Our Biggest Mistake in Iraq

We are learning an awful lot, albeit the hard way, in Iraq. In fact, I bet that if we could start over tomorrow, with today’s force and the lessons learned, we’d be amazingly adept. Almost as adept at pacification and reconstruction as at winning the actual war.

Before the surge, the Left Wing Harpies had us believing their song that the mere sight of an American soldier or marine was offensive to Iraqis and that we had to minimize our “footprint,” keeping our troops out of sight (and  out of mind) in bases. Though we never had anywhere near enough troops there to “occupy” the country, we allowed the Harpies to call our presence there an occupation.

Alsmost as if ashamed, our troops holed up in their bases, and from there they went on partrols and missions, most of which meant kicking down people’s doors.

THAT was exactly the wrong thing to do!

Now it’s obvious, but why couldn’t we see this before? Look at the only type of interaction our troops were having with the Iraqi people. Not pleasant ones. All they saw of our troops was when when those troops were sighting around pointed guns in search of the enemy or on a mission to discover a terrorist and weapons cache in someone’s home. Not friendly encounters.

Not that there were no friendly encounters, but they were relatively few. The result was a bad case of Borderline Personality Disorder in the Iraqi people: “I hate you! Don’t leave me!”

Yes, that characterizes the behavior of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, and it is bewildering, disorienting to the friend or lover who gets this bizarre treatment. It played even worse here at home than it did among our troops, who understood it better.

But in just a few months, that insanity has virtually disappeared. Ask a Sunni in Falujah whom he would prefer in the White House next year, and he will tell you he wishes President Bush could run again.

Yes, pinch yourself.

What has caused this miracle? Nothing we didn’t know all along. You bring about harmony by making people work together, shoulder to shoulder, on a common goal. Works like magic.

In the surge, our troops came out of our bases and integrated with Iraqi police units, army units, local government units, and so forth. This took courage – to embed with the natives instead of remaining safe among thousands of other Americans in a well-defended base.  Nothing so humanizes a human being, even in full battle gear, as courage. That courage was seen and respected by the Iraqis our troops embedded with. It PROVED our sincerity, that we really were trying to help.

We thus helped the locals. We helped organize local councils and aided these councils in getting services from the government. When the Shia-dominated central government turned a deaf ear to appeals from Sunnis in Anbar, the marines used their influence to advocate for them. In many everyday ways, these were just Americans showing Iraqis how democracy works. How you get a government to answer to you and serve you – instead of it being the other way around.

Both sides dealt with each other as human beings now. Our troops became aware of cultural differences and were better able to keep from unintentionally insulting Iraqis (such as by looking directly at a woman). And when they did make some cultural faux pas, the Iraqis just blew it off, knowing that it MEANS nothing when a westerner does it, because we westerners have a different culture.

And when an Iraqi’s door must be kicked down, it’s better if the troops coming in are 8-to-1 Iraqis.

The next thing you know, the Tribal sheiks are rising up against al-Qaeda, and insurgents are attacking al-Qaeda instead of us. The Sons of Iraq appear to pick up the slack and help to clean up the sorry mess in Iraq. And al-Sadyr is proclaiming a truce.

This just goes to show that we should never listen to the hand-wringers. They are always wrong. We should have known right from the start that we should be bold and form a real TEAM with the Iraqi people themselves.

Hiding from them and coming out of our bases only when absolutely necessary was a huge mistake. It didn’t enable us to really PROTECT the Iraqi people. Now they see our troops PROTECTING them at every turn, and they respond like normal people will to that.

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