Struggle for Security
Correspondent Spencer Michels reports on the current state of the Iraqi insurgency. Then, Gwen Ifill leads a discussion on the insurgency with Kenneth Pollack, the Brookings Institution's director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and Ralph Peters, retired Army lieutenant colonel and author of "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace."
If you don't have time for the whole story, I pulled out the best excerpts below.
"Well, what mystified me when I heard about [the Mosul mess hall bombing], Gwen, was that even in maneuvers back in the Cold War days when you were just playing war, you got your chow and you dispersed because in war if an artillery shell would hit you wanted them to kill two or three or four soldiers at most, not forty or fifty or sixty or eighty. And what's clearly happened in Iraq is we violated our own rules about troop dispersion in wartime. I suspect it has to do with outsourcing. This mess hall, mess facility, chow hall was run by a contractor. And, instead of security, what we saw was convenience and efficiency. But it just baffled me that this base and this chow hall specifically, dining facility as we term it now, PC version, it had been attacked before with rocket fire, with mortars. And we were still crowding these troops not even staggering the schedules. It just astonished me."
"...And secondly, as we should have learned on 9/11 but keep forgetting, there are men of commitment and genius on the enemy's side too. We may not like that. But there are on one hand they are fanatical in their behavior -- certainly the terrorists -- not always the insurgents, but they're committed to their cause."
"...Calling these guys Baathist dead-enders is ridiculous. First, there probably hasn't been a real Baathist in Iraq since about 1958. Baathism is not a political philosophy that guided Saddam Hussein's regime or anyone in Iraq for that matter. There is the truth in the sense that many of these people were former members of the regime but they're not fighting us because they were former members of the regime or because they were Baathists. They are fighting us because they are members of a Sunni community that feels completely alienated from the process of political reconstruction. That's why they're fighting us."
"But when I think about the center of gravity in this insurgency, I'm very concerned that we've not focused ourselves on the right center of gravity. This is a true insurgency. My reading of history is that the true insurgency, the center of gravity is not a physical location; it's not even a military issue. It is the political and economic wellbeing of the country. It is the political and economic grievances of the population."
"We have alienated the Sunni tribesmen of Iraq. They are perhaps only 8-10 percent of Iraq's population but they do control a big chunk of territory. As long as the population feels dispossessed, they're going to continue to allow the insurgency to thrive. And historically the only way that you defeat an insurgency is by removing the underlying political and economic grievances that give rise to it. If you don't do that, it doesn't matter how many insurgents you kill."