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Leaning Forward In Iraq and the Global Conflict

Last night, President Bush delivered to the nation and the world a plan for Iraq that indicates a resumption of a forward-leaning American posture in Iraq and, by extension, in the global conflict before us. Before that call, ThreatsWatch participated in a conference call with White House press secretary Tony Snow and the Iraq Director for the president’s National Security Council, Brett McGurk.

Others participated as well and many excellent questions were asked. Participants included Wizbang, The Truth Laid Bear, RedState, Right Wing News, Austin Bay, Dean's World, Winds of Change, Power Line and others as well. Austin Bay put together a fairly comprehensive summary of the items discussed including some of his accompanying commentary at Pajamas Media and the full audio of the Q & A session has been generously provided by Robert Bluey of Human Events, another participant. We thank David Almacy, Internet and E-Communications Director for the White House, Tony Snow and Brett McGurk for providing such access and the opportunity to pose questions directly.

A full ThreatsWatch analysis of President Bush's new plan will be published shortly as well as additional commentary in the coming days. In the immediate, a brief reaction for our readers is due.

As I said in a radio interview last night: All debatable specifics aside, the overall tone of the president's speech and the general posture of his "New Way Forward" in Iraq is a much welcomed change. For many months it has seemed the US policy has been to primarily lean back on our heels and play defense, largely reacting to enemy strikes. We have been playing defense against a shadowy insurgent and terrorist enemy while ceding the initiative to the likes of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr. This simply will not do.

Defense may win Super Bowls, but it will never win wars. It can only prevent them and preserve the absence of open hostilities through deterrence.

To that end, there can be no mistaking the forward-leaning new direction in Iraq and elsewhere going forward. Within the context of the very aggressive ongoing operations in Diyala province north of Baghdad, the capture today yet six more Iranians – this time in Irbil – and even the successful violence brought directly to al-Qaeda terrorists in southern Somalia, there is little room for debate that the president is shifting gears and turning loose the dogs of war against those who have or aim to kill Americans.

It must be understood by the American public that much of the world and its various governments and organizations will never openly support aggressive American action abroad. Likely among those killed in the American airstrikes on al-Qaeda in southern Somalia was one of the leaders of the 1998 simultaneous bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Even with that news, the United Nations, the European Union and others criticized the action and “expressed concern” of the rising violence.

Al-Qaeda and aligned movements (AQAM), Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, the Iranian regime and other terrorist groups remain undeterred and unfazed by diplomatic decree and international negotiations. They must be defeated in the language they choose to speak: Violence and death. To fail to do so is to invite their violence and the deaths of our own, defended primarily with ineffectual noble decrees and ‘strongly worded statements’ that are seen by these enemies as a weakness in our character.

Within this context, ThreatsWatch welcomes the current shift afoot in our prosecution of a conflict. It is a conflict for which we did not ask. It remains one in which we must engage fully.

The consequences of our failure to do so will not be paid for by us, but by our children.


Unfortunately, the plan depends on the active cooperation of the Iraqis:
Maliki's officials were at pains to say that the prime minister would decide the issue of most concern to the Iraqi leader: whether, and when, Iraqi and American forces would be allowed to move in force into Sadr City.

That Shiite working-class district in northeast Baghdad is the stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the most powerful of the Shiite militias, and the main power base of Moktada al-Sadr, the Mahdi Army leader, whose parliamentary bloc sustains Mr. Maliki in office.
Samo Samo in Baghdad

A Shiite political leader who has worked closely with the Americans in the past said the Bush benchmarks appeared to have been drawn up in the expectation that Mr. Maliki would not meet them. “He cannot deliver the disarming of the militias,” the politician said, asking that he not be named because he did not want to be seen as publicly criticizing the prime minister. “He cannot deliver a good program for the economy and reconstruction. He cannot deliver on services. This is a matter of fact. There is a common understanding on the American side and the Iraqi side.”

Views such as these — increasingly common among the political class in Baghdad — are often accompanied by predictions that Mr. Maliki will be forced out as the crisis over the militias builds. The Shiite politician who described him as incapable of disarming militias suggested he might resign; others have pointed to an American effort in recent weeks to line up a “moderate front” of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders outside the government, and said that the front might be a vehicle for mounting a parliamentary coup against Mr. Maliki, with behind-the-scenes American support.