Michael Totten writes from a suddenly calm Ramadi:
"It was nothing we did," said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Drew Crane who was visiting for the day from Fallujah. "The people here just couldn't take it anymore."
What he said next surprised me even more than what I was seeing.
"You know what I like most about this place?" he said.
"What's that?" I said.
"We don't need to wear body armor or helmets," he said.
I was poleaxed. Without even realizing it, I had taken off my body armor and helmet. I took my gear off as casually as I do when I take it off after returning to the safety of the base after patrolling. We were not in the safety of the base and the wire. We were safe because we were in Ramadi.
The vital question, of course, is what this means. It does not mean that the Anbar Sunnis love the Maliki "government." And it may mean only a temporary alliance of convenience with the US before a more aggressive push against the Shiites in Baghdad. Politically, the best it can mean is that in a homogeneous area, the tribes can restore order if they think it's in their interests to do so. At this local level of organization, a dismembered Iraq could potentially stabilize, if we're happy to stay there indefinitely.
The trouble is, as the NYT points out today, the center of the country - and the bulk of the population - is still far too inter-mixed for this to happen without much more violence and genocide. It's less intermingled than it was, because of the slo-mo genocide/cleansing that the US occupation has fomented and guarded. And Anbar represents a tiny fraction of the population. But it doesn't diminish the joy at some good news - and the fact that, finally, our soldiers can feel some reward for their extraordinary and continuing sacrifice.
(Photo: Totten. Hit his tip jar.)