Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stopping Terrorists

My father recently asked me if I wanted to receive e-mails that a medic he knows in Iraq sends out, so I figured why not. I can't say I read them all, but I skim them here and there, and often find interesting tidbits. It's definitely fascinating reading everything from a soldier's perspective - and very different. In one of the e-mails from this week was this piece and I thought it really said a lot:
Yesterdays bombings in Baghdad were nearly averted by our guys. We got intelligence telling us who and where the SVBED's (suicide car bombs) were going, but missed them by 5 minutes.

Today we had more intelligence and not only caught the bomber (before he could act,) but we caught one of the top terrorists in Iraq. High fives all around as we looked for the next target.
Now, obviously, this is just one pair of stories, but I thought it showed a couple of major developments:
  • 1) The soldiers are actually getting intelligence that could help them stop attacks.
  • 2) They're getting the intelligence with enough time to have a chance at stopping some of the attacks.
Obviously both of these aspects are huge, but I think they point to a lot of other successes. The US and Iraqi forces seem to finally be developing an intelligence net from within the terrorists' cells, which is a major key to stopping attacks. Not only that, but the intelligence is good - good enough to not only find out about imminent attacks, but to nab certain high-ranking terrorists and actually get warnings out [hopefully] without sacrificing the sources. It also seems to be becoming common, which is another huge plus. One of the major [and I think proper] knocks on the US invasion of Iraq was that they weren't prepared well enough for the aftermath in terms of terrorist attacks. This has two aspects: Firstly, they did not seem to have enough manpower to really keep the attacks to a minimum, which was reinforced by the second issue, lack of intelligence they had on - and within - the enemy they were to face.

I have always held the belief that no matter the outcome, the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. I believe that overall, much of it was actually handled properly: The invasion was incredibly successful, the development of the Iraqi government has gone incredibly well [a democratic government that is actually governing this quickly is astounding], and the infrastructure and economic development of Iraq are strong. Polls of Iraqis show a country that is far more optimistic about its future than the perceptions of Americans regarding Iraq from 6,000 miles away based on what they see and hear in the news. The flaws are the inability to stop the terrible attacks that continually threaten to break down the government there... but perhaps we're finally turning a corner with these intelligence sources and the extra manpower that President Bush plans on sending over.

People seem to forget that before all of this started, everyone was told very clearly "This is going to take a long time - years and years, possibly over a decade or more." We're not even at four years and people have been panicking for over two of them! Some things take a long time to develop - whether they be a new government, the ideas of freedom and democracy in a region that has never experienced them, intelligence sources, or a deeper understanding of what we're really facing. Some of these can even take years. It is high time we actually let things develop and stopped crying that not everything has gone perfectly - there were mistakes, and those need to be corrected. That doesn't mean the whole project was wrong or that it can't be successful in the future, it just means that we need to keep working hard at fixing the problem, not throw up our hands and walk away.

Changes take time. Big changes take even more time. We're finally hitting the point in time where we can see some important changes taking place... now how about letting some more time pass so we can see just how big these changes really are.