Wednesday, October 29, 2003


One of the reasons that Ba'athist combat capabilities declined so precipitously during Operation Iraqi Freedom was the disruption to daily life caused by combat operations. People couldn't communicate or travel easily and had to devote most of their time to scrounging for food and securing shelter. That included the Ba'athists. They lay low and became ineffective. One of the necessary consequences of the American efforts to return life in the Sunni triangle to normalcy is that it provides the very conditions necessary to resuscitate Ba'athist operations and enable them to mount attacks against Iraqi authorities and coalition forces. The lifting of the curfew for the Ramadan, the availability of electricity for longer hours, the freedom to assemble in a variety of locales without attracting attention -- all of these have unintended consequences. If one were looking for the primary facilitator of the recent attacks against Americans and Iraqis in the Sunni area, it would be none other than Paul Bremer, through no fault of his own.

It was inescapable that the Ba'athists and Islamic terrorists would adjust to peacetime faster in many ways than US authorities. Many simply had to pick up the now-working telephones to renew old acquiantances, including those now working for the CPA or in jobs inside the Green Zone. Reconciliation in action. Many simply had to become businessmen, like the traders on the Syria-Iraq border, to import things of interest. Americans thought it was wonderful, and so did they. Like anyone else, Americans are often blinded by preconcieved notions of the natural use of things. Where a sailor sees a road a soldier sees an obstacle; where an American sees a jetliner, a jihadi sees a bomb. Whoever said that the restoration of public amenities to Baghdad would necessarily lead to peace?

Whether it will critically depends on how rapidly the United States can overhaul the Ba'athist lead in local contacts. In one respect President Bush was indisputably right: the critical resource in Iraq right now is not more United Nations or French troops. It is not even American troops. It is Iraqi police and intelligence men. Little wonder that the Ba'athists have been focusing their attacks on the Iraqi police. That is who they fear most. While Americans have taken their share of casualties, the Iraqi cops have been dying by the dozen. Whether at the graduation ceremonies of a police academy, or being thanklessly blown up defending the UN building at a checkpoint, or in the station house, the Iraqi cops have been taking percentage losses that are only ignored because the press is too liberal to regard them as men. But other men notice, even if journalists will not. Boots on the Ground says:

The Iraqi Police were hit the hardest. Immediately, you would think that many would put down their badges and quit after all the death and chaos of yesterday. Yet, they all are still there, doing their job. It is truly amazing, and I am deeply inspired by it.

Yet that shouldn't blind us to the fact that there are Ba'athist agents in all levels of the new Iraqi bureaucracy. And the police is their prize. The US is in a counter-intelligence race with professionals on their home ground. Whether our Iraqis will beat their Iraqis is still an open question. America may outstrip the enemy in weaponry and humanitarian aid, yet lose this one key race. Phil Carter links to a damning report on the shortfalls of intelligence operations in Iraq.

The 69 "tactical human intelligence teams" operating in the country at the time of the study, at the beginning of the summer, should have been producing "at least" 120 reports a day, but instead were delivering an average total of 30, it states. It attributes that apparent underperformance to "the lack of guidance and focus" from the intelligence office overseeing the teams' work.

These are our eyes, and we will need them. After the America ended major combat operations in Iraq, it left the open spaces of the Clausewitzian world to battle terror on its shadowy soil. Here, enemies may have names without faces; voices beckon us alone into the dark; and unacknowledged tokens to monstrous things surface when we seem among friends. Yet always knowledge will be our guide; to anticipate, not be surprised; to persuade yet not be persuaded; to dishearten yet keep the faith; and to remind us that we are still at war.