I'll try to keep writing about the winds here in Al-Anbar. I'll go out on a little bit of a limb and say that the insurgency is quickly approaching a tipping point. If things continue as they are right now, our military won't need a surge to chase the terrorists out of Anbar- the citizens will do it for us, which is as it should be. It's beginning to show already: more local tips, more police recruits (far more than anticipated), and sadly- in bigger and more desperate Al-Qaeda attacks.
At this point, a reconciled insurgent is better than a captured one, and a captured one is better than a dead one.
That is a hard fact for the military to accept. We are quickly approaching the point at which more and more soldiers and Marines will be asked to support men who fought with and sometimes killed their brothers-in-arms. That is not an easy thing to do, even in the aftermath of a conventional war, and it is far more difficult when fighting an insurgency. However, it is absolutely necessary. We will be asked to fight the strategy of our enemy rather than his fleeting fighters. We will have to defeat Al-Qaeda's attempts to disrupt and derail the efforts of the population to end the violence. We will have to spend more time away from our big, safe bases, and more time getting to know the local leaders- the leaders that can tell their men to join the Iraqi forces and forsake the insurgency. We will spend more time with their people- the people that have known the insurgents since they were children. The people that form an intelligence net far more effective than ours will ever be, if they trust us enough to share it.
It's a big job, but I think we may have finally learned enough forgotten lessons from places like East Timor, Vietnam, Ireland, Malaysia, and others that it just might work this time.
Color me hopeful.