Saturday, May 01, 2004
...but I do plan to make an entry this evening giving my take on the Fallujah settlement. Bottom line? The handwringing going on over at Tacitus misses the point of what the Marines are doing.
One of the objectives of Valiant Resolve was to reduce the jihadist infrastructure while increasing the presence of Iraqi troops on the ground. We have done both, and I have it on very good authority (from someone on the inside who actually knows what the hell is going on...) that we have inflicted untold numbers of casualties on the foreign fighters. The same source tells me that we have also presented the tribal chieftains with an opponent that they didn't anticipate: a Saddam general, and a former division commander at that, who will head up "Iraqi" operations in the Fallujah kessel. Finally, this source tells me that the local warlords are none too happy with the jihadi immigrants, who suckered them into lending them valuable gunmen, only to see them wasted against the First Marine Division. The tribals are ready to deal.
In short, the Marines have found their Somoza. Only they don't want the new guy to look like a stooge.
Wretchard's latest take at The Belmont Club provides a sound guide to the future. After posting yet another coalition press release from yesterday, Wretch shows how the new Iraqi force flows from what the Marine command had been planning.
If this interpretation proves to be accurate, it will have flowed directly from the basic operational requirements of Valiant Resolve. The goals of that operation would have been to root out enemy cells in Fallujah without massacring everyone in the city. This had to be accomplished against an active resistance schooled in the methods which brought the Russians to grief in Grozny. All with the final goal of wresting control of Fallujah from its gang leaders into the hands of an American-controlled Iraqi administration. And although the final victory remains to be won and 'Golan' still to be reduced, no one should ever, ever, call Marines Jarheads again without meaning it in irony.
Whither Stalingrad? Why was I wrong? Well, it turns out that the Marines, as Wretchard mentioned above, had learned a thing or two, not only from Sixth Army's experience, but also from the tragic Russian armored offensives into the warrens of Islamist resistance in Grozny. A reduction of the northwestern Golan neighborhood in Fallujah is still an option, it appears, but only if the jihadi drive our Somocista troops out of town. For now, the Marines have gambled that they have outwitted the jihadi and have given the local tribal chieftains another choice, one that they had been looking for:
Iraqi administration of Fallujah. And increased authority for the Governing Council and the transitional regime. This is what we want. Vietnamization with balls. Real authority devolving to armed Iraqis with none of the fecklessness of the old Saigon regime.
Nope, not Stalingrad at all. Managua. How clever of the damn Marines.
This was not to say that things couldn't have been handled better. Rather, the Marines appear to have taken lemons and made lemonade.
***FURTHER UPDATE: NEVER MISSING AN OPPORTUNITY...***
...to miss an opportunity. A pessimistic Tacitus bewails our "defeat" in Fallujah. My take? The Arabs are about to go goofball on us when the Marines enter the town in a joint patrol. They just can't help themselves. They think that they are invincible now, so they'll attack to keep the Marines from entering "Heroic Fallujah". They will be attacked, big time. But we have to give Anastasio Somoza Jr. a chance to show that he's the Big Dog in Town before he fails miserably (and then gets killed by "patriotic" Iraqis in a massive car bombing). Tacitus doesn't see it that way. He sees the rejoicing in the Arab press and in the street.
Of course, it is instructive to note that the Arab press rejoiced after the Six Day War as well.