Sunday, January 14, 2007

President Bush's Change of Strategy in Iraq

I have to admit that today was the first time I read President Bush's address to the nation, or given his change of strategy any thought. To listen to media coverage, it seemed like more of the same, throwing more troops at a problem that troops have not been able to solve.

However, on a little thought and reading one piece of analysis in the Washington Post; it looks to me like this time may really be different. The President is committed to tightening security in Baghdad and stomping out the sectarian violence in the city. He is also prepared to push to allow former Bath party members to return to work, and according to the article in the post to get more state run factories back online.

All three of these strategies make sense. (1) Support for America's effort both in Iraq and in the US will only continue to erode if people in the capital cannot live safely. (2) The former Bath party members who were instrumental in the civil service were probably talented but pragmatic, recognizing that under the former government party membership was simply a good career move. (3) Allowing state-run businesses to operate in the short run will get people back to work and create jobs, turning off the tap for new insurgents.

I want to be hopeful about Iraq and this change of direction makes me more hopeful. But people need to start seeing results now. I hope that US and Iraqi governments will also put resources into spreading good news. Information on every successful battle to clear a neighbourhood of insurgents should be released to the media as soon as it is safe. When former high-ranking bureaucrats return to work, there should be video of them tearing up their old membership cards and stating their commitment to improving people's lives. When every state run factory opens up there should be press conferences where media are allowed to interview people returning to work.

The President understands that success in Iraq is absolutely essential:
The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy, by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom, and to help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.
In the age of instant media, the President needs to do more than be right. He needs to clearly demonstrate success to Iraqis, Americans, and the world.

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