Potential Turning Point in Iraq

Wars have their turning points. In the American Revolutionary War, well-disciplined Americans under the leadership of General Horatio Gates at Saratoga forced British General John Burgoyne to give up his attempt to physically split the young United States by marching south from Canada. The victory convinced the French that the colonies had a credible chance to win their independence from Britain. Subsequent military support from the French was crucial in the American victory.

In the American Civil War, it seemed that General Robert E. Lee’s perpetual successes would insure that Union forces would never be able to decisively defeat the Confederate States. Emboldened by his victory at Chancellorsville, Virginia in May 1863, Lee believed that by striking deeply into Union territory he could sap the will of the Union and sue for some sort of peace. Fortunately for the Union, Lee met surprisingly strong resistance from troops led by General George G. Meade at Gettysburg. Lee was forced to withdraw and the ultimate outcome of the Civil War never seemed in doubt afterwards.

During the Vietnam War, the surprising attacks by the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive in 1968 convinced many, at least the American elites, that victory by the North was inevitable. The ironic part was that in Vietnam, the American response to the Tet Offensive was heartening to the South Vietnamese. The North took its best shot and was decisively repelled. However, the perception of victory or defeat appears to be at least as important as the actual facts.

Up until February, it appeared that perhaps Iraq was settling into a level of normalcy. Economic activity is exploding, unemployment is plummeting, children are attending school, and oil production has surpassed pre-war levels. The number of Coalition casualties was dwindling. February experienced the lowest level of Coalition casualties since liberation.

Somewhere in March, the level of violence exploded, symbolized by the gruesome burning and display of American contractors by Islamo-fascists in Fallujah. Fallujah is a stronghold of Sunni Muslims who profited under the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein. Loyalists to the former regime were never routed out of Fallujah during the initial hostilities. Baghdad fell before Coalition troops reached Fallujah and the Saddam Hussein loyalists faded into the populace rather than fight. Undeterred, they are now trying to disrupt the transfer of power to Iraqi authorities. A free Iraq ruled democratically would certainly diminish their position. Indeed, captured documents reveal Sunni intentions to attack the majority Shite population. Those that seize hostages and directly target civilians for violence conspicuously reveal their minute moral stature.

In order for the fledging Iraqi democracy to take root, ordinary Iraqis must be convinced that they will not be abandoned by the Americans until security is established and a stable Iraqi government assumes full authority over the country. Those who are certain that they could not achieve political leadership through a democratic process have no choice but to use violence and intimidation. Make no mistake about it, almost by definition, the forces for disruption in Iraq are anti-democratic and anti-freedom.

The current chaos in Iraq represents both a crisis and an opportunity. If Americans can find a way to maintain security while moving Iraq toward political normalcy, a turning point will have occurred in Iraq. It is, of course, always possible that a victory in Iraq will not be portrayed as such in the media. Fascist insurgents realize they cannot win a military victory and they seek to secure the important propaganda one.

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