- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

Despite the guerrilla warfare that has developed in Iraq, and the will that seems to be faltering in America and Britain, the judgment of a majority of Iraqis seems still to be open to the ideals and hopes of a better existence represented by coalition soldiers.

According to a just-released, first-of-a-kind independent survey of about 800 residents of Baghdad taken by YouGov at the behest of Britain’s Channel 4 news and Spectator magazine, the cautious optimism expressed offers reason to believe that the peace can be won, and in fact will be won, by Coalition forces — if their leaders refuse to go wobbly.

Support for Saddam’s regime is almost non-existent — Iraqis who said that they preferred to live under Americans outnumbered those who said they preferred to live under Saddam by an almost 3-to-1 margin (29 percent to 9 percent). However, almost 50 percent said they had no preference. That wait-and-see attitude was echoed in their level of friendliness toward Coalition forces — 50 percent said they felt neither friendly nor hostile, while a quarter (26 percent) said they felt friendly and 18 percent said they felt hostile.

Moreover, 70 percent of those surveyed said that coalition forces should stay in Iraq for some time — 20 percent thought they should leave in less than a year, 25 percent thought they should stay for approximately a year, and 31 percent said they should stay for a few years. Only 11 percent called for the immediate departure of coalition forces.

That is despite the fact that only six percent of Iraqis thought that the real reason for the war was to discover and destroy weapons of mass destruction, while 47 percent said that it was to secure oil and 41 percent said that it was to help Israel. In addition, 50 percent of Iraqis said that the Coalition was still right to launch the war and only 27 percent said that the coalition was wrong.

Coalition forces could probably reduce the support of guerrillas by meeting the basic needs of Iraqis. Eighty percent of respondents said they had been affected by electrical power outages, which could be at least partially a consequence of the city’s antiquated power grid. Almost 50 percent said they had been affected by a lack of clean drinking water, and 67 percent said they feared being attacked in the streets. While 32 percent said they were better off now than they were a year ago, 47 percent said that they were worse off.

Perhaps most importantly, a majority of Iraqis expect their lives to improve. Forty-three percent said they think their lives will be better in a year, compared to only 16 percent who think their lives to be worse. Looking forward five years, 52 percent expect to be better off, compared to only 11 percent who expect the contrary.

The significance of these positive polling results lies in the nature of the challenge before us. As commanding Gen. Abizaid said this week, our forces are facing guerrilla tactics. Classic guerrilla war doctrine instructs that such wars cannot be won by the insurgents without the support of a good part of the population, which provides the combatants cover, resupply and intelligence. Thus, Saddam’s negligible current support is good news. Moreover, the violence (and presumably what popular support as he does possess) is geographically limited to the Sunni triangle north and northwest of Baghdad.

All wars, whether conventional or guerrilla, are fought tactically but are won by defeating the will of the enemy to fight. Thus, the Ba’athist combatants are trying to kill our soldiers, not because they expect to beat our million-man military, but in the hope of defeating the will of the American people. The tip of their sword is pointed at American public opinion.

Similarly, the strategic demand placed on our forces in Iraq is to continue to limit the Iraqi support for the Ba’athist irregulars. Last week’s formation of an Iraqi governing council and the solid state of Iraqi public opinion reported by this poll are solid foundations from which to build a victory for both the United States and the Iraqi people.

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