The last hope of the Baathists

Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution is probably best described as a centrist on matters pertaining to Iraq. Recently, he visited that country as part of a Defense Department sponsored mission. In today’s Washington Post, O’Hanlon finds that the U.S. initially did a poor job of stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq and that we are, indeed, still at war. He contends, however, that “the war is going reasonably well, by the standards of counterinsurgency, and the tide may finally be starting to turn.”
According to O’Hanlon, the Baathist remnants of Saddam’s regime are dimiishing in number as we arrest and kill them. Current attrition rates indicate that the resistance — 10,000 to 20,000 fighters at the outset — will decline significantly over time, since it has no appealing ideology with which to attract more members. O’Hanlon also finds that Iraqi security forces are now starting to make a contribution, which has helped reduce the number of attacks on infrastructure in recent weeks. Consequently, Iraqi electricity levels are gradually increasing.
The Baathist remnants really do seem to be in a parlous state. They can’t match our fire power and they can’t stop the progress that undermines any hope they have of gaining popular support. Their best (and perhaps only) hope resides in the ability of Democrats to undermine President Bush’s domestic support for the war and, ultimately, to bring about the “regime change” that Senator Kerry called for here at home.


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