ThreatsWatch.Org: Commentary

Courage and Leadership

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

By ThreatsWatch

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?