Regular readers know what I think about withdrawal from Iraq. I may not agree with Elrod but he’s right on the money in his observation that we do not hear enough from the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in Iraq. Sergeants and others who are involved in combat, security and rebuilding operations at the grassroots level provide a perspective that is lacking in the mainstream media. But those interested can easily access the views of these NCOs through the numerous military blogs out there (here are a couple of lists). I encourage you to check them out.
[Hat tip to Elrod at The Moderate Voice]
In this highly polarized climate when “experts” travel to Iraq to give their impressions on the “surge” or the overall political or security situation there we are usually treated to a predictable confirmation of the status quo; those who oppose the war find the same things wrong and those who support the war and the surge find “stunning” evidence of success waiting just around the corner. Washington Post Baghdad correspondent Jonathan Finer blasted the regular propaganda coming on the heels of high-profile visits in his column entitled, Green Zone Blinders.
That said, one of the more interesting perspectives in the war comes from those who lead the fight on the ground. Not, of course, the highly politicized generals who report to the White House. I’m talking about the sergeants and other NCOs who have some sense of the larger strategic goal but who actually see the ground reality on a daily basis. Not surprisingly the sergeants are of many minds on the situation in Iraq. But in the New York Times one group of recently returned sergeants posted what I think is the most perceptive analysis of the entire conflict.
These men, coming home from a 15-month deployment in Iraq, identify the “surreal” politics of avoidance.
Where American politicians grope for examples of success – including Sunni marginalization of AQI – they inevitably miss the complete failures of reconstruction that bedevil the entire process. As Petreaus’s Counterninsurgency Manual points out, if you don’t build the infrastructure and convince the locals that you can provide security, deliver basic services and sustain a reasonable economy, all efforts at security will go for naught. Add to this the need to tie the base of insurgent support to the central government; Petraeus himself mentioned that the surge strategy will only succeed if the Iraqi politicians take advantage of the “breathing space” and solve the country’s problems.