In my new role as internet idea matchmaker, I have brought together retired Foreign Service Officer Kiki Munshi and the best war correspondent anywhere on this planet Michael Yon. I introduced Ms. Munshi to Mr. Yon's current view from Baqubah contrasted with her incorrect description of it in this post. Ms. Munshi served in the area for 9 months ending this January when she resigned from the provincial reconstruction team, she has spent much of her time since explaining to anyone who will listen that "We are doomed Christopher Robin" Lest anyone wonder about her motivations, she is obviously just an honest civil servant trying to help the administration and all of us win in Iraq. In her own words to Congress this February:
Let me start with a bit of background. I joined USIA in 1980 and retired as a Senior Foreign Service Officer in 2002--somewhat early as I had re-married and because it was an way to avoid dealing with President Bush's Iraq policy. My career included a good deal of work on democracy and governance aas well as on the transition from a controlled to a free market economy.
I thought the war pure folly and still am not quite sure why it was pursued so vehemently, but came back from retirement to head a PRT because I had the requisite skills and we Americans have a moral obligation to try to do something about the mess we've created in Iraq.
There you have it, no agenda and an open mind. I read her testimony and there is a good bit of truth in it, along with a whole lot of "we already lost". Her points about how actual re-construction is impossible absent real security are perfectly apt and she notes that our political and security attention span is nowhere near long enough for the actual task at hand. But she completely ignores the counter-insurgency doctrine currently employed by it's developers Gen. Petraeus and Col. Kilcullen. Our own Grim has not ignored it and participated in a discussion with Col. Kilcullen explaining our tactics here. and Col. Kilcullen explains it in detail here. Ms. Munshi acts as if this surge is simply an example of "same as it ever was". Hardly, it is a fundamentally different approach that addresses most of the problems she sees as insurmountable.
In the comments of my previous post Ms. Munshi had this to say:
Your interpretation of Michael Yon's writing illustrates my point. This week it's quiet where he is. I hope it stays quiet. What about last week and the week before? The tendency to judge "long term" on the basis of very short term perspectives hurts us and hurts our effort in Iraq.
I was correcting your assertion that Baqubah was currently unlivable. Clearly from Mr. Yon's posts it has changed considerably for the better. Obviously this is due to the surge, but your concern is valid if we do not stay and maintain order. That is just the point, we are staying this time. We are not clearing and handing off to sectarian security forces, we are clearing, identifying the occupants and screening them from AQ while they resume their own civil society.
Regarding the condition of Baqubah prior to the surge, it is not surprising that Ms. Munshi assumed it was still an awful place, it was a hellhole before. Michael Yon sends this about the pre-surge conditions and aftermath.
Hey Uncle J!
No, I don't, but I go down to that place all the time. Probably will be there tomorrow. In reality, what Kiki said was in my estimation true before 19 June. Baqubah was getting REALLY bad. General Petraeus was here yesterday and said flatly that this was probably the most rigged (meaning boobytrapped) city since the war began. More so than Fallujah or Ramadi. Let me tell you...when we rolled in here on the attack on 19 June, I thought we would lose dozens of soldiers killed. Easily. I mean I literally upped my combat insurance before the attack. We lost only 1!!!! More than 130 IEDs were found EMPLACED. Caches were a different story. About 2 dozen buildings were rigged to explode. About 7 car bombs. They were ready for us, and there are still lots of IEDs to be cleared and some more fighting to do. That said, yeah, it was crazy as hell here. Al Qaeda own this city pretty much before 19 June.
But as we mentioned the bad guys are gone and the kids are playing soccer and getting their pictures tooken. From Mike's July 5th post.
And so on 05 July, or D + 16, after the meeting, Iraqi leaders including the Deputy Governor of Diyala, and also Abdul Jabar, one of the Provincial chair holders, headed to some of the most dangerous areas in Baqubah on what Americans would call “a meet and greet.” At first the people seemed hesitant, but when they saw Iraqi leaders—along with members of their own press—asking citizens what they needed, each place we stopped grew into a festival of smiles.
The people were jubilant. None of the kids—and by the end of the day there were hundreds—asked me for anything, other than to take their photos.
I don't discount the problems that Ms. Munshi points out, they are real and difficult. But she needs to take a look, as do all the other Eeyores out there, and see that our plan deals with these problems. Every tribe that joins us against AQ is one less village they can hide in. It's hard damn work being a hated insurgent with no place to lay up sorry. Sanctuary or indifference is required to allow them a place to rest and refit. We have rolled most of these up and now they are very recognizable if they try to swing into other areas. I'm not sayin' we have rounded the corner, but who would you rather be, an AQ bad guy fresh out of rat holes, or a US soldier and Al Ameriki tribe member living alongside folks happy to be safe?