Day By Day

Friday, July 06, 2007

al Ameriki

Michael Yon reports from Iraq. Things are going very, very well right now..., important things. He also has some interesting things to say about the behavior of the MSM journalists.

As the major fighting wound down:

Media coverage went from a near monopoly (Michael Gordon from New York Times and me) to a nearly capsized boat as journalists flooded in from other parts of Iraq to see the fight. They managed to miss most of it. Today, I’m told, there are now only 3 journalists remaining, including one writer (me.)

As with the Battle for Mosul, which I held in near monopoly for about five months during 2005, the most interesting parts of the Battle for Baqubah are unfolding after the major fighting ends. But as the guns cool, the media stops raining and starts evaporating, or begins making only short visits of a week or so.

The big news on the streets today is that the people of Baqubah are generally ecstatic, although many hold in reserve a serious concern that we will abandon them again. For many Iraqis, we have morphed from being invaders to occupiers to members of a tribe. I call it the “al Ameriki tribe,” or “tribe America.”

I’ve seen this kind of progression in Mosul, out in Anbar and other places, and when I ask our military leaders if they have sensed any shift, many have said, yes, they too sense that Iraqis view us differently. In the context of sectarian and tribal strife, we are the tribe that people can—more or less and with giant caveats—rely on.

Most Iraqis I talk with acknowledge that if it was ever about the oil, it’s not now. Not mostly anyway. It clearly would have been cheaper just to buy the oil or invade somewhere easier that has more. Similarly, most Iraqis seem now to realize that we really don’t want to stay here, and that many of us can’t wait to get back home. They realize that we are not resolved to stay, but are impatient but to drive down to Kuwait and sail away. And when they consider the Americans who actually deal with Iraqis every day, the Iraqis can no longer deny that we really do want them to succeed. But we want them to succeed without us. We want to see their streets are clean and safe, their grass is green, and their birds are singing. We want to see that on television. Not in person. We don’t want to be here. We tell them that every day. It finally has settled in that we are telling the truth.

Now that all those realizations and more have settled in, the dynamics here are changing in palpable ways.

Read the whole thing here.

The trouble is, things are also changing in Washington where Republican Senators are beginning to turn tail. The Iraqis are right to worry about our willingness to see the job through. Once again it begins to look as if the US will abandon the fight just as the tide is turning. Maybe the Iraqis now understand that Bush tells the truth and that the war was not just an oil grab, but the narrative the Democrats are pushing says just the opposite and all too many Americans have embraced it.


Maybe this will help a bit. Michael Gordon reports from Bakubah in the NYT:

The American military has struggled for more than four years to train and equip the Iraqi Army. But here the local Sunni residents, including a number of former insurgents from the 1920s Revolution Brigades, have emerged as a linchpin of the American strategy.

The new coalition reflects some hard-headed calculations on both sides. Eager for intelligence on their elusive foes, American officers have been willing to overlook the past of some of their newfound allies.

Many Sunnis, for their part, are less inclined to see the soldiers as occupiers now that it is clear that American troop reductions are all but inevitable, and they are more concerned with strengthening their ability to fend off threats from Sunni jihadists and Shiite militias. In a surprising twist, the jihadists — the Americans’ most ardent foes — made the new strategy possible. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a predominantly Iraqi organization with a small but significant foreign component, severely overplayed its hand, spawning resentment by many residents and other insurgent groups.

Generally speaking Gordon seems to be supporting Yon's position, that real progress is being made through the introduction of new tactics. Working through local militias rather than the formal instruments of an Iraqi state may well be the path toward a viable political settlement that will produce, in time, a functioning Arab democracy.

Read Gordon's piece here.

One of the most interesting things about the current conflict and the debate over it is that old templates and narratives are manifestly inappropriate to the current situation and people are being forced to innovate. We are moving into a new era, a perilous and exciting one.