Via Instapundit comes this story about the people of Fallujah, and other people in the Sunni triangle, beginning to turn on the foreign fighters who are actually causing most of the bloodshed. This is a recurring pattern in Iraq, and happened most recently in An-Najaf with Al-Sadr’s “militia.”
It may be just an accidental strategy on our part, but allowing this or that group of insurgents to control an area for a period of time seems to have long-term benefits. The locals might imagine that they hate the Coalition and the provisional government, but a few days or weeks of living under the rule of the insurgents seems to provide a stark reality check. The insurgents are thugs and religious extremists, who terrorize and extort the local population and eventually draw down retaliation from the Coalition. The insurgents lose the struggle for hearts and minds through their own brutality.
Iraq isn’t a war about firepower. It is a war about information. The bad guys are a relatively small number of individuals hiding within a large population. Finding them requires that enough of the locals turn on them and reveal their locations. The loss of moral support in the general population, caused by the insurgents’ own behavior when they control an area, drives the collection of the information that we need to neutralize them.
The actions of the insurgents cause the locals to view the Coalition as the lesser of two evils. We win the battle for hearts and minds by default.
(update: related thoughts in this post)