By William S. Lind
This article sheds light on the declining U.S. casualties in Iraq.
".....I have to reply, not so fast, John. I have no doubt the situation General Kelly found in Anbar Province is much quieter than it was just a short time ago. That means fewer casualties, for which we are all thankful. But in the inherent complexity of a Fourth Generation situation, it does not mean we are winning. If we put the improved situation in Anbar in context, we quickly see there is less to it than first meets the eye.
That context begins with the fact that Anbar is quieter primarily because of what al-Qaeda did, namely alienating its base, not what we did. We enabled the local Sunnis to turn on al-Qaeda by ceasing or at least diminishing our attacks on the local population. But if al-Qaeda had not blundered, the situation would be about what it had been since the real war started. We have not found a silver bullet for 4GW.....
The fact that some Sunni tribes have turned on al-Qaeda does not mean they like us. It just means we have for the moment become the #2 enemy instead of #1, or perhaps #3, with the Shi'ites ranking ahead of us. Some think the Sunnis are just getting whatever they can from us as they prepare for another, more bitter round of the Sunni vs. Shi'ite civil war.
But the biggest reason for saying "not so fast" is that the reduction of violence in Anbar does not necessary point toward the rise of a state in the now-stateless region of Mesopotamia. As I have argued repeatedly in this column and elsewhere, we can only win in Iraq if a new state emerges there. Far from pointing toward that, our new working relationship with some Sunni sheiks points away from it......
If we have not enjoyed fighting the 20% of the Iraqi population that is Sunni, how much pleasure will we find in fighting the 60% that is Shi'ite? Of course, an American attack on Iran will only intensify our war with Iraq's Shi'ites.
So no, we are not winning in Iraq. The only meaningful definition of "winning" is seeing the re-emergence of a real Iraqi state, and by that standard we are no closer to victory than we ever were. Nor can I see anything on the horizon that could move us closer to such a victory, other than a complete American withdrawal, which begins to look as unlikely under Hillary as under George. All we see on the horizon of Anbar province, sadly, is another mirage."