Monday, August 14, 2006

Baggage, three years old

By Creature

This morning from Reuters we have a story about the new US lead action to gain control of the capital and stop the bleeding in Baghdad. The town is called Dora, a primarily Sunni district. The US has sealed the town and stopped the blood shed. The too-little-too-late twist here is that rather than focusing only on attacking the bad guys the troops are "offering economic opportunities to residents." It's working and the tone of this piece should be somewhat positive, however the sense of defeatism coming from the troops is palpable.

"The bottom line is that if we cannot provide Joe Mohammad with an improved situation, then he knows that nothing has changed. That fuels support for the insurgency and militias." [...]

He is dismissive of suggestions his is a classic "hearts- and-minds" operation, insisting his aim is simply to "improve people's lives."

"I don't like to think of this as hearts and minds. That has a lot of baggage attached to it," Gandara says, walking down an unpaved residential street toward a wide, five-foot deep hole filled with green, foul-smelling sewage.

Fixing the sewer is one of his projects and he has hired a contractor who was due to begin work in the morning. Now in the sweltering heat of the afternoon, he is nowhere to be seen.

"I'm going to chase this up," he says, after residents tell him about the no-show. "I'm very frustrated, but the contractor did say yesterday when he came here that he was concerned about his safety. How do you convince someone they are safe?" [...]

Gandara acknowledges the plan is unlikely to find universal support among Iraqis weary and mistrustful after three years of war, but he adds: "Is there any one golden solution? Heck no."

It seems like the right steps. The soldiers are doing the best they can, but three plus years into this war it's hard to imagine this band-aid approach will change the tide. The mere fact that Lieutenant Colonel Gandara acknowledges that the whole concept of hearts-and-minds "has a lot of baggage attached to it" lets us know that the window of real opportunity has closed in Iraq and now we are just biding time until it's time to go.

This is your Bush "adapt-to-win" strategy in action. It's more like adapt and pray things don't get worse before November. The GOP should be as humble and as realistic as Colonel Gandara is.

Reuters has more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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