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Courage and Leadership

Petraeus and Crocker Reveal Sources - and Absence - in Iraq and America

By ThreatsWatch | September 11, 2007

On September 10th and again today, September 11th, Capitol Hill and the world witnessed some of the most solid, honest and frank discourse on the situation in Iraq. The assessments given by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are noteworthy for several reasons, but we focus on two of the most important here.

To summarize General Petraeus:
  • Al-Qaeda in Iraq is being defeated; in part thanks to us, in part thanks to the Iraqis, who are rejecting al-Qaeds’ violent implementation of ideology by taking up arms against them.
  • Despite the best efforts of Iran, both US and Iraqi forces are also dealing defeats to the Shia militias and affiliated terrorist groups.
  • The Iraqi security forces are not 100%, but they are shouldering more and more of the burden of national security every day.
  • If current successes continue, a modest draw-down of US forces is warranted.
In other words: The surge is working.

To encapsulate the testimony of Ambassador Crocker:

". . . we should not be surprised or dismayed that Iraqis have not fully resolved such issues. Rather, we should ask whether the way in which they are approaching such issues gives us a sense of their seriousness and ultimate capability to resolve Iraq's fundamental problems . . ."


"Iran plays a harmful role in Iraq. While claiming to support Iraq in its transition, Iran has actively undermined it by providing lethal capabilities to the enemies of the Iraqi state. In doing so, the Iranian government seems to ignore the risks that an unstable Iraq carries for its own interests."

In other words: Rome wasn't built in a day. And Iraq's progress, be it slow in many areas, comes despite the efforts of its neighbors and enemies.

If this sounds familiar it is because the editors stated as much in Achieving Victory in Iraq at the start of this year:

We are obliged to leave Iraq in a better state than in which we found it, which means a nation with a form of government not dominated by a brutal dictator, and an environment in which it is safe to walk the street . . .. Such an endeavor will require, among other things, patience and understanding. Thinking that a people long oppressed will suddenly and effectively flourish in a democratic, multi-partisan and secular fashion is to ignore some fundamental realities and engage in the most wishful thinking. Likewise, to dismiss the peoples of Iraq as incapable of developing the requisite character and will to successfully self-govern as a responsible neighbor and potential ally tends toward bigotry and is not in the character of our nation.

The words of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are an unmistakable challenge to those who do not appreciate that politics in Iraq is literally a life-or-death struggle. This challenge offers a clarity unlike the the disdain those who advocate rapid withdrawal have for those who risk their lives to bring about a political resolution. We declared independence in 1776, were not militarily victorious until 1781, and it could be argued that we did not fully solidify as a republic until after 1865. That is a much longer time-frame for military success and political reconciliation than we are affording Iraq and those early Americans faced no sectarian strife, insurgency or foreign proxy war.

The men we call our Founders were in their day in constant danger for advocating liberty and freedom from tyranny. As viewed from our perspective, many Iraqi politicians are a far cry from the Founding Fathers, but in other ways they are more like those early Americans than many contemporary Americans who wield political power today and who safely and freely level criticism without appreciating the risk their Iraqi counterparts have accepted. Whom should we view in a more negative light: the imperfect Iraqi Parliament, struggling to hold on to a nascent democracy; or short-sighted and unsympathetic members of Congress, safe in their own situations and so quick to forget what true courage and leadership are?


"We declared independence in 1776, were not militarily victorious until 1781."

A very interesting and little known fact. You could also say we had a little help from a foreign country, namely France, but don't say it too loudly!

Happy to give credit where due. ;-)

On a more somber note, the war in Iraq can only be lost at home vis-à-vis Vietnam. The US was very close to a truce----a few more months of aerial bombardment of the north would have forced them to the table and there would have been a demarcation between the north and south a la Korea. Today there would be a formidable capitalistic structure in South Vietnam and the north would have pulled down the shades and much like North Korea would have placed its strategy in militarization. But that would have been of little concern----with a garrison force maintained in the south, the US, today, would have a viable presence in Southeast Asia and a strong trading partner in South Vietnam. The question is who would have been South Vietnam’s Syngman Rhee?!---What could have been!

Today, the old strategy, but with a new name----PNAC; is trying to complete a Pax Americana by producing allies where none existed before and achieving a military presence in relatively unstable areas of the world. Though it appears that a majority of the US public opposes the war and that the nominee of the Democratic Party will most likely be elected president, it is not so obvious that the new president will make a precipitous withdrawal from such a strategic part of the world, but the rhetoric will be deafening in the months leading to that first Tuesday in November.

There has been little media comment about the assassination of Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha, head of the Al Anbar Salovation Council, who only two weeks ago was greeting President Bush on his visit to Iraq. His death and that of so many like him, under score the danger and the courage required to work toward a better life in Iraq. It costs nothing here to endlessly find fault; it costs the Iraqis so much to seek a stable and peaceful Iraq. Thank-you for making that point so eloquently and for your insights on the time frames in our own lengthy growth to full constitutional government.

FINALLY, I'm hearing someone speak up about what I've been noting for some time - that the good old USA did not become a viable democratic nation overnight! It took us years. And you could really even carry it up through the Civil War, too. Or even up until today, as we are still trying to weed out anti-democratic areas. And we expect Iraq to do all this overnight??!! Would someone please make sure the anti-war people understand this?!