Along the Tracks

Wednesday, November 05, 2003


May I coin a term? “Memomentum” is not what my 3-year-old Miah calls it when that stripy Disney clownfish introduces himself to new friends - although the word has that “maggitchal” quality, don’t you think?

Back to seriousness, if slowly. “Memomentum” is the process by which a well-defined concept (a “meme”) gains currency and influence in the wider world of communication (“momentum”).

Now that I’ve spent two paragraphs playing Webster Jr., let me try explaining why it matters.

Here’s the “meme” I’d like to see gain “momentum”: We need to recommence major combat operations in Iraq. I wrote about this Monday, and from what I can tell, it went exactly nowhere. That’s sad - not for me, although I am not in any way opposed to blatant self-promotion. Rather, it’s sad the Iraq debate has gone so far toward “pull out” or “stay the course,” nobody really wants to talk about “increase our commitment.”

As I wrote Monday, we never had that “final battle” with the Baathist diehards north of Baghdad in April - not our fault, they cut and run and hid. Even so, WE NEED THAT BATTLE. We can’t win until those forces - military, paramilitary and terrorists - are defeated. And we can’t defeat them unless we go out and engage them. That means a lot bigger operations than search-and-destroy. It means operations that include heavy armored vehicles, helicopter gunships, precision bombing, mortars, machine guns and grunts. It means surround, corner, destroy.

Something else we need to realize: The Sunnis of the “Sunni Triangle” are fence-sitters. They cheer us when they think we have the upper hand. They cheer the Baathists when those former regime elements enjoy success. Right now, they’re cheering the Baathists a lot more than us. If we allow this slowburn to continue, the “hearts-and-minds” battle in that region will be lost - not necessarily in ideological terms, but as a matter of force and fear. The Baathists are killers, always have been, always will be. The people in the Triangle got both ends of the Saddam carrot-and-stick program: Cushy jobs, special treatment and extra cash opportunities when they were unquestioningly obedient, brutality and murder when they were not. If we let the killers keep killing, we will never convince those people that a new system is in place.

It may be true that “patience” and “staying the course” will result in the gradual elimination of the Baathists. But such a strategy looks increasingly like a long, bloody mess for our troops and the Sunnis caught in the middle.

Why not restart offensive operations in the Triangle? Why not enclose the Baathists, crush them with our overwhelming force and technology, and allow the people of that area to be freed of the daily threats and killings? Why not put the means of victory into the hands of our soldiers, who have performed superbly from the start?

There’s no shame in admitting a mistake, but there is shame in ignoring one - especially when American boys and Iraqi men, women and children are dying in the meantime.

I fully supported this war. All the way to victory. It’s time for us to go out there and win.

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