Mr. Petraeus, don’t tear down that wall

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images As I noted in this morning’s brief, the U.S. military has begun building walls around Sunni enclaves as part of a strategy to keep Sunni terrorists in and Shiite death squads out. Good fences make good neighbors, you see. The barriers are ugly, and of course they immediately recall Israel’s separation barrier ...

602388_070423_iraqwall_05.jpg
602388_070423_iraqwall_05.jpg

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images

As I noted in this morning’s brief, the U.S. military has begun building walls around Sunni enclaves as part of a strategy to keep Sunni terrorists in and Shiite death squads out. Good fences make good neighbors, you see.

The barriers are ugly, and of course they immediately recall Israel’s separation barrier in and along the West Bank—a nuclear issue in Arab politics. So it’s no surprise that Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki, who on the day the news broke was meeting with the Arab League’s Amr Moussa, had to disavow the walls for regional political reasons. It’s important to maintain the polite fiction that Arabs are unified when you meet with Moussa, a tiresome Arab nationalist but a popular figure in Egypt and the region.

Yet controlling access to towns or neighborhoods—whether via walls or fences ringed with barbed wire—is a tried and true counterinsurgency technique. The walls are force multipliers for a U.S. military that has never had enough boots on the ground, even with the “surge.” Job one of any successful counterinsurgency effort is to provide a safe and secure environment for the civilian population, a mission that the U.S. military has fully embraced only under Gen. David Petraeus’ leadership. I applaud him for it, and I hope my hunch is correct that Maliki is just temporarily posturing and will quietly let the walls go up.

In any case, if the above doesn’t convince you of the walls’ worth, this might:

In the dead of night, insurgents dragged newly erected concrete barriers away from markets in some areas. Even after U.S. soldiers pulled the huge slabs back into place and wired them together with thick cables, insurgents have returned with blowtorches to move them yet again. “Al Qaeda wants access to the population,” Petraeus said. “This is a battle over neighborhoods.”

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows the Statue of Liberty holding a torch with other hands alongside hers as she lifts the flame, also resembling laurel, into place on the edge of the United Nations laurel logo.
An illustration shows the Statue of Liberty holding a torch with other hands alongside hers as she lifts the flame, also resembling laurel, into place on the edge of the United Nations laurel logo.

A New Multilateralism

How the United States can rejuvenate the global institutions it created.

A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.
A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.

America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want

Embedded with U.S. forces in the Pacific, I saw the dilemmas of deterrence firsthand.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, seen in a suit and tie and in profile, walks outside the venue at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Behind him is a sculptural tree in a larger planter that appears to be leaning away from him.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, seen in a suit and tie and in profile, walks outside the venue at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Behind him is a sculptural tree in a larger planter that appears to be leaning away from him.

The Endless Frustration of Chinese Diplomacy

Beijing’s representatives are always scared they could be the next to vanish.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomes Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman during an official ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on June 22, 2022.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomes Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman during an official ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on June 22, 2022.

The End of America’s Middle East

The region’s four major countries have all forfeited Washington’s trust.