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Iraq: What Went Right By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Tuesday, November 27, 2007


The situation in Iraq has improved so rapidly that Democrats now shun the topic as thoroughly as they shun our troops when the cameras aren't around.

Yes, Iraq could still slip back into reverse gear. And no, we're not going to get a perfect outcome. But the positive indicators are now so strong that the left's defeatist lies are losing traction among the American people.

Attacks of every kind are down by at least half - in some cases by more than three-quarters. A wounded country's struggling back to health. And our mortal enemies, al Qaeda's terrorists, have suffered a defeat from which they may never fully recover: They've lost street cred.

Our dead and wounded have not bled in vain.

What happened? How did this startling turnabout come to pass? Why does the good news continue to compound?

Some of the reasons are widely known, but others have been missed. Here are the "big five" reasons for the shift from near-failure to growing success:

We didn't quit: Even as some of us began to suspect that Iraqi society was hopelessly sick, our troops stood to and did their duty bravely. The tenacity of our soldiers and Marines in the face of mortal enemies in Iraq and blithe traitors at home is the No. 1 reason why Iraq has turned around.

Without their valor and sacrifice, nothing else would've mattered. Key leaders were courageous, too - men such as now-Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno. Big Ray was pilloried in our media for being too warlike, too aggressive and just too damned tough on our enemies.

Well, the Ray Odiernos, not the hearts-and-minds crowd, held the line against evil. Only by hammering our enemies year after year were we able to convince them that we couldn't - and wouldn't - be beaten. If the press wronged any single man or woman in uniform, it was Odierno - thank God he was promoted and stayed in the fight.

Gen. David Petraeus took command: Petraeus brought three vital qualities to our effort: He wants to win, not just keep the lid on the pot; he never stops learning and adapting, and he provides top-cover for innovative subordinates.

By late 2006, mid-level commanders were already seizing opportunities to draw former enemies into an alliance against al Qaeda. Petraeus saw the potential for a strategic shift. He ignored the naysayers and supported what worked.

Oh, and under Petraeus our troops have been relentless in their pursuit of our enemies. Contrary to the myths of the left, peace can only be built over the corpses of evil men.

The surge: While the increase in troop numbers was important, allowing us to consolidate gains in neighborhoods we'd rid of terrorists and insurgents, the psychological effect of the surge was crucial.

Pre-surge, our enemies were convinced they were winning - they monitored our media, which assured them that America would quit. Sorry, Muqtada - that's what you get for believing The New York Times.

The message sent by the surge was that we not only wouldn't quit, but also were upping the ante. It stunned our enemies - while giving Sunni Arabs disenchanted with al Qaeda the confidence to flip to our side without fear of abandonment.

Fanatical enemies: We lucked out when al Qaeda declared Iraq the central front in its war against civilization. Our monstrous foes alienated their local allies so utterly that al Qaeda in Iraq is now largely a spent force - the hunted, not the hunters. The terrorists have suffered a strategic humiliation.

Religious fanatics always overdo their savagery - but you can't predict the alienation time-line. Al Qaeda's blood-thirst accelerated the process, helping us immensely.

The Iraqis are sick of bloodshed and destruction: This is the least-recognized factor - but it's critical. We still don't fully understand the mechanics of black-to-white mood shifts in populations, but such transitions determine strategic outcomes.

What we do know is that, when tyrannical regimes collapse in artificial states such as Iraq (or the former Yugoslavia), a lot of pent-up grudges play out violently. People seem to need to get suppressed hatreds out of their systems.

The peace-through-exhaustion mood swing happened abruptly in Iraq. Suddenly, the people have had their fill of gunmen and gangsters who claim to be their defenders. Heads-down passivity has morphed into active resistance to the terrorists and militias.

We're all sober now, Americans and Iraqis. And peace is built on sobriety, not passion.

As Thanksgiving approaches, consider a vignette from Baghdad:

As part of its campaign to eliminate Iraq's Christian communities, al Qaeda in 2004 bombed St. John's Christian church in Doura, in the city's southern badlands. By last spring, local services had stopped completely.

Our Army's 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry stepped up. Under Lt. Col. Stephen Michael (a Newark native), our soldiers methodically cleaned up Doura - no easy or painless task - and aided the reconstruction of the church.

Last week, a grateful congregation returned for a service that was, literally, a resurrection. Fifteen local Muslim sheikhs attended the Mass to support their Christian neighbors. Could there be a more hopeful symbol?

Those long-suffering Iraqi Christians will celebrate Christmas in their neighborhood church this year. "Peace on earth" will mean more to them than mere words in a carol.

As for the grunts of 2-12 Infantry who made it all possible, their motto is "Ducti Amore Patria," or "Having been led by love of country."

On Thanksgiving Day, be thankful for such men.


Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


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