Casting the key to success

Two items in the mainstream media - a Thomas Friedman editorial yesterday, and a breaking news story today - highlighted what will assuredly be the key to creating security in Iraq: effective Iraqi leaders.

Today's news was of a 300-man raid on a major mosque in Baghdad. With Americans serving only as backup, Iraqi troops stormed the mosque and arrested many. It's unclear whether there was a specific meeting there, or if it simply occurred in the middle of Friday prayers.

Throughout the war, Iraqi Guardsmen have been used against religious targets to avoid the images and inferences created by having foreign Christians taking local Islamic sites by force. But I think there's more to this operation than just religious sensitivity - the Coalition leadership is giving Iraqi leaders the experience they need to eventually take the helm.

Friedman dwelt on this issue yesterday in the New York Times:

The reality is this: Where you have individual Iraqi police, National Guard and Army commanders who have bravely stepped forward to serve the new Iraq and are willing to lead - despite intimidation efforts by insurgents - you have effective units. Where you don't have committed Iraqi leaders, all you have are Iraqi men collecting paychecks who will flee at the first sign of danger. The good news: there are pockets of Iraqi leaders emerging throughout the Army and police. The bad news: there are still way too few of them.

One successful operation such as today's may indicate the presence of just one effective Iraqi leader. However, we should watch for - and applaud - each success by Iraqi forces. As anyone who has studied war knows, there is no leadership school like combat, and each success will build the confidence, reputation, and personal toughness of the men who will ultimately be responsible for the security of their own nation.

Can Americans perform difficult military operations better, in general? Assuredly. Our equipment, training, and experience are all vastly superior, and our troops don't have nearby friends and families to slink away to. Yet we must remember that the creation of an effective and experienced Iraqi force is as much a goal as killing off insurgents. In fact, it is more important in the long run.

Our attention is naturally focused on the Americans - our brothers, fathers, and sons - in combat. But in the smoke and blood of Falluja, let's not forget to cheer every advance by the nascent Iraqi security forces. They, not us, will be the true heroes of a successful Iraqi state.

Posted by Chops at November 19, 2004 11:56 AM