The Corner

The Insurgency a Surprise?

I’ve gotten lots of e-mails contending that we had the fly-paper theory in mind before the war. Some people have pointed out that Bush said “bring it on” as evidence we knew what we were doing in advance. Sorry. I think that was just bravado. I went back through my two big magazine pieces on Iraq to remind myself of what people told me about the beginnings of the insurgency. Here are the key bits:

–The Baathists lived to fight another day, in an insurgency that was yet another surprise. The New York Times recently reported on an intelligence document that allegedly warned of an insurgency. But that warning was in the final sentence of a 38-page report. It was not one of the report’s key findings. “As far as I know,” says an official familiar with the pre-war information, “I don’t recall anyone at State or the CIA talking about this kind of insurgency.”

–That was just a taste of the broader Sunni disaffection from the new Iraq that would help fuel the insurgency. It really began to bite in August 2003. “We started getting hammered, and we’re saying, ‘What’s going on here?’” says an administration official.

–”We weren’t looking for it,” an administration official says of the insurgency. “The Army was not ready to fight an insurgency.” Some generals, not all by any means, were still primed for a conventional fight of the sort we planned for against the Soviets in the Cold War or waged against Saddam in the Persian Gulf War.

–Maj. Gen. Raymond Ordierno commanded the 4th Infantry Division in the Sunni Triangle from April 2004 to the beginning of 2005. “We suspected some resistance would be left,” he says, “but we were a bit surprised by the insurgency. We had to adjust how we did business.”

–”Some say we missed the insurgency entirely, but that’s a bad rap,” says General Dempsey. “We saw this thing building, but it just takes time to build relationships in that culture.”

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

Most Popular

PC Culture

Warren Is a Fraud

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has been telling a story for years. It’s a deeply romantic story about her parents and their young love, fraught with the familial bigotry of an earlier time. Here’s how she told it this week in a video she released in preparation for her 2020 run: My daddy always said he ... Read More
U.S.

Two Minnesota Republican Candidates Assaulted

Two Republican candidates for state office in Minnesota have been physically assaulted in recent days, leading prominent Republican lawmakers to caution their Democratic colleagues against employing inflammatory rhetoric. Republican state representative Sarah Anderson was punched in the arm last week after ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Origins of Progressive Agony

What has transformed the Democratic party into an anguished progressive movement that incorporates the tactics of the street, embraces maenadism, reverts to Sixties carnival barking, and is radicalized by a new young socialist movement? Even party chairman Tom Perez concedes that there are “no moderate ... Read More
Elections

How Will the Senate Races Break?

How will the Senate races break? We have less public polling to go on than in recent years, so answering that question is harder than ever. But the news is more optimistic for Republicans than it was a month ago.   Waves and Breakers Four years ago, I projected in mid September that if “historical ... Read More