You are here:   Defence > ONLINE ONLY: Captain Patriquin, Obama and the Anbar Awakening
When the Barack Obama World Tour arrived in Baghdad last month, the candidate, wearing shades and a cool suit, smiled and waved before descending the stairs from the plane. Later the Senator toured the city, and sat for interview with reporters. In shirt-sleeves, he gamely sunk a basketball shot from far out at the three-point line before grabbing a mike to address troops who assembled to cheer him on, and applauded wildly. (His shot caught only the net, no rim or backboard. Truly the man has a light shining upon him.)

What we did NOT ever see was the candidate wearing a flak jacket, because during his time there he never needed to put one on.

For American viewers this lack of flak jacket, a Holmesian "dog that didn't bark," may have come as a surprise since over the last two years they had repeatedly been told, by the major network news programs, by the New York Times and The New Yorker, and by the Democratic leaders in Congress, that "the war" was being lost, or indeed had been lost. As it happens, last month US casualties reached their lowest level since the '03 invasion. In his remarks during the tour, Mr. Obama recognized the change made "recently," and underscored that such success had come as a surprise to him, as it had as well, he suggested, to President Bush and Senator McCain.

In fact, the inevitability of such success could clearly be seen a year ago, and was explicitly noted then by Mr. Bush. With his trademark eloquence, the President added, "We're kicking al Qaeda's ass in Anbar," referring to the so-called "Wild West" region, the restive province encompassing Fallujah, Tikrit, and that had largely fallen into the control of insurgents and al Qaeda, irrevocably it had been said. Despite such salty language, and the prospect of a new "Mission Accomplished" petard on which Bush might be hoisting himself, the President's declaration was left off the front pages. At the same time, in-theater commander General Petraeus, appearing before Congress, vastly underplayed the change of which he was well aware, yet nonetheless was shamefully hectored and labeled an administration mouthpiece.

The seeds of this success actually took root not one, but two years ago, were planted by a young adaptable Army Captain, and until recently went largely unreported in the US. It is this success that will soon allow a draw-down of forces, or redeployment, always planned, that has been kicked around like a football on a muddy field by politicians from all quarters.

Curiously, the British left-leaning media, who had been so critical of Prime Minister Blair for his support of the 2003 invasion and for his stalwart alliance with "the hated Bush," was quicker to note these changes than the supposedly-impartial New York Times. With Mr. Blair out of office, it was perhaps easier for UK journalists and reporters to recognize that an unstable state situated at the heart of the Middle East was really in no one's interest. The NYT editorial page, in contrast, this winter called for an immediate withdrawal, even at the price, which they deemed not unlikely, of population displacement and division of the country-a description that sounded to many like "a managed ethnic cleansing" with the prospect of genocide.

View Full Article
August 20th, 2008
3:08 PM
The "change" you are talking about did not begin in Ramadi. The events you describe were indeed important in turning the Anbar tribes against al Qeada, but events in Husaybah had already shown the tribal leaders that the US Marines could protect them. Operation Steel Curtain, followed by newly implemented COIN strategies, in particularly staging marines with Iraqi troops throughout the town in Battle Positions, had stabilized Husaybah and forced al Qeada out of the area. Without operation Steel Curtain and the successful COIN strategies used in Husaybah the tribes would have had no reason to believe the US military could protect them. None of this takes anything away from what Capt. Patriquin did. He was successful in persuading the sheiks and deserves credit for that. But credit for beginning the "change" in Anbar belongs to the US Marines in Husaybah.

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.