Can the U.S. military defeat the Iraqi insurgency?

Don’t Panic!... Your war questions answered

The war against the Iraqi insurgency cannot be won with U.S. military firepower. That’s not my opinion. That’s the opinion of several members of the U.S. government’s increasingly vocal, reality-based community.

Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the Army’s top public affairs man in Iraq, recently stated publicly that “this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations. It’s going to be settled in the political process.”

Wanna go higher up than him? How about Gen. George W. Casey, the U.S. top military commander in Iraq. He recently compared the Iraqi insurgency to (and, no, I’m not making this up) the Pillsbury Doughboy.

A Pillsbury Doughboy insurgency? Do the insurgents bring our soldiers pipin’ hot Golden HomestyleTM Butter Tastin’® biscuits every morning and giggle when we poke them in the belly? If only it were so.

What Casey meant was that when we push the insurgency down in one place, it just pops up in another place - sorta like Whack-A-Mole, only bloodier and without those little prize tickets that you can save up and redeem for oversized novelty pencils. “We push in Baghdad. They’re down to about less than a car bomb a day in Baghdad over the last week. But ... they’ve gone up” in north-central Iraq, Casey said. “The political process will be the decisive element.”

The military can’t win this? The political process will be decisive? What the hell’s going on here? What about President Bush telling us all this time that Iraqi insurgents are “being defeated”? And just a few days ago, (Vice) President Cheney told CNN’s Larry King and the seven people who still watch his crappy show that the insurgency is in its “last throes.”

Well, you see, when Bush and Cheney said those things, they were engaging in a time-honored practice that’s known among political types as spinning. We regular folk have similar tradition. We call it lying.

In essence, White House officials are refusing to acknowledge how badly things are going in Iraq because they’re kinda hoping you won’t notice it. Frankly, it’s easy not to notice. Casey’s and Alston’s statements were quoted in one of the most widely read newspapers in the country, but unfortunately for American readers, that country is the United Kingdom (the paper was The Guardian). The American press barely touched the quotations, even though they signify a serious American policy shift.

Another policy shift that most of the mainstream press is ignoring is that American Embassy officials in Iraq have begun to “engage” the insurgents in talks aimed at bringing an end to the insurgency. Like the military quotations, it was first reported in the U.K.

“Engage the insurgents? Andisheh, the White House calls the insurgents terrorists, so isn’t that just a fancy way of saying that we’re negotiating with terrorists?”

As a matter of fact, it is. American Embassy officials in Iraq have confirmed they’re in negotiations with the less jihad-y elements of the insurgency who the officials believe can be convinced to put down their arms and join the government - if we give in to some of their political demands, like curbing home raids and releasing prisoners. We’re not exactly negotiating with Abu Musab Zarqawi or his sympathizers.

“One more question, Andisheh. Hasn’t the Bush administration repeatedly repeated that the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists?”

As a matter of fact, it has. But at this point, we don’t have much choice but to stray from that policy. Like the generals said, we need a political solution to help end the fighting. We’ve lost nearly 1,300 American soldiers since Bush dressed up like Katie Holmes’ fiance and delivered his “Mission Accomplished” speech. If negotiations are gonna keep us from losing 1,300 more, bring ‘em on.