[First published in the April 2007 issue of commentarymagazine.com, reprinted with permission].
It is best if an enemy nation comes and surrenders of its own accord.
—Du You (735-812)
To the student of counterinsurgency warfare, the war in Iraq has reached a critical but dismally familiar stage.
On the one hand, events in that country have taken a more hopeful direction in recent months. Operations in the city of Najaf in January presaged a more effective burden-sharing between American and Iraqi troops than in the past. The opening moves of the so-called “surge” in Baghdad, involving increased American patrols and the steady addition of more than 21,000 ground troops, have begun to sweep Shiite militias from the streets, while their leader, Moqtada al Sadr, has gone to ground. Above all, the appointment of Lieutenant General David Petraeus, the author of the U.S. Army’s latest counterinsurgency field manual, as commander of American ground forces in Iraq bespeaks the Pentagon’s conviction that what we need to confront the Iraq insurgency is not more high-tech firepower but the time-tested methods of unconventional or “fourth-generation” warfare.1
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