"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Friday, April 04, 2008

Basra III

Twenty flight hours in the last four days. That's more than I got during most months back in the rear. I am tired. But I'll survive.

Things are settling into an uneasy quiet in Basra. Open source after-action analysis reveals what was already fairly obvious, namely, that Operation KNIGHTS CHARGE was hastily planned and executed, and ran into far tougher resistance than was expected. With American and British air and indirect fire support (along with some help from the SEALs), Iraqi security forces have gained control of the central city and its northern outskirts, and are conducting "thunder run"-type strikes in militia-controlled areas. The Iraqi air force even put in an appearance, using C-130s to ferry troops to the city and helicopters in attack and assault support roles. It seems that al Sadr retains a degree of control over the JAM elements in Basra, which are honoring this latest ceasefire, although certain groups are actively considering attacking Iraqi forces again. A degree of normality has returned to the city, with government offices opening and residents frequenting the streets. There has even been a large turnout - in the thousands - in response to Maliki's call for more volunteers for Iraqi security forces, and it is more spontaneous and enthusiastic than the media gives it credit for. I think this could be considered a lull in a confrontation that will have to be forced to a conclusion at some point, and the victory over JAM and other Quds Force-backed groups is incomplete in Basra. However, Maliki has demonstrated a willingness to confront groups challenging the federal government's authority, and the Iraqi Army - while its doctrine requires revamping - also showed that it's willing to take the fight to the enemy, and has gained valuable, if costly, experience. As always, more to come.

Perhaps I'm belaboring what's going on in Basra. But it's honestly more interesting and exciting than anything going on in this neck of the woods.


Matt said...

By the accounts I'm reading the Badr Brigade makes up the volunteers joining the Iraqi Army. Not particularly promising when the Army needs to serve as a unifying piece, not part of sectarian fragmentation. As it is I still think a draw is the best interpretation of what went on.

Cincinnatus said...

The information I got mentioned that the volunteers are from local Shiite tribes in the south, and didn't delineate any other affiliation. It's possible they're from the Badr Brigade and it's part of an effort to incorporate armed groups under federal power. Reports also indicate that Maliki wants to support an 'awakening' movement in the south similar to what the Sunnis did out here. Militarily, a 'draw' is probably what it is right now, though evidence suggests the operation shifted Basra from a militia-run city to something closer to Baghdad and Mosul: a city with a government presence but insurgent/militia enclaves. It's hardly a perfect situation, but it's a start to Baghdad extending its authority beyond its suburbs.

CSB said...

Matt! Don't work so hard to find the dirty red cloud over the tarnished silver lining -- you'll hurt yourself.

Read some more reports from people who are actually THERE -- the usual suspects like the Michaels [YON http://www.michaelyon-online.com/ -- and TOTTEN http://www.michaeltotten.com/], and also guys like Lt. G at Kaboom [http://kaboomwarjournal.blogspot.com/] -- a great young writer, with enough cynicism (which ain't skepticism) to be seriously credible.