Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2003 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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We are doing the right thing, but we are not doing it fast enough


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer abruptly cancelled a scheduled meeting with the Polish prime minister in Baghdad to fly back to Washington for consultations.

As Bremer's plane was in the air, a pessimistic assessment from the CIA station chief in Iraq was hitting the desks of policymakers in Washington. "One senior administration official said the (top secret) report warned that the coalition's inability to crush the insurgents is convincing growing numbers of Iraqis that the occupation can be defeated, bolstering support for the insurgents," wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Landay.

At a meeting in Ar Ramadi Nov. 8, Central Command commander Gen. John Abizaid warned tribal leaders that if anti-U.S. activities continue, occupation forces will use new and unspecified methods to maintain order, an Iraqi who attended the meeting told the Associated Press.

It's about time the kid gloves came off, said Zeyad, an Iraqi web logger. "Thousands of people are applying to be members of the IP (Iraqi police), FPS (facilities protection service), and the civil defense force," Zeyad wrote. "They are begging for the security to be in their hands. We know how to handle those scum. The Americans are more interested in being nice and all about human rights and free speech and stuff. They are being too lenient and forgiving on our expense."

Zeyad's assessment largely is shared by Jim Hoagland, foreign affairs columnist for the Washington Post. He noted that between May 1 and Nov. 6, 140 Americans had been killed in ambushes, but not a single Iraqi has been executed for aiding, planning or carrying out attacks on U.S. troops.

"Taking their cue from the president's vows to make Iraq a catalyst for a democratic, peaceful Middle East, U.S. civilians and commanders are hesitating to adjust well-intentioned policies that inadvertently help the killers operate with little fear of being caught or punished," Hoagland wrote.

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The solution, Hoagland said, is to give Iraqi security forces and Shi'ia and Kurdish militias more responsibility for hunting down the bitter ender Baathists and foreign terrorists.

Relying on Iraqis long oppressed by the Baathists to hunt down the terrorists has risks, Hoagland acknowledged. But if we want cooperation from Sunni Muslims in the Baathist triangle, we must rely less on the carrot and more on the stick.

"Emphasizing the wonders of democracy will have much less immediate effect on them than will emphasizing the price they will have to pay for continuing to let the killer fish swim in their midst," Hoagland said.

A change in tactics will reduce American casualties while increasing those of the enemy, said a group of retired military officers headed by Brigadier General David Grange.

Most of the Americans are being killed in ambushes of the hundreds of supply convoys that travel a handful of roads each day. The ambushes usually are conducted by remotely detonated mines. Because soldiers in logistics units - unlike Marines - don't receive much infantry training, and there aren't many of them, the attackers usually can count on getting away, said the Iraqi War Lessons Learned Study Group.

The Army should create ECAV troops - a mixture of engineers and infantry mounted in light armored vehicles - to sweep roads ahead of the soft-skinned supply trucks, and which would have enough firepower and mobility to punish ambushers they detected, the Grange group said.

"We are losing the cat and mouse fight against command-detonated mines and RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) ambushes. Creating an ECAV troop in every infantry battalion can turn this situation around for good," the Grange group said.

The surge in violence in Iraq is a cause for concern, but not for panic. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis oppose the terrorists and - a new Gallup poll indicates - support a constitution that guarantees democracy, free speech and religious freedom.

We are doing the right thing, but we are not doing it fast enough. Bush would be wise to heed the advice offered by Jim Hoagland, Iraqis like Zeyad, and the Iraqi War Lessons Learned Study Group.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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