Friday, May 07, 2004

Did the Fallujah Gambit Work?

The Christian Science Monitor reports that civility has returned to Fallujah:

    The eyes of Abbas Aswad shine, as a US Marine lawyer counts out 16 crisp $50 bills, and places them in his hands. The money is compensation to the Mukhtar village, to fix several fragile water lines broken hours earlier by marines, as they set up positions at the nearby Fallujah railway station.
    As this Iraqi front line quiets down - there hasn't been any shooting in Fallujah in days - the payout is part of a concerted American strategy to shift away from war, and to resume the campaign to win hearts and minds. Indeed, perceptions that Iraq is a nation spiraling out of US control began to change this week. Thursday, the US ratcheted up pressure on radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, by seizing the governor's office from his fighters in Najaf. Moderate Shiites and tribal leaders have put forward plans to persuade Mr. Sadr to turn himself in.


    Compensation is not the only means US forces use to connect with Iraqis. An older Iraqi woman living in a trailer hovel adjacent to the rail station says she was beaten by insurgents several weeks ago - accused of being a collaborator - and kicked in the stomach.

    US servicemen evacuated Farha Abed Saad for medical treatment after dark, when her pain became unbearable. "Thank God, you have come here to Iraq and make us free," said Ms. Saad, kissing a soldier's hands. "When I see you, I see my own sons! Thank you, thank you."

Like many conservatives -- and, I think the majority of soldiers with boots on the ground -- I was disappointed at the withdrawal from Fallujah on what seemed the eve of victory. As I posted below, this situation was incredibly confusing and I could only hope that we handled it correctly. Well, the above article seems to suggest that, at least for the short term, the results are positive. I am willing to give the coalition the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, having let the insurgents escape can set a bad precedent and may come back to haunt the fledgling democracy in Iraq over the long term. But ultimately the US needs to turn over control to the Iraqi government so that we can turn our attention elsewhere in the Warr on Terror. I am still not fully comfortable with the situation in Iraq, but we must remember that sometimes there are no easy choices. It seems that the situation is coming back into some semblance of control, which is probably the best we can hope for at this point.

No comments: