They didn’t ask necessarily for this war; but nevertheless our soldiers and officer corps brilliantly defeated Saddam Hussein in three weeks under the strict parameters set by political leaders. Then they were asked to jump start consensual government in the heart of the ancient caliphate, while ensuring that enemies like Syria and Iran, and “friends” such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan did not destroy the tenuous democracy through proxy wars — although the emergence of a successful free society threatened all four neighbors in varying ways.
Then that effort morphed still again as Middle Eastern players all upped the ante, Iraq becoming a new battlefield, where al Qaeda has staked its all, and Islamists of various stripes realized that their
very existence was in the balance.
And now here we are, after four years of hard, and often tragic fighting, characterized by mistake, response, fresh challenge, and more knowledgeable response still.
The present Army, in its make-up, tactics, expertise, and the manner is which it is led, is as different from the one that invaded in March 2003 as the army of the West in 1865 was from that of 1861, or the U.S. army that crossed the Rhine in 1945 was from what landed in North Africa in late 1942. All armies change in wars; the victorious ones for the better — and ours under Petraeus has as well.
Given the regional stakes that ripple far beyond Iraq (and range from the source of a considerable part of the fuel that powers the world economy, to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, to the security of the United States and its regional allies, to the future of Islam in the modern world), surely we owe Gen. Petraeus the necessary window of support, so that the full effect of his strategy can be assessed — realizing that while al Qaeda cannot defeat the U.S. military, it seeks to kidnap, behead, and poison in such a horrific and publicized manner to demoralize enough of us to circumvent a fair and full assessment of Petraeus’s efforts.
For some of us who had doubts that increased numbers at this late date, without radical changes in strategy and rules of engagement, were the answers, and might only increase Iraqi dependency, we must be proven quite wrong, as the surge, both the numbers and new tactics, are found to be the proper winning formula. In any case, the general and our troops need our full support at this critical summer and autumn as things in Iraq and the wider region seem to be coming to a climax.