My impressions are already changing as I go through the process of getting ready to go. I've been talking to people about the project for almost two months, and corresponding for several weeks with a few of the soldiers in Iraq that I will be working with.
Here are some of my impressions and assumptions prior to departure:
- It seems that the level of animosity towards Americans in general, and the military in particular, in Iraq precludes a successful unilateral solution. Or stated more simply: It seems like most people in Iraq hate us, and it's too late to change that.
- My impression, as a poorly informed outside observer, is that the US military is playing "wack-a-mole". Basically, running around endlessly smacking the enemy in one place while they pop up somewhere else. It doesn't seem like there are nearly enough troops to really pacify the country militarily. If that were even possible...
- Without exception every official communication I've had with the Army has been supportive and pleasant. I get the strong sense that military people in general feel that they have a message that they want to get out to the public, and that the American public (myself included) doesn't really understand what is going on.
- The picture I have of the Iraqi government, police, and military from the media is one of complete incompetence and corruption. Obviously this is broad generalization, but my current opinion of official "democratic" Iraqi organizations is very poor.
- My gut feel is that the right military strategy would be to pull American troops out of urban areas, and let the Iraqi government have them, for better or worse. While we focus on securing borders, transportation corridors, and critical infrastructure. And meanwhile work diplomatically to involve other Muslim countries in creating viable solutions that lead to a stable Iraqi government (democratic or not).
UPDATE: A reader has pointed out that the correct spelling of "Whac-A-Mole". See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whac-A-Mole