Thursday, January 11, 2007

Victory: The Only Option

Now that the President’s new plan is out in the open, he has also made it clear that we will have to do something about the support of the various facets of the insurgency by Syria and Iran. It will be difficult to make a great difference as long as the safe havens in those countries remain untouched.

In addition to the Syrian and Iranian problems, the Iraqis themselves must end the sectarian violence and the militias must be dealt with forcefully. We cannot succeed in Iraq without the clear support of the Iraqis themselves.

The following op-ed piece discusses the importance of victory in the various fronts of the war on terror. Although victory is the only realistic option, the fact remains that the mistakes may make that goal difficult to achieve in Iraq.

The next twelve months will probably tell the tale.

Special to the Orlando Sentinel
September 28, 2006

The ghosts of Vietnam are peeking over the edges of their graves. American military forces are now on the defense instead of the offense. In military history, this has almost always meant defeat. American soldiers can kick the butts of anyone they fight, but they can’t prevail in the end without decisive leadership by Washington politicians.

When the decision was made to invade Iraq with a token force of soldiers, when the former Iraqi army was not recalled to provide security for its country and when the Iraqi people did not see their lives improve, the world witnessed the beginning of a host of bad decisions that were not made for military reasons but for political expediency.

Even when I served in Iraq in 2004, we could see the potential danger of Iranian-supported groups like the Mahdi Army, the private militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. His uprisings that year killed many Americans, but the Iraqis we put in power would not disarm these personal armies. Add the Sunni insurgents and the foreign fighters to the Shiite militias and our soldiers face a multi-faceted enemy, and each element has its own agenda.

Instead of devoting greater American resources to crushing the insurgency and its external sources of support, we have bounced back and forth across Iraq whenever a “hot spot” erupted. When we left one area to quell the violence somewhere else, the place we left would explode with insurgent activity. This is not a military on the offense; it is a force that is reacting to an enemy that has captured the initiative.

Arrogance has always been the downfall of western powers when dealing with the Arab world. The Crusaders swarmed over the Middle East to spread Christianity but instead they conducted their own “terrorist” campaigns before being driven out by the Muslim forces. The British Empire of the early twentieth century was also forced out of the region.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan the situation has worsened. Afghanistan had been a wonderful success until we allowed the Taliban free rein in northern Pakistan. The old rulers of Afghanistan have used those remote areas to train and recruit new members and to conceal our Al Qaeda enemy. Now that Pakistan has agreed with tribal leaders to stay out of those terrorist safe zones, we cannot continue to ignore the camps that exist there. If Pakistan will not clean them out, we must do so.

In Iraq we know that terrorists and their weapons of war are coming into that country from Syria and Iran. These countries have now become the Laos and Cambodia of this war. In Vietnam such sanctuaries helped the North Vietnamese outlast American resolve. Whatever happened to the American policy of dealing with those who “support, protect or harbor” terrorists?

It no longer matters whether or not we were right to invade Iraq. The Iraqi front is the epicenter of the world war against Islamic fascism. While we fret about the “rules of engagement” or the “rules of interrogation”, the enemy has only one rule: There are no rules.

Winning is the only option in both Iraq and Afghanistan, otherwise we will hand a major strategic victory to the terrorists and their sponsors. We will also fuel the determination of the Islamic fundamentalists to do just what they have promised to do and they will continue to expand their “holy war” to every corner of the globe.

I remain a soldier and I believe in the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as victory in the war on terror. Like the Vietnam veteran generals whose advice was ignored in the beginning, this old Vietnam vet also believes that you don’t fight “half-wars”.

We better do it right because the alternative world of the brutal and iron-fisted Islamic terrorists is too gruesome to contemplate.

SFC Chuck Grist

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