Commentary Magazine


Dispatch from Baghdad

I recently wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal counseling patience in allowing the troop surge in Baghdad to show its impact. This is an e-mail that I received in response from Lieutenant Colonel Steven Miska, commander of a small base that I recently visited in northwest Baghdad, called Forward Operating Base Justice. He agreed to let me share it with COMMENTARY readers:


Great article. Keep beating this drum. Most of the leaders on the ground simply ignore the political discourse, as it is not helpful to our mission. Nobody wants to be in the middle of a civil war, low-grade or not, but we have found ourselves here. The only solution military leaders on the ground have is to work with the good allies we have made in Iraq.

We have some true patriots that are sacrificing everything and betting on the U.S. to be there for them. How could we look them in the eye if given the order to pull out? The vast majority of the people on the street want what every American wants—hope for tomorrow, good schools and opportunity for their children, a safe neighborhood, employment. Almost nobody trusts the politicians, but they might if they see the coalition forces standing side by side with Iraqi Security Forces for long enough. As the public begins to develop confidence in the Iraqi formations, that trust could rub off into government legitimacy. Our only other option would be to replace the government, which nobody in the U.S. seems to have the political stomach for at this juncture.

Given that reality, we need to stand by the Iraqis. How long, you ask? I am on my second tour following a year in Tikrit from 2004-2005. A realistic goal is to have stabilized this region by the time my eleven-year-old son is old enough to serve in the military. Not that he is preordained to serve, but my hope is he will not have to deal with the complexity and tragedies that I have witnessed in Baghdad over the last eight months. My only other goal is to be able to look myself in the mirror every day, knowing that I stuck to my principles and did as much as possible to win in this very dangerous environment.

If our government decides to prematurely pull out, I would fail to reach both goals, and my son and his generation may find themselves embroiled in something far worse than what we experience now—all because my generation couldn’t get the job done.

Thanks for your continued intelligent contributions to the current debate. I will try to ignore it all and stay focused on the reality of real people trying to find hope for tomorrow on the streets of the most lethal city in the world.

Steve Miska
LTC, Infantry
Task Force Justice Commander