I also know that it would be a mistake to overreact to the expected surge in enemy attacks which we are seeing now. Such surges were expected (and sometimes seen) around every previous major Iraqi milestone such as an election, referendum, or anniversary. Those attacks feel particularly jarring now for two reasons: first, the baseline violence is far calmer than it was before other such anniversaries, so the uptick is more dramatic; and second, at previous critical junctures, Coalition and Iraqi forces conducted mini-surges of their own to preempt the violence, but now the catalyzing event is a withdrawal (or more precisely, a repositioning) of combat power, thus making those preemptive tactics more difficult.
These attacks may simply be what Secretary Clinton has called “a signal that the rejectionists fear Iraq is going in the right direction.” This sounds eerily like the much-derided claim by Vice President Cheney that similar attacks back in 2006 were a sign of “desperation” on the part of terrorists. It may have been a sign of desperation, but, at least in 2006, the terrorists were able to use them to seize the initiative. We must hope that they are not able to do that again today.