For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.
Obviously I am limited to what I can say on this subject, being a professional Marine officer, but this article screams out for some commentary. 3 and a half years ago, I believed whole-heartedly that we were doing the right thing in ousting Saddam Hussein, and I still do.
Hindsight being 20/20, now I would say that we should not have made the alleged weapons of mass destruction the linchpin of our case against Saddam, but I never believed that was the administration's primary motivation. I still believe that the policy-makers latched on to that issue because it was the easiest to sell to the American public. After all, I believe most of us thought that the hardest thing about the war would not be fighting it, but getting the American public to support it.
Most of the Marines I talked to in February and March 2003 expected a somewhat difficult fight followed by a quick and easy occupation. I differed from many of them in that I thought the occupation would be longer, but I never thought a full-fledged insurgency would break out. There was a general sense of optimism, that we would steamroll the Iraqis just like we did in 1991. However, when I was trained to be a platoon commander, I was told to plan not only for what I believed to be the enemy's most likely course of action, but also his most dangerous course of action. I believe we either planned for the wrong most dangerous course of action, or ignored it outright. Once the war became an all-out insurgency, it should have been obvious to everyone that it would continue for several years. Counter-insurgency campaigns are never short or easy, and anyone who expected this to be over by now was misguided at best and delusional at worst.
One of the most frustrating things to me has been the talk of immediate withdrawal. If we withdraw and the Iraqi government fails or is taken over by anti-American fundamentalists, then our enemies will all know that they can beat us by using insurgent tactics and outlasting us. Whether you wanted this war or not, it has happened and we must deal with it and continue to fight until we have achieved our goal of a completely self-sustaining Iraqi government.
I will tell you that in just the short time I have been here, this Iraqi Army battalion has made significant progress in securing the nearby villages. Their performance leaves plenty to be desired, but the civilians who live near the COP have said on numerous occasions that they feel much safer around their homes than they did just 4-5 months ago. Progress is being made here, and it will continue to be as long as we are allowed to do our jobs.