The situation in Iraq is sometimes hard to understand without drawing diagrams. Let's diagram the situation in Iraq according to Jill Carroll, a hostage who was recently released.
Voice: Why didn’t they save you?
Carroll: Well, I think the Mujahedeen are very smart and even with all the technology and all the people the American Army has here, they still are better at knowing how to live and work here and more clever, despite all the technology of the American Army, still more clever and better at being here than the American Army, still better at what they do.
Voice: Does this mean anything?
Carroll: I think it makes it very clear, it makes very clear that the Mujahedeen are the ones who will win in the end in this war, I think it makes very clear that even with thousands of troops and airplanes and tanks and guns that that doesn’t mean anything here on the ground in Iraq as it shows over time, maybe how many months over time or however (sic) months are left in the occupation that it’s pretty clear that the Mujahedeen are the ones that will have the victory left at the end of the day. It shows that no matter no matter what Americans try to say is happening here or try to do with all their weapons, they aren’t going to be able to stay here, they’re not going to be able to stop the Mujahedeen and that’s for sure.
That's Jill Carroll's diagram. Let's consider the view of the Belmont Club: that the Sunni insurgency was basically defeated in January, 2006. As I wrote in On the Eve of the Iraqi Elections:
Honest men of the Left must recognize that the US might actually have already won the military battle, a horror in itself; and even worse, might actually win the political fight ahead.
I repeated this analysis in Crunch Time Again
But my guess is that it's gone from battle-time (operating against insurgent forces) to purge-time (cleaning out hostile factions) and the emphasis has gone from facing the weaker enemy (the Sunni insurgency) to the stronger one: Iran.
I viewed the growth of the Iraqi Army and the campaign against the Sunni insurgencies lines of communications ("The River War") as having militarily defeated the Sunni insurgency. But there was a next phase. The political phase. Let's draw that picture.
The American army has begun to disappear from some cities, and its presence is rare. An Iraqi army has begun to take its place, and this is the real problem that we face ... This enemy, made up of the Shi`a filled out with Sunni agents, is the real danger that we face, for it is [made up of] our fellow countrymen, who know us inside and out. ... These in our opinion are the key to change. I mean that targeting and hitting them in [their] religious, political, and military depth will provoke them to show the Sunnis their rabies . and bare the teeth of the hidden rancor working in their breasts. If we succeed in dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger and annihilating death at the hands of these Sabeans. Despite their weakness and fragmentation, the Sunnis are the sharpest blades, the most determined, and the most loyal when they meet those Batinis (Shi`a), who are a people of treachery and cowardice.
Zarqawi's assessment, as I understand it, it is fundamentally identical to my own. The insurgency had no chance of defeating the US on the battlefield. However, if he could plunge Iraq into a sectarian conflict, he could yet win the political war where he had lost the military conflict.
Finally, let's look at the picture that is usually trumpeted in the popular press twenty four hours a day, which normally consists of the same stories -- 'today two American soldiers died, bring the number of deaths to' or 'newly discovered memos show that in the days leading up to the war' or 'defects in body armor have shown that' -- with variations for dates. It is almost intentionally repetitive, designed to convey a narrative that has no sense; no beginning; no end. Graphically it looks like this.
Zarqawi, whatever his moral infirmities, is a man with a firm grasp of the facts. He would not have survived as long as he has without it. He understands when he has a losing hand and when to start a new game. It's an instinct common to survivors but amazingly rare among people who write for a living. By way of example, the richest man in Australia, Kerry Packer, recently died heart and renal disease. He was something of winner at making commercial bets and the tune that was played at his funeral was one that Zarqawi would have approved of, in a manner of speaking.
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run. ...
Now ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
’cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.
And what Zarqawi understood that he would get nowhere trying to fight the USA, especially when the new Iraqi Army came on line. He knew that if he was to win he had to play a game where the odds were more in his favor. But Jill Carroll and the MSM pretend not to understand that the Sunni insurgency has lost the campaign. They think Zarqawi is still playing the same old game. The game he gave up. So they continue to say things like: "I think it makes it very clear, it makes very clear that the Mujahedeen are the ones who will win in the end in this war, I think it makes very clear that even with thousands of troops and airplanes and tanks and guns that that doesn’t mean anything here on the ground in Iraq as it shows over time, maybe how many months over time or however (sic) months are left in the occupation that it’s pretty clear that the Mujahedeen are the ones that will have the victory left at the end of the day."
Does anyone actually think that the Mujahedeen (Sunni insurgency) is going to be able to expel the US Armed Forces and reimpose their former dominion over the Kurds and the Shi'as? No? but people say it all the time though they don't stop to think what it means. Jill Carroll apparently believes it. Well let's look at the Wretchard (and Zarqawi) diagram again.
A realistic assessment should include what has already been gained and what is left to gain. Some people think the Belmont Club is guilty of unwonted optimism simply because it is willing to accept what Zarqawi has practically admitted: that the Sunni insurgency is militarily beaten -- and that the struggle for the political outcome is now underway. And some readers may believe that I've gone all "gloomy" because I think the political outcome still hangs in the balance. But that is nothing more than stating a fact. Yet the essential difference is this: it's in context. Those who have done some rock climbing know that while it is important to grope for the next handhold along the line of climb it is equally important to remember the footholds you have already won. Forget where you are standing and you are lost. Unfortunately, much of the regular media coverage is almost designed to conceal where where we are standing and where we have to go. There is no context, as Bill Roggio once put it on a television interview. For most casual listeners of the news the US is trapped in a featureless and starchy soup, with no beginning or end. The War on Terror becomes portrayed as a shapeless shroud from which it is imperative to escape at all costs.
And that's sad because as Baron von Richthofen said, "Those who are afraid to take the next step will have wasted their entire previous journey."