Bill Roggio's last two posts from Iraq, Patrolling Haqlaniyah and On the Offensive in Ramadi describe a situation in which military operations have become a handmaiden to politics. Not American politics primarily , but Iraqi politics. For a sense of what that kind of politicking looks like Iraq the Model's synopsis at Pajamas Media is close to the best. Basically, the various tribes, religious and ethnic groups (even the Christians) are maneuvering for votes: including, surprise, surprise, the Sunni insurgents. "The new and interesting thing in this election is the large-scale participation of Sunni parties for the first time. These parties think they have a good chance to win many seats in the parliament."
So it is less and less surprising that suicide attacks, such as the blast in a bus killing 30 people or the one which killed nearly the same number at a police academy involve Iraqis on Iraqis. It's no longer war, properly understood, but politics Middle-Eastern style. (BTW the word "Iraqis" is consciously used knowing it conceals a multitude of differences. For a discussion on how Arabs aren't all the same see Michael J. Totten) The purely military war in Iraq is over and America has won. The US casualty count carefully kept at Global Security has never gone back to its 2004 levels and (in my view) probably never will. But though the politics may be bloody, the dynamics of the electoral arena described by Iraq the Model suggest something quite revolutionary has taken place.
But more important than all of this is the fact that in these few years, we have witnessed the birth of a sensibility that was buried for decades -- Iraqi patriotism. This sense is currently represented in three political alliances/parties that ignore the ethnic and sectarian issues in their platforms. Relatively speaking, they are looking at Iraq as a whole.
Factions are struggling for control of Iraq through the ballot. Assisted by bombs, intimidation, bribery, and disinformation it's true, but through the ballot. In this atmosphere, the carnival trial of Saddam Hussein almost makes sense, right down to the surreal presence of his defense attorney Ramzi Clark (spelling courtesy of Hammorabi).
Victory when it came, was both greater and less; more partial and more complete than expected. It did not take the European form of parades down the Champs Elysee, followed by a return to old and establish ways of governance. What the destruction of the Ba'athist regime did was reanimate long suppressed local and ethnic interests and channel them into competition through the ballot box -- with the occasional recourse to violence. Tremendous forces have been unleashed which critics of the war will point to as signs of an incipient civil war, but which supporters of OIF will describe as a newly liberated society feeling its way forward.
Whether OIF has wrenched events in the Middle East from their old tracks and put them on a better route remains to be seen. What is less debateable is that OIF has subtly changed America. The Armed Forces have acquired capabilities they never had before. Bill Roggio in Patrolling Haqlaniyah describes three-tour veterans who can talk politics with Iraqis. For many individual Americans Iraq is now something less than home and something more than a foreign country. For America as a whole, one thing that no politician will dispute in 2008 is that aside from being a European and Pacific power -- which it has been since the end of the Second World War -- the US is now a part of the strategic landscape of the Middle East and Central Asia.
This email from Capt. Jeffrey Pool, the Marine PAO.
You don’t know how true your post Baghdad county truly is, you’re right on the mark.
The 2nd Marine Division has been conducting talks/negotiating at the Government Center in the provincial capital in Ar Ramadi with the Governor, sheikhs and imams. Most of the groups who have been fighting the Iraqi government, military and Coalition Forces are now beginning to realize the power is with the ballot, not the bombs. However, the hard core al Qaeda terrorists realize this and are starting to threaten the local insurgents who they normally work with. This is creating what we call ‘red on red fighting’. Basically two groups who aren’t are allies slugging it out for power. This is what has been happening on a large-scale in Ramadi and to a lesser scale throughout Al Anbar.
From the city of Hit all the way to Husaybah is closed to al Qaeda groups, and in Ramadi, they are holding on by their finger nails. The series of operations 2/28 Brigade Combat Team has been conducting has really helped disrupt their planning and ability to launch attacks. But the real meat of this is the local insurgent groups who are trying to dissociate themselves from AQI.
The last tool AQI has is money. They are paying for support and sanctuary. It is not being freely given anymore in Ramadi. The elections are going to be pivotal. My opinions, if the Sunnis vote en masse then AQI is done but if AQI is successful in intimidating the populace then they bought themselves some more time.
It is an interesting time to be in Al Anbar.
But once again, good posts.