October 27, 2003

A Bloody Day in Baghdad

A Bloody Day in Baghdad

A horrific day in Baghdad with dozens dead and hundreds wounded. The pictures of scores of traumatized Iraqis is heartwrenching. Four suicide bombs within 45 minutes, coming on the heels of a brazen attack on the al Rashid hotel, must serve as a wake up call to Washington policymakers. The guerrillas (likely Baathist resistance acting in concert with some foreign fighters) telegraphed to Washington (indeed, the world) that they were capable of highly coordinated and devastating action in persuasive and dramatic fashion.

Like the three laws of real estate (location, location, location) in Iraq today it's about security, security, security. Want NGOs to help out? They need a (somewhat) secure environment. Want outside investors in? They need security. Want additional "peacekeeping" troop contingents from other nations? Security again. Want to have a viable exit strategy? Need security--or what good is some chimerical constitution and hobbled interim governing authority? Without ultimately establishing security, the U.S. would be leaving before the job is done and would lose credibility as a serious international actor for a good while.

How to achieve this security will prove difficult. Some AEI'ers had some suggestions that I linked in my post below on the attack on the al Rashid ("Insurgency Watch"). But one thing is becoming increasingly clear. Our strategy requires, at least, some tweaking. Because it ain't working as is.

Supporters of this war (me included) need to stop spinning like the Paul Begalas of the world. Much of the news emanating from Iraq is bad. And, I note in passing, some of the big bloggers who carp on and on about how the media ignores the "good" news haven't even deemed it appropriate to briefly blog about this day of unprecedented post-war carnage in Baghdad. Their credibility is being strained too now.

How Will the Arab World View the Attacks?

A question. How will the horrific footage of Iraqis bloodied, hysterical, traumatized, wailing for loved ones lost--how will such footage play in the Arab world? What effect will seeing the devastation that felled scores of Iraqis have on swaths of the Arab world seeing the horrific face of modern terror in atypical fashion?

Put differently, the targets are not removed Bali discoteques, NYC skyscrapers, Riyadh expat targets--but rather the common citizenry bustling about a major Arab capital. Hundreds of Arabs wounded by suicide bombing tactics.

Will there be some revulsion at the tactics voiced by media and intellectual elites? Or will it just be viewed as "just desserts" to the occupiers (and those who cooperate with them, ie. Iraqi police, with the 'innocent' dead ignored)? Put differently, will the horrific scene ultimately be blamed on the Americans? Sadly, it probably will.

UPDATE: Rummy is spouting off on Fox about how we've got 85,000 Iraqi security personnel trained. Well, goodness gracious! Super.

Listen, I'm not one for Vietnam (or Vietnamization) analogies. But the divorced from reality feel, the pulled-back hair, the cockiness--all make me think of Bob McNamara. It doesn't matter if we've got 850,000 Iraqi security personnel trained if they can't block suicide bombings of the ICRC HQ or their own police stations.

It's good Don Rumsfeld is being frank about a long, hard slog (though there's a good deal of butt-covering involved to countervail the more triumphalist civilian Pentagon rhetoric of rosier Saddam-statue pull down days). And hje admitted it's been a tough day.

Still, the Secretary of Defense shouldn't appear so sanguine about the security situation, ie. all will be well because some Iraqi security personnel are being trained. His deputy almost died yesterday for pete's sake.

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