November 16, 2007

The Military Political Solution

Just was reading about how Ramadi is now and the following section struck me:

As I was sitting atop a sand bag wall interviewing a sergeant, a Marine 1st Lieutenant approached me. He explained that he was going to confront an Iraqi Policeman (who we’ll call Mohammad to protect his true identity) who was suspected of being involved in the insurgency during 2005. The situation was all the more extraordinary since Mohammad and the lieutenant are friends. As the Lt. casually mentioned that I would be able to ask some questions, I jumped off the wall, quickly gathered my gear, and wondered about what I would be witnessing.

Sitting in a small room lined with cots and gear, the lieutenant talked to Mohammed through an Iraqi interpreter. “We know you were an insurgent during the fighting – you’re in no trouble – I just want you to tell me the truth.” Mohammad was now visibly shaking and appeared nervous before he quietly answered “yes.” “Did you ever fire on any Marines,” was the lieutenant’s first question. Mohammad was clearly concerned and replied with a long answer, but ultimately ended with a simple yes. “I was in Ramadi during the same time, so you could have possibly been shooting at me,” stated the lieutenant. “It’s okay Mohammad - if you were shooting at me then I was firing back at you,” joked the lieutenant. The rest of the session involved the lieutenant and Mohammad exchanging promises to never fight again, and to work together to protect the city of Ramadi. Furthermore, pledges were exchanged that this new understanding, between friends, would not affect their friendship.

I've heard that uniforms sometimes don't matter in Iraq, that institutions are heavily infiltrated by insurgents and militia. I've heard that the tribal allies, the insurgent allies are all allies of convenience. I've heard that there is no military solution to Iraq. And all that is likely true. But it's not the only truth.

Small, very personal conversations like this are happening all over Iraq. Personal pledges between new friends are being made. It is a very retail form of politics, written in blood and the intimate, uniquely close bonds that combat seems to forge. It is largely (though likely not only) being committed by our uniformed armed forces. The big bosses may have started this as alliances of convenience with the Americans and the government but I suspect that it's not turning out that way on the ground.

Our military studies Clauswitz, studies him seriously and have fully internalized his famous statement that "politics is war by other means". So politics, a very limited, circumscribed form of politics, is well within their bailiwick. And our uniformed politicians are winning the peace, one insurgent at a time.

And our media is missing it, as it is missing so many other things.

As so many other optimists, I'm very aware that we can still foul this up, undo all those personal pledges won by our uniformed politicians. The biggest danger is that all these political efforts will be undone by some sort of spectacular clowning by anti-war Democrats on the Senate floor. Sen. Reid call your office.

Posted by TMLutas at November 16, 2007 09:31 AM