Failure In Fallujah
In terms of the primary objective of Operation Phantom Fury - destroying or substantially impairing the insurgency - we are again failing to effectively engage the insurgency. Provided with ample opportunity to prepare, courtesy of Bush's policy of trumpeting action in Fallujah pre-election but delaying the body bags until after, the insurgency was able to booby-trap Fallujah and establish escape routes. It is apparent that we will again take territory, in the process incurring heavy casualties due to IEDs and boobytraps, but do nothing to degrade the ability of the insurgents to return in force once we leave. And if we don't leave Fallujah, the insurgents will merely occupy whatever territory we vacated in order to take Fallujah.
In terms of the secondary objective of Operation Phantom Fury - improving prospects for January elections in Iraq - the operation is already officially a failure. The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party in the Iraqi government, has withdrawn from Allawi's government. Iraq's pre-eminent association of Sunni clerics has called for a Sunni boycott of the upcoming election. President Ghazi al-Yawir is vehemently opposed to the Fallujah action, likening it to "shooting horses to kill horseflies." If, as appears likely, Sunnis organize a functional boycott, the legitimacy of the election will be fatally undermined.
There are no significant reports of killed or captured insurgents. Past experience with Pentagon casualty figures indicates that any dead Iraqi is deemed an insurgent, and therefore official Pentagon Kill Counts should be heavily discounted in assessing damage to the insurgency.
We are not killing or capturing insurgents in numbers large enough to materially impair the insurgency. We are rapidly losing Iraqi hearts and minds. There is now no possibility of nationwide elections in Iraq in January, and the prospect of elections anytime in the foreseeable future that enjoy popular support and participation is rapidly receding.
How and when do we get out of Iraq? How many lives are we willing to expend just to save face?