Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Michael Totten on Patrol in Baghdad

Not About Winning or Losing--The Time Frame is Much Too Long For That

We speak of winning or losing a game we play, or a conflict of limited duration. When conflicts last decades or centuries, those immersed within it speak less of winning or losing, and more of managing the inevitable difficulties. And of the struggle of living up to their highest ideals and standards of behaviour.
The family was treated with utmost respect. The old woman blew kisses at us. The children smiled. This was not a raid.

I stepped into the room and noticed a picture of the moderate Shia cleric Ayatollah Sistani on the wall. It suddenly seemed unlikely that this family was hostile. Still, someone in the house had locked and loaded on patrolling American soldiers.

“We have tight relationships with some of the people whose sons are detainees,” Lieutenant Colonel Wilson A. Shoffner had told me earlier. “They don’t approve of their children joining Al Qaeda or the Mahdi Army. The support for these groups really isn’t that high.”...

“Someone here locked and loaded on me when we did a foot patrol along the river a while ago,” Lieutenant Wolf said. “Who was it?”

The old man laughed. “It was me!” he said and laughed again. He couldn’t stop laughing. He even seemed slightly relieved. “I thought it might have been insurgents! It was dark. I couldn’t see who it was. All Americans are my sons.”

Lieutenant Wolf looked at him dubiously.

“What did you see?” he said. “Tell me the story of what you saw.”

“I heard people walking,” said the old man. “I did not see Americans. I looked over the roof and heard who I guess was your interpreter speaking Arabic.”

“Sergeant Miller,” Lieutenant Wolf said.

“Sir,” Sergeant Miller said.

“Does that sound right to you?”

“Sounds right to me, LT,” he said.

....“I’m a good guy,” said the old man.

“I’m not saying you aren’t,” said the lieutenant. “I’m just very concerned that you are afraid of somebody here.”

“It was the first time. It was dark. I couldn’t see. I’m very sorry.”

“It’s okay,” said the lieutenant. “You don’t need to be sorry. You have the right to defend yourself and your home. Just be sure if you have to shoot someone that you know who you’re shooting at. Thank you for your help, and I am sorry for waking you up.”

The old man hugged the lieutenant and kissed him on his both cheeks.

The family waved us goodbye.
Michael Totten

Some parts of Iraq are peaceful, and most of the residents there do not fear or dislike the coalition soldiers who try to maintain the peace. But the people do fear others. Iraqi death squads inspired by Al Qaeda and inspired by the Mahdi Army and other Iranian allied groups.

The long war between the west and Islam, between modernity and religious primitivism, will continue for many decades yet. I suspect that it will last as long as the Islamic demographic youth bulge lasts, and not much longer. During this long war, there will be advances and reversals--times when it seems the secular west is winning, and times it appears to be losing.

That is the natural cyclical behaviour of disease, of stock markets, of climate, of populations of predator and prey.

In the war against Islamist terror, what would be victory? To me, a victory would be a reformation of Islam that marginalised militant Islamism to the unwelcome fringes of the religion--much as violent political groups are marginalised in western nations.

Perhaps the example of Ireland is pertinent, although on a much smaller scale. As Ireland's financial situation improved and women became educated, the birthrate dropped and the youth bulge subsided. Somewhat simultaneously, the violence subsided.

Certainly it takes only a few people to make a lot of bombs. But it takes a lot more people to terrorize the population as the populations in Iraq, Iran, Gaza, and parts of Lebanon are terrorized. When the terrorists lose their large numbers of "soldiers", their reach will be curtailed.

It will be a very long ride.

If we are tempted to give up and appease, like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barak Obama, and others of that ilk suggest, we are lost. It is only a deep resolve to maintain our independence and freedoms against all comers, based upon principles that are passed on faithfully from generation to generation, that will allow the enlightened principles of the west to survive the multiple onslaughts that are already here, and those that are coming.

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