Small Wars Journal

He Came, He Cut Deals, He (May) Conquer

Linda Robinson, author of Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search For a Way Out of Iraq, in today's Washington Post.

He Came, He Cut Deals, He (May) Conquer

Iraq still divides Democrats and Republicans like no other issue, as the campaign rhetoric of both parties makes abundantly clear. Liberals and conservatives can now more or less agree that Iraq is a much, much safer country than it was 18 months ago. But each side is peddling its own story about Iraq's extraordinary turnaround -- and both are wrong.

Many conservatives believe that the 2007 "surge" in US troop levels directly produced the decline in Iraqi violence. Meanwhile, liberals argue that Iraq's warring Shiites and Sunnis spontaneously decided -- for their own internal reasons, unrelated to the surge -- to stop fighting. As is so often true of Washington debates, these arguments bear little relation to the reality of how Iraq actually pulled out of its death spiral, which is far more interesting than either partisan yarn. There was no single silver bullet, but rather a multifaceted strategy crafted and carried out by those in Baghdad -- not, despite recent claims, in Washington.

I came to this conclusion after reporting in Iraq for a total of 10 months since 2003 and after extensive interviews with Iraqi and US leaders, as well as with troops in the most violent neighborhoods of greater Baghdad, the epicenter of the conflict. My biggest question was my simplest: How did Gen. David H. Petraeus do it?

My answer? Bottom line, for the first time since the war began, a US leader decided to address the political motivations of the Iraqi combatants. Petraeus convened a study group that shrewdly analyzed the raging sectarian conflict, then came up with what he called "the Anaconda strategy" to address the underlying dynamic.

More at The Washington Post.