Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Increase of Aid = Decrease of Violence

According to a number of recent articles, enthusiasm for President Bush's troops surge is not as widespread among the Army as many have been led to believe. Infantry soldiers who patrol the streets of Iraq daily and have the most at stake in this conflict consider the over-reliance on a troop surge to be a tragic mistake:
"Almost every foot soldier interviewed during a week of patrols on the streets and alleys of east Baghdad said that Bush's plan would halt the bloodshed only temporarily. The soldiers cited a variety of reasons, including incompetence or corruption among Iraqi troops, the complexities of Iraq's sectarian violence and the lack of Iraqi public support, a cornerstone of counterinsurgency warfare." [more]
Meanwhile, officers are decidedly more optimistic. The WaPo reports, "Higher-ranking officers with the task force said they see encouraging signs that cooperation with Iraqis will improve as the new security initiative in Baghdad begins."

As Mikevotes at Born at the Crest of the Empire notes, "If you're an infantry soldier seeing little point in your patrols, how do you respond to being sent out, being shot at, seeing comrades wounded and killed, day after day at the hands of officers who you don't think have a grasp on the reality."

The reality is that there is no military solution to this conflict. There needs to be something more. So it was with great relief that I read this in today's New York Times:

"As evidence of the importance of civilian reconstruction, military officers involved in the internal debate are citing a recent classified study, conducted by the Joint Warfare Analysis Center of the Defense Department, based in Dahlgren, Va., that suggests violence in Baghdad drops significantly when the quality of life improves for Iraqi citizens.

Relying on surveys and other data on those wounded and killed in the violence as compiled by the military, the study found that a 2 percent increase in job satisfaction among Iraqis in Baghdad correlated to a 30 percent decline in attacks on allied forces and a 17 percent decrease in civilian deaths from sectarian violence.

But its emphasis on the importance of reconstruction is being cited by senior military officers and Pentagon officials as more evidence that Congress and the government’s other civilian departments must devote more money and personnel to nonmilitary efforts at improving the economy, industry, agriculture, financial oversight of government spending and the rule of law."
That one line bears repeating:
"...violence in Baghdad drops significantly when the quality of life improves for Iraqi citizens." Simple. We keep seeing signs that the Bush Administration and DoD recognize the importance of economic development and yet in the end they seem to place all their faith (and dollars) in the potential for a military victory. With Gen. Petraeus at the helm, and with this recent report as a reference, we can only hope that this administration will finally address the economic dimension of this conflict. I have so much more to write about this, but I will save it for another post.

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