DECENCY, TOUGHNESS . . . AND NO SHORTCUTS
September 24, 2008
Bing West offers an in-depth consideration of what led to the turnaround in Iraq
by Bing West
“What did cause the turnaround since 2006? Three competing explanations have popped up. Some have claimed that covert operations, involving the use of top-secret technical devices, are what drove the insurgency’s leaders from Iraq. Others attribute the turnaround to Bush’s decision in January 2007 to add 30,000 more troops. And still others suggest that it is the brilliance of General Petraeus, who took command in Iraq in February of 2007, that we have to thank for the improvements.
There is some truth to each of the three explanations. But all fall wide of the mark. The foremost reason for the turnaround is that the Sunni population switched from attacking American (and Iraqi Army) soldiers to aligning with them against al-Qaeda. What prompted that switch was the behavior of the American soldiers contrasted with that of the al-Qaeda fighters.
The basic cause of the turnaround was the decency and strength of the American troops whom the Sunnis came to know on the streets.”
F. J. “Bing” West, who served as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and as an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, is the author of The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics and the Endgame in Iraq (2008) and The Village and No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah.