The Times rejected it, possibly because they feel they’ve already made their concession to the pro-war side by running the O’Hanlon and Pollack column that sent the left scrambling for its smelling salts. So the Weekly Standard picked up the slack:
Currently, American and Iraqi Forces are clearing sections of southern Baghdad before turning north to the 82nd Airborne’s neighborhoods. As such, the portrait these soldiers painted, while surely accurate and honest, is more representative of pre-surge Baghdad: sectarian strife, lawlessness, and indiscriminate slaughter.
This is not, however, the picture elsewhere in Iraq, or even most of Baghdad. Additional American combat brigades first surged to the outlying areas around the capital, disrupting the flow of suicide bombers and car bombs and denying haven to al Qaeda.
The result? Attacks against civilians are at a six-month low and large al Qaeda-style truck and suicide bombings have dropped 50 percent in Baghdad. With additional troops and a sound strategy, the same results can occur in even the worst areas of Baghdad, including the 82nd Airborne’s sector.
Totten made the same point not long ago about the strange quiet in some parts of Baghdad, although it’s unclear what proportion of that is due to U.S. troops neutralizing bad actors versus bad actors chasing civilians from the other side out of their neighborhood or out of the city proper. Michael Ware called it “ethnic cleansing” (by which he meant sectarian cleansing) a few weeks ago, but it’s a less bloody form than it would be in the absence of the U.S. security presence. That’s setting the bar awfully low, admittedly, but it’s not a trivial distinction to the Iraqis who have to live with it.
VFF agrees with the NYT soldiers that political reconciliation won’t happen until conditions on the ground make it possible. Where they disagree is how best to get to those conditions: the NYT seven hint that we should side with the Shiites and let them do what they have to do. VFF appears to think U.S. troops can defeat the radicals on both sides, which is a hard argument to be making this morning in light of the news about Pace allegedly wanting (or rather, needing) to cut troop levels in half next year:
According to administration and military officials, the Joint Chiefs believe it is of crucial strategic importance to reduce the size of the U.S. force in Iraq in order to bolster the military’s ability to respond to other threats, a view that is shared by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates…
Before the 2006 Samarra mosque bombing touched off cycles of sectarian violence, military officials believed they were on the path to reducing U.S. forces in Iraq to 10 brigades. Officers in the Pentagon now believe advances in the Iraqi army mean that U.S. and coalition forces may be once again on that path.
On that path, maybe, but it’s a long path. The NIE released yesterday emphasized that Iraqi troops aren’t ready and that “changing the mission of Coalition forces from a primarily counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent AQI from establishing a safehaven would erode security gains achieved thus far.”
Update: Surge supporters Fred Kagan and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross agree — for the Iraqi Army, it’s a long, long path.