Our friend Pete Hegseth — Minnesota native, Princeton alum, Iraq war vet, and executive director of Vets for Freedom — responds to General Sanchez in today’s New York Post: “No ‘nightmare.'” Pete writes:
I was in Samarra on Feb. 22, 2005, the day al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents destroyed the dome of the Golden Mosque, and am very familiar with the violence that followed. That event was a catalyst for widespread violence in Iraq. Destroying a Muslim place of worship was indicative of al Qaeda’s overall strategy: foment violence, maintain instability, and intimidate the local population. And it worked.
The critics had a point: American soldiers were simply caught in the middle – not permitted to take action to stop the violence, and yet still very much in harm’s way. But what the critics failed to see was that it didn’t have to be that way – that what the troops lacked was an adaptive strategy that recognized and addressed underlying causes of the violence.
Enter Gen. David Petraeus and a strategy that did just that. (The term “surge” is far too simplistic, as it implies simply throwing more forces at the problem, when Petraeus’ changes in tactics are even more important).
The new counterinsurgency approach – namely, to take territory from al Qaeda, hold it, secure it and empower tribal sheiks to work together and rebuild their communities – finally provides an effective “counteroffensive” to the chief tactics of al Qaeda militants and Shiite death squads.
I like the revised headline supplied by our friends at RealClearPolitics for this column: “Iraq was a ‘nightmare’…a year ago.”