It begins . . . no mercy!
I think the Battle of Fallujah has started. Note: if this is the case, it is as I type exactly 18 minutes since the polls closed in Hawaii and the West Coast. My prediction was accurate. I'll continue looking for signs that the fight has begun. Until then, I'd like to address the concerns of an alert reader,who posted in the comments section his belief that if Allawi is calling the shots, he may not aim for a decisive battle, but may instead seek to negotiate with the insurgents, as he did with Sadr's militia. The reader notes that decisive battle is a western concept, and is not nearly as well adhered to in the middle east. This is an outstanding point, and kudos for raising it. As the military historian Victor Davis Hanson has pointed out, in his book Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power, among other places, the concept of decisive battle is distinctly western and descends to us from the Greeks. Nevertheless, I don't think that the Najaf model of battle broken with negotiations will hold up for Fallujah. I think that a decisive victory will be sought. Here are my reasons: Sadr is a popular Iraqi whose father was a famous Shi'ite cleric and anti-Saddam dissident. This made Sadr more a part of the Iraqi political culture or establishment than any of the insurgents in Fallujah. The only figurehead we know of in Fallujah is Zarqawi (if he's there; I think so), and Zarqawi is a Jordanian. He cannot be negotiated away. Similarly, the foreign fighters there will not get participation in any political processes or parties. They aren't even Iraqis! Next, the insurgent-allied tribes and sheiks in Fallujah and Ramadi are Sunni, and were closely tied with Saddam's regime. Whereas the majority of Iraq's population is Shi'ite, and had/has some sympathies for Sadr, they will have no such sympathies for former-Ba'athist Sunni tribes, which are in the minority anyway. Bottomline: I think this will not be negotiated away. Decisive battle it is! UPDATE: I could have pulled the trigger a little early. The news story I linked to states that there were two airstrikes during the night and that a US press release said, "Marine Expeditionary Forces will continue to conduct operations and will not cease until Fallujah is free of foreign terrorists and insurgents." I think it is kicking off but I am not so sure as I was. Look for combined arms attacks, not just airstrikes. That will mean it is happening in earnest.