of smaller, faster, deadlier in the field of military affairs? That doctrine, dating to 1980's, said you only go to war when you have exhausted all other options; that you go to war with everything and everyone you need, not incrementally; that you clearly define your objectives; and that your military leaves after winning the war.

There's something in there for everyone, a lot of good lessons were learned the hard way in a place called Vietnam. An insurgency can only be beaten when, through information and incentives, the civilians among whom the insurgents hide are eventually convinced that they gain nothing, and risk everything, by shielding and supplying the guerrillas. The key words in that sentence are "through information and incentives," not through bombing, shelling and destroying in the classic fashion.


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