2004 May 03 Monday
Fallujah Backdown Seen As Sign Of Weakness

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor Scott Peterson reports on fears that the US deal to back out of Fallujah may embolden the insurgents.

But even as the Marines gamble on the promises of an untested former Republican Guard general and his fledgling unit of some 1,200 soldiers, they are weighing the costs of their solution. Among them: Concerns that widespread perception of a US defeat may fuel more unrest in Iraq; and that the Marines have ceded control of an estimated 200 foreign fighters, holed up in the city they call the "nexus of evil" of Iraq's insurgency. "Is it going to be seen as an encouraging sign for the resistance?" asks a senior US Marine officer, who requested anonymity. The guerrillas, he adds, could say: "We fought the US military machine to a draw, come join us, get on the winning team."

Charles Heyman claims it is common sense to back down on fighting all the way through Fallujah to wipe out all the foreign and Iraqi fighters in it. Yet he also claims the US decision will embolden thie resistance!

"Not going in [militarily] shows an outbreak of common sense - it was the right decision," says Mr. Heyman. Still, he says, it's likely to embolden the resistance. Many Arabs now say that "Fallujah is an Arab Alamo. "We are only 24 hours into 'Free Fallujah,' and it is already moving into myth status ... that will do a lot for insurgency in Iraq and across the Arab world."

Let us suppose for the moment that Heyman is right on both counts. Well then, how is the US supposed to defeat the Iraqi insurgency?

Niall Ferguson thinks the US has to be more willing to be ruthless in handling the Iraqi insurgency. Spengler thinks the US has to be more willing to humiliate Muslims. Well, the Bush Administration shrinks from following such advice.

Even before the Najaf and Fallujah fighting opinions in Iraq were headed toward a dimmer view of US forces and of how things are going there.

Similarly, asked whether conditions for "peace and stability" had improved or worsened over the three months before the survey, 25 percent said they had improved, while 54 percent said they had become worse. Nineteen percent said there was no change.

My guess is that the fighting in Fallujah killed enough innocents to build animosity toward US forces while not going far enough to totally dispirit the insurgents. If the US is going to get into a fight that is going produce a lot of casualties among non-combatants then the US should push the fight to a conclusion that looks like a clear victory.

Also, this General Salah, formerly of the Special Republican Guard, may have helped encourage the fighters whose opposition to US forces created the circumstances that brought him back into local power. Are the Bushies being seriously played by the Iraqis? Kinda looks that way.

Update: It is very worth noting what Salam Pax said from Iraq a month ago about Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Remember the days when every time you hear an Iraqi talk on TV you had to remember that they are talking with a Mukhabarat minder looking at them noting every word? We are back to that place.

You have to be careful about what you say about al-Sadir. Their hands reach every where and you don't want to be on their shit list. Every body, even the GC is very careful how they formulate their sentences and how they describe Sadir's Militias. They are thugs, thugs thugs. There you have it.

I was listening to a representative of al-sadir on TV saying that the officers at police stations come to offer their help and swear allegiance. Habibi, if they don't they will get killed and their police station "liberated". Have we forgotten the threat al-Sadir issued that Iraqi security forces should not attack their revolutionary brothers, or they will have to suffer the consequences.

Dear US administration,
Welcome to the next level. Please don't act surprised and what sort of timing is that: planning to go on a huge attack on the west of Iraq and provoking a group you know very well (I pray to god you knew) that they are trouble makers.

Oh and before I forget.........Help please.

Democracy? It can't work in an atmosphere in which people are mortally afraid to speak their minds. Sadr is beyond the US military's reach in Najaf.

Update II: General Jasim Mohamed Saleh has been made subordinate to a former Saddam officer Mohammad Latif who fled into exile while Saddam ruled.

Now a year later, the lack of intelligence may be why, after questioning from Washington, the United States swept aside Saleh as its designated Fallujah Brigade commander in favor Mohammed Latif, who presumably has been better checked out by the Pentagon. A former exile who fled Iraq during Saddam's rule, Latif reportedly returned to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion. Saleh will reportedly serve under him.

Latif is from Baghdad and hence is unknown and untrusted by Fallujans. It therefore makes sense to keep Saleh in the loop since he comes from around Fallujah and the Fallujans want the new boss to be the same as the old boss.

The vast bulk of the Fallujah insurgents are locals.

In Fallujah, U.S. military leaders say around 90 percent of the 1,000 or more fighters battling the Marines are Iraqis.

I predict a Bush Administration attempt to rebrand tribal rule as a form of early stage proto-democracy. Declare ideological victory and march on.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 May 03 03:02 AM  Mideast Iraq

David L. said at May 3, 2004 7:08 AM:

As Admiral Sir John Fisher said... "the essence of war is violence; moderation in war is imbecility!" In the long run neither the US nor the Iraqi people will benefit unless this insurgency is quickly suppressed and the fires of sectarianism quenched. Pray that it will be done as humanely as possible, but done none the less!

gcochran said at May 3, 2004 12:32 PM:

"Well then, how is the US supposed to defeat the Iraqi insurgency?"

It's not going to.

Randall Parker said at May 3, 2004 12:47 PM:


I agree. And the result is going to be worse for the US position. The jihadists are going to think they can beat the US and that will embolden them.

The US should not get into fights it is either unwilling or unable to win. The result of doing this in the past in places like Lebanon and Ethiopia has been to make people like Bin Laden think they can take on the US. It is very hamrful to our position to encourage that sort of thinking.

gcochran said at May 3, 2004 1:10 PM:

Well, we could try the notion of a friend of mine. We were talking about Kyshtym, that place in the Urals that had a serious nuclear accident. This was years ago, before the fall of the USSR, and we were speculating about what exactly might have happened. My friend suggested a tactic with a special appeal: that the USSR, in some crisis with the US, had dropped an atomic weapon ON ITSELF to prove just how tough they were.

We can apply that same idea. We can crucify the people responsible for getting us into Iraq. I don't mean firing them or putting them in prison - I mean crucifixion, crosses lining the interstates, fully televised. Much like the end-scene in Spartacus.

Then they'll realize that we really are tough.

Randall Parker said at May 3, 2004 1:45 PM:

Greg, They'd interpret such actions as an attempt on our part to placate and appease them. That would embolden them.

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