Iraq: Facts vs Failure
The media's portrayal of Iraq as a miserable failure proceeds apace. Dexter Filkins and David S. Cloud, in an article titled Defying U.S. Efforts, Guerrillas in Iraq Refocus and Strengthen,, declare the following about the insurgents: "They just keep getting stronger." The Sunday Herald claims Zarqawi is moving terrorists out of Iraq and into Europe because of an abundance of fighters. John Burns states a civil war is being fought in Iraq, and asks if we know it? Edward Wong maintains Fallujah is becoming a terrorist haven all over again without providing much evidence other than bombings that occurred 20 miles outside of the city (the article is archived it is not worth your coin). Eric Schmidt reminds us the Iraqi Army is not prepared to fight independently from US forces. Contrary to the claims of Daniel Okrent, the former Reader's Editor of the New York Time, that al Qaeda are always referred to as terrorists, Messrs. Cloud, Filkins, Burns and Wong continues to refer to Zarqawi as a "militant" and refuse to label al Qaeda as a terrorist group.
The common thread among these articles is the "militants" of al Qaeda and the insurgency have grown in strength while the Coalition is unable to stop their rise in power. But the facts do not support these assertions.
Strategy Page (July 24, 2005 entry) explains the real nature of the civil war - the resistance of Saddamists to the Coalition's attempts to reestablish full control in the insurgency's rear area, and notes participation in the Iraqi army is only increasing. Austin Bay notes the Sunni representatives on the constitution committee have returned to the negotiating table, and many Sunnis are the enemy of the insurgency. As far as the capabilities of the Iraqi Army, the "unable to operate independently" meme falls short as Iraqi units are engaged in combat daily and the restrictions to independent operations are logistics and heavy weapons, not morale, leadership and fighting capabilities.
The claims the insurgency is increasing in strength are not supported by the facts. The only metrics the news outlets seem to be using are the number of attacks, and the casualties incurred by al Qaeda mass casualty attacks. But what is not explained is why the number of attacks is increasing. Coalition forces are moving further into the heart of the insurgency's area of operations in Western Iraq and the Anbar province (click on the map for cities and towns in Western Iraq that have come und Coalition control; Global Security has a list of basing, but this does not reflect movement into Rawah and other areas).
The recent deployments to Rawah, Hit, Ramadi and Haditha is placing pressure on the insurgency, forcing them to attempt to eject Coalition forces from the region or lose their established bases. The mass casualty attacks in Baghdad and the kidnapping of foreign diplomats are an attempt to destabilize the regime and place pressure on the US and allies to withdraw from Iraq before the constitution can be completed and the next round of elections are held.
If the claims the insurgency is growing in strength are true, then why are Coalition forces moving deeper into Anbar, with what in military terms are essentially little resistance? If what the Sunday Herald claims is true, why would Zarqawi redeploy his foot soldiers when his rear area is in danger of slipping from his grasp? The advance of US forces in Western Anbar would only provide Zarqawi with a target rich environment - more US infidel solders to kill and a greater opportunity to humiliate the Great Satan. Like much of the media's flawed analysis of the situation in Iraq, the reasons to believe Zarqawi is shifting forces from Iraq as his area of operations decrease and his targets of opportunity increase are bourn out of a failure in logic, the need to proclaim failure, or both.
Other than the brief lull after the Iraqi elections, where much of the media engaged in soul searching, the story du jour from Iraq has been failure. As Iraq continues to move forward politically and the Coalition pushes deeper into Western Iraq, the cries of failure will only grow louder. Much has been invested in this meme, and it will not die easily.