“We haven’t been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically — and that’s where wars are won and lost.” So says an Army officer summarizing a new report by the US Marines’ top intelligence guy about the situation in Fallujah. It’s an odd habit of the American Army to even bother making the distinction. If you’re losing a war politically, you’re losing the war.
Let me also pass on a point I heard Robert Pape make last week, namely that even though a certain number of the bombings you see in Iraq are genuine core instances of terrorism — just blowing up civilians for being members of some targeted group — most attacks are more narrowly focused than that. You see a lot of this kind of thing where people trying to sign up to work for the Iraqi government get killed. Just as liberals tend to point out that the United States government and other western powers can often be well-served by a policy of deliberate restraint, this is also true for irregular combatants in Iraq. The most over-the-top, randomest, most terroristic attacks in Iraq tended to be perpetrated by Zarqawi and his people who had a rather unsubtle view of strategy. His absence from the scene may actually wind up hurting out cause in Iraq, simply because it will let smarter, less brutal leaders step up to the plate.