The Iraqi Army’s defeat of the militias in Basra is paying immediate dividends for the people of Basra:
Young women are daring to wear jeans, soldiers listen to pop music on their mobile phones and bands are performing at wedding parties again.
All across Iraq’s second city life is improving, a month after Iraqi troops began a surprise crackdown on the black-clad gangs who were allowed to flourish under the British military. The gunmen’s reign had enforced a strict set of religious codes.
Yet after three years of being terrified of kidnap, rape and murder – a fate that befell scores of other women – Nadyia Ahmed, 22, is among those enjoying a sense of normality, happy for the first time to attend her science course at Basra University. . .
She also no longer has to wear a headscarf. Under the strict Islamic rules imposed by the militias, women had to cover their hair, could not wear jeans or bright clothes and were strictly forbidden from sitting next to male colleagues on pain of death.
“All these men in black [who imposed the laws] just vanished from the university after this operation,” said Ms Ahmed. “Things have completely changed over the past week.”
Read the whole thing; there’s too much good news here to pull quotes.
A couple of observations. First, we were told for years that the British “softly, softly” strategy was superior to the American strategy. It may well have been, when our strategy was to defeat the enemy and then leave. But now that we have decided to defeat the enemy then stay and keep them defeated, we’re succeeding where “softly, softly” failed:
The contrast could not be more stark with the last time The Times visited Basra in December, when intimidation was rife.
Many blame the British for allowing the militias to grow. “If they sent competent Iraqi troops to Basra in the early stages it would have limited the damage that happened in our city,” said Hameed Hashim, 39, who works for the South Oil Company.
Second, the above can teach us an important lesson. We’ve learned clearly on the small scale that defeat-and-depart does not work; you eventually need to return and fight again. Why would anyone think that it would work on the large scale? But that’s exactly what the Democrats are proposing. Al Qaeda is largely defeated but not annihilated. If we left, we would be handing the country over to some of the worst butchers in the world, and eventually we would have to invade all over again.
In their more practical moments, some Democrats have seemed to suggest a limited withdrawal from Iraq, one that would leave us with a limited presence there, but not on the front lines. That is, they want to employ the softly-softly strategy, which has also been shown to be a failure.
We need to employ the one strategy that has worked in Iraq: defeat-and-hold. We need to stay in Iraq until the locals are capable of defending themselves. That’s the strategy that will be least costly in the long run. Anything else ignores the clear lesson of this war.