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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pace: Violence in Iraq Doesn't Mean Failure

Bottom Line Up Front: War critics like to point to violence as failure in Iraq, but GEN Peter Pace explains that it is the Iraqi people’s optimism for their future and sense of security that determines success.

GEN Peter Pace said in a news conference on June 21, 2007, at the Pentagon that violence in Iraq is not the proper metric for determining failure in Iraq.


Q : Mr. Secretary, and also for General Pace, I was wondering if you can talk about what commanders' expectations are for this offensive, what the effect will be. Do they expect that this will significantly reduce the violence to the -- before September? Do they expect to break al Qaeda, or are their expectations much more modest than that?

GEN PACE : Well, I think, first of all if you try to define this in terms of level of violence, you've really put yourself on the wrong metric. It isn't about X number today, Y number tomorrow, because the enemy gets a chance to vote in that. And he will take a look at what you're measuring and try to defeat that measurement, so to speak.

What we're trying to do is to get for the Iraqi government enough space inside of which that they can do the good governance that they promised that they will do with regard to the laws that they're going to pass and the economics. The metric really should be for Iraqi citizens, do they feel better about their lives today than they did yesterday? And do they think they're going to feel better about their lives tomorrow than they do today?

If they do, and if they see that their country is moving forward without regard to the specific instances of violence, that they feel better about where they are and where they're going, then the security environment is providing what it should be providing, which is a level of security inside of which their governance can function. If you had zero violence and people were not feeling good about their future, where are you? So it's not about levels of violence. It's about progress being made in fact, in the minds of the Iraqi people, so that they have confidence in their government in the way forward.

Q : The last hard data we have on the levels of violence comes from the report to Congress, and that was current through May 15th. And that said the overall level of violence is essentially unchanged; actually, if you look at the chart, it was up a little bit since before the surge started. So bring us up to date from May 15th to today on what has happened to the levels of violence now that you have all five brigades there.

GEN PACE : The total number's up a little bit, but as I mentioned before, total events per brigade in the field about the same. And again, from my point of view, although that's an interesting statistic, it is not the driving statistic. What we focus on -- if what the American people focus on and if what we military commanders project is based on the levels of violence, then all our enemy has to do is put together more bombs and have more incidents. That's not the measure.

Q : You make it sound like he can do that at will, though, when he wants to increase the level of violence.

GEN PACE : Well, the enemy's -- the enemy's a thinking enemy and he has soldiers at his disposal, and they can decide to surge or not surge like we can surge and not surge. So it's not about the levels of violence. It's about what I mentioned, which is the belief of the Iraqi people in their government and in their situation today versus yesterday and what they believe tomorrow will be.

So is it up a little bit? Yes, it is up a little bit. It's lower than it was, but it's up a little bit compared to last month. And that will change over time as operations begin and stop and people regroup. But that's the wrong metric to chase.

I’ve been suggesting this very idea on for months. It's easy for a war critic to claim failure based on violence, thus dismissing the progress as war arm-chair quarterbacks love to do, but in a combat zone that is an unreasonable measurement. GEN Pace described the accurate measure being the Iraqi people themselves.

Anti-war proponents like Harry Reid, et al, justify their dismissal of the progress in Iraq, the reconstruction advancement, economic stabilization, humanitarian endeavors, Iraqi military/security successes, social achievements and momentum in the Iraqi government by pointing to casualties and violence. I’ll go one further than GEN Pace; it’s intellectually lazy and irresponsible to declare failure based on violence alone.

This is the same mindset that perpetuates the "Iraq needs a political solution and the war cannot be won militarily" myth when, by top military commanders it has been explained and then by media and Democrats promptly ignored, that the political process cannot succeed without the support of a military presence. But this is all to complicated and optimistic for critics.

A fraction of the progress includes:

These facts cannot be neutralized by violence initiated by an evil, conscienceless enemy or critics focused on declaring the effort a failure.

Cross-posted @ Bottom Line Up Front