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 ...
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.”
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