Thursday, March 29, 2007

Herman on Anti-Insurgency Warfare: Stick with the Surge

Historian Arthur Herman offers one of the best historical analyses to date on the American effort in Iraq. We commend it in its entirety to gentle readers, especially those who haven't followed closely other descriptions of the history and tactics of anti-insurgency operations.

The sobering note is that, like the French anti-insurgency in Algeria of the 1950s, the danger to the American effort is not the insurgency but the faltering political will to see the effort through to its end. Here's an apt pair of paragraphs:

Unlike the French in Algeria, the United States is in Iraq not in order to retain a colony but to help create a free, open and liberal society in a part of the world still mired in autocracy and fanaticism. Will we stay long enough to defeat the jihadists, to engage Iraqis in the process of modern nation-building, and to ease the transition to a free society? Or will we quit before the hard work is done, leaving this vital part of the world to become an al Qaeda sanctuary, bathed in chaos, anarchy, and blood? As the polls suggest, a large constituency at home is waiting to learn the answer to this question, and so is a much larger constituency abroad. But time is running short.

"Act quickly," Gen. Petraeus wrote in January 2006, "because every army of liberation has a half-life." This is true not only in the field but at home. James Thurber once said that the saddest two words in the English language are "too late." Terrible as it is to think that our surge may have come too late, it is much more
terrible to think that feckless politicians, out of whatever calculation, may pull the plug before the new approach is fully tested.

As we have said repeatedly, the only way that the United States doesn't achieve its objectives in this thing is to quit. We're not for that.

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