Nov 21 2007

How Iraq Was Turned To Success

Published by at 9:59 am under All General Discussions,Diyala,Iraq

I have to admit, even I hesitate at times to say Iraq is a victory – but it is. Yes, there is an ever dwindling chance al-Qaeda will attack their fellow Muslims in Iraq and inflict more atrocities on them. But it would be their last act as part of Islam, because they would then become the enemy of Islam. al-Qaeda is on the knife edge. They gambled on Iraq being their big success. As Ralph Peters notes in his excellent assessment of what went right in Iraq, al-Qaeda lost its “street cred”:

We lucked out when al Qaeda declared Iraq the central front in its war against civilization. Our monstrous foes alienated their local allies so utterly that al Qaeda in Iraq is now largely a spent force – the hunted, not the hunters. The terrorists have suffered a strategic humiliation.

Peters gives five good reasons why things changed towards victory in Iraq. I agree with all of them. And maybe this is a bit premature, but I think it is worth looking back to see some of the indicators that did point to the place find ourselves today.

Expanding on Peters’ comments about al-Qaeda, to me the first signs of probable success where when the Sunnis in Anbar and elsewhere turned on al-Qaeda. It happened in March of 2007 and seemed to be in response to one of the last chlorine attacks al-Qaeda used on Iraqi Muslims. The use of chemical weapons, it seemed to me back then, crossed a line which could never be undone. Here is what I wrote back in mid March, 2007:

I think al Qaeda has finally made a fatal mistake with their gas attacks today in the heartland of the Sunni insurgency. Following in the horrific footsteps of Saddam Hussein, who gassed whole villages killing thousands, the al Qaeda effort was much less effective in terms of killing people. But in terms of killing off support in the Arab/Muslim street the attacks today couldn’t not have been more effective:

The Muslim street will not be supporting fanatics who are only capable of killing Muslims in large quantities. leaving the soldiers of the Great Satan basically unharmed. There will be more repercussions against al Qaeda if they continue on this path where they are killing Muslims at a rate orders of magnitude beyond what can be laid at the feet of the coalition. And with US soldiers playing protectors, the PR facade about the evil Americans will be destroyed the image of al Qaeda is forever linked with brutal gas attacks on innocent people. Mohamed never preached these kinds of tactics. Is it any wonder Sunnis are welcoming Americans into their neighborhoods now?

This was just one story back in the days when the Democrats were madly pushing to pull our troops out of Iraq and station them in Okinawa (here is another story from around the same time). There were other stories that exposed the intense fighting that had erupted between the Iraqis and al-Qaeda sympathizers. a great overview of how things started and progressed in the war back in September, when the idea of success definitely went from speculation to reality because of the data we were seeing in Iraq. One of the most vivid images I have from September were the lines of Iraqis queuing up to fight al-Qaeda. 1200 Iraqis lined up on one day in Tarmiyah to fight the common enemy. It was an amazing moment.

But anecdotal evidence can only support speculation. Good data can support much more because it is a measurement of actions, not a vague indicator. In September of this year General Patraeus came to Congress and showed them hard data. And when I saw it I realized the Surge was definitely going to succeed and we would see months of good news coming out of Iraq. I tried to explain what the data showed in a post I wrote back around September 11th. What I noticed was the lag time between results in Anbar and results in the areas the Surge applied the Anbar model too. This lag time is about 6 months (Anbar started turning back in 2006, which is why the stories of the uprising where coming out in March 2007 while DC debated whether to execute the Surge or not). I noticed something interesting:

So let’s begin with slide 4, page number 3, which shows Iraq civilian deaths from Jan 06 to Aug 07. 2006 is clearly when al-Qaeda decided to try and destabilize Iraq through bombings and killings, meant to enrage sectarian mistrust and create a civil war. Their targets were Muslims. They went out to kill Iraqis. And they did just that, in vast numbers.

Then something happened which changed the momentum from defeat to possibly success, and changed Iraq’s future. From Dec 06 to Feb 07 the numbers dropped off dramatically. By Feb 07 the Baghdad deaths had dropped by about half to 1100, and the Iraq deaths dropped as well to around 1900. This is all pre-surge.

So what happened? Iraqis turned on al-Qaeda is what happened.

Again, this is not a big deal at the casual glance. But the fact is those areas in Iraq that experienced the Surge months later showed the same trends – just delayed by 6 months or so. It is clear now the Anbar model was applicable to just about all areas of Iraq. So where were we in September in terms of the Anbar timeline? The data was pretty clear:

Then we see the shift in alliance occur and by Feb 07 the attacks dropped down to a little over 1100. So the momentum had shifted at this point. And then another factor took over: acceleration. As the tide turned against al-Qaeda the number of attacks in Anbar started to drop off even faster. By Aug 07 the number of attacks in Anbar were down to 200 per month.

Now look at graph 9, page number 8 to see how Baghdad and two other Provinces, which are in the early stages of The Surge, are starting to see the initial small drop off in attacks – just as Anbar did in the first few months of its transition. Also take a gander at slide 5, page number 5, which shows the steady drop off of violence in Baghdad. These areas outside Anbar have not even hit the knee of their curves – if they follow the Anbar model – where the drop off will be soon accelerating.

This is what we see now. All the curves showed the same basic pattern. They begin with what looks like a hilltop, where violence is rising but slows down to the point where it hits the peak of the hill, and then starts to slowly taper back down again. But these curves hit a point where the violence just drops off all of a sudden, resembling a cliff more than a hill. In September we were a few months away from this point of the curve in the areas outside Anbar. Now we are in the middle of those points and we are seeing the sudden drop off accelerate.

Being an engineer and amateur scientist I appreciate measurements and patterns. It is these basic things that helped Newton define gravity. Good data is hard to argue with. It is interesting to look back now with hindsight and see how things unfolded, and how it was almost inevitable they would unfold as they did. When you have good measurements of a phenomena, plus a curve that the data should fit relatively closely, you are not really speculating when you extrapolate events that are clearly following a predefined pattern. So it was not (and still is not) a leap of faith to see what would happen if Iraq continues to follow the pattern we saw in Anbar. Here is what I ‘predicted’ back in September:

I think we have passed that tipping point already. But the next 3-6 months will tell for sure. If the violence continues to evaporate, and the government can pull off some key compromise legislation, al-Qaeda will have been defeated and a democratic Iraq will finally stand up to fight al-Qaeda along side us. It will be a huge blow to al-Qaeda, a huge victory for America, vindication of President Bush and the dustbin of history for those who lost faith in this country – and saw success for the Islamo Fascists of al-Qaeda.

2 months later I would only adjust this to say it looks like the end will come closer to December than March 2008. I based these predictions on hard data, not whimsical ideas or emotions. Conversely, the liberals seemed hell-bent to ignore the data and go on emotion alone. Which is why they are out on the limb they are on with their credibility in tatters. Is it any surprise given their track record on Global Warming and Embryonic Stem Cell Research? I can only suggest that good math and science skills can go a long way in helping people avoid bad decisions and looking bad because of those decisions.

One response so far

One Response to “How Iraq Was Turned To Success”

  1. Dc says:

    NEVER, underestimate the DNCs capability to snatch defeat ..from the jaws of victory.