Tuesday, November 21, 2006


A Piece of the Elephant

Michael Fumento writes of his return to Ramadi, posted at his site, and also appearing in the latest Weekly Standard.

Not to take away anything from Fumento’s must read account, but here’s his take-away on the significance of Ramadi:

People always ask how the Iraqis feel about Americans and the war in general. I respond that they just tell you what they think will prove advantageous to them, a combination of complaints and praise for Ameriki (America). Non-embedded American reporters run into the same thing. I asked one of the north Ramadi farmers through the translator if he thinks Ramadi is getting safer. He starts out with a few complaints, such as lack of water from the Euphrates for his fields because of rationing, and then tells me: "But safety is 100 percent better now that the Americans have come along." Baloney. Things got a lot more dangerous when we first came along. They may or may not be safer now than a year ago, but this guy isn't going to tell me. None of them will tell me.

Soldiers also give different accounts of the extent of progress in Ramadi. A Cougar driver told me nothing had changed since his last deployment, yet the very fact that he was driving into Ramadi in a convoy of just four trucks indicated otherwise. Another told me Ramadi is now "a thousand times better." Ultimately each was simply another blind man feeling his part of the elephant. With my three embeds in Anbar, I'd like to believe I've felt quite a few parts of the elephant.

Ramadi is not Baghdad, with its roiling sectarian violence and militias. As we've come to learn, Iraq probably cannot find peace until those militias are disbanded and suppressed. But neither will it find peace if the insurgents and terrorists of the Sunni strongholds like Ramadi continue to ply their trade; and despite the media focus on sectarian killings in October, Sunni insurgents still accounted for more than 80 percent of American military deaths in Iraq that month.

Put it all together--the Forward Observation Bases, new Combat Operation Posts, new Observation Posts, tribal cooperation, ever more Iraqi army and police, better intelligence, and public works projects. There's no "stay the course" strategy here; the course changes as necessary and it's continually changed for the better. I believe we are winning the Battle of Ramadi. And if the enemy can be beaten here, he can be beaten anywhere.

Fumento’s impression bears stark contrast to the prevailing “conventional wisdom” reported by mainstream media (MSM): that Iraq is a “mess,” that we can’t possibly win, that we are making no progress, that things are getting worse all the time, or that our only recourse is to salvage symbolic accomplishment and organize our withdrawal.

The real story, the entirety of the elephant to which Fumento alludes, is far more complicated, and perhaps more hope-inspiring.

Iraqis may not like the presence or predominance of American forces, they may not like or trust their government, they may fall under the sway of factions or militias, but they darn well despise the bitter-enders and their foreign terrorist interlopers.

We need more reports like these, and more on-the-ground and in-the-action reporters like Fumento. Else, we stand little chance of ever seeing more than a few square inches of elephant hide, and may think it something else.

(Cross-posted at MILBLOGS)

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