THE LESSONS OF FALLUJAH
Killing terrorists doesn't make them stronger.
Editorial de “The Wall Street Journal” del 17/11/2004
Por su interés y relevancia, he seleccionado el editorial que sigue para incluirlo en este sitio web. (L. B.-B.)
So coalition forces strike the city of Fallujah, and Iraqi insurgents respond by attacking in Mosul, Baquba, Kirkuk and Suweira. This, we now hear, proves that the more insurgents the U.S. kills, the stronger the insurgency grows. Call it the Obi-Wan Kenobi school of international relations: Strike him down, and he'll only become more powerful.
In real warfare, of course, killing the enemy means there are fewer enemies to kill. And in one week in Fallujah, and at the cost of some 40 American soldiers' lives and several Iraqi ones, about 1,200 insurgents were killed and another 1,000 taken prisoner. The insurgents have been denied their principal sanctuary. Their torture chambers--a stark indication of what they intend for all of Iraq if they're allowed to prevail--lie exposed.
More important is the demonstration effect: Ordinary Iraqis can take heart that the Allawi government and the U.S. mean business, something that had been put into doubt by the failure to take Fallujah back in April. The sooner and more aggressively the fight is taken to other insurgent strongholds, the better the chances that January's scheduled elections can be held on time, in conditions of relative security, and with Iraq's Sunni minority committed (or resigned) to pursuing their options at the ballot box.
Assessing the ultimate impact of any battle takes time: It is true that of the 5,000 insurgents estimated to have been in Fallujah, the majority, including terrorist ringleader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, appear to have gotten away in the exodus of civilians that preceded the battle. These insurgents will no doubt continue to mount gruesome attacks throughout the country, with the aim of cowing the silent majority of Iraqis who'd like to be on the side of freedom if given the chance.
Still, it is instructive to note the view the insurgents themselves took of the battle. In an audio recording transmitted on the Internet, a voice said to be Zarqawi's warns, "Once they have finished in Fallujah, they will head toward you. You must not let them succeed in their plan." That sounds more like the voice of desperation than it does the voice of confidence.
Another point in the Zarqawi recording bears attention: "This war is very long, and always think of this as the beginning, and always make the enemy think that yesterday was better than today." In Israel, this is known as the question of the barrel: Is there a bottom to it or not? Beyond whatever tactics the Iraqi insurgents may employ, their strategy is to convince Americans that there is no bottom; that their cause enjoys huge popular support; that it feeds off the resentments that "occupation" inevitably engenders; and that it can go on undeterred by whatever damage U.S. forces inflict.
Sadly, there are plenty of Westerners willing to buy into this hypothesis, since it sits so well with those who think the war was a mistake and thus can't imagine that we can still win. Yet apart from the military success, the big news of the Fallujah campaign is that most Iraqis quietly supported it. The protests from nationalist politicians was far more muted than in April, perhaps because they have seen from the car bombings and beheadings what the Zarqawis also intend for them.
The task now is to build quickly on success in Fallujah by wiping out other insurgent strongholds such as Ramadi. We are also encouraged to see that Iraqi forces seem to have performed marginally better in Fallujah than they had in the past. Continued operations should help train, integrate and harden the Iraqis, particularly their officers. Their willingness to fight will increase the more they witness our determination to win.