Friday, June 01, 2007

Meeting Resistance

I found out about this documentary on XM's Bob Edwards Show this morning: Meeting Resistance, a behind the scenes look at the Iraqi insurgency. It answers the question: who are these guys? The answer is not criminals, al-Qaida, Baathist or dead-enders. For the most part, these are regular Iraqis and many of them didn't begin as radical Muslims, but many seemed to be heading in that direction by the end of the film. If you don't have XM, you can read an interview with the filmmakers here.

When I first heard about it, I have to say I felt uneasy about it. Regardless of how you feel about the war, watching insurgents assemble an IED to blow up Americans doesn't sit well with me. I know people who have been to Iraq and I I know people who will probably go back. I know there are people who will seize on this as a Hanoi Jane moment.

But a curious thing is most of the early screening of this film have been at such liberal bastions as the Marine Corps base at Quantico, West Point and England's Royal College for Defense Studies. It seems the military finds some value in pulling back the curtain on the insurgency.

What have the military learned from the film? "We came to know who funds them [broadly speaking] and where they get their weapons, who and how they recruit and what effects US counter-insurgency operations have on their will and effectiveness to fight," said the filmmakers in their directors' statement. Another lesson comes from an article in Government Executive (and that entire article is quite an eye-opener for anyone interested in counter-insurgency lessons learned.):

A particularly illuminating 2006 documentary film, Meeting Resistance, by journalists Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, who spent 10 months interviewing insurgents in Iraq, revealed that the weapon the insurgents hated and feared most was the American dollar. Dollars could buy people, Iraqi informants, who could identify the insurgents who otherwise blend into the population.

So what's the takeaway? Do the filmmakers have an agenda? Yes. Do I agree with everything they say? No. Has this changed how I look at Iraq? Maybe a little. I have actually favored staying in Iraq because I fear that pulling up stakes and leaving would actually make a bad situation worse. After listening to this interview, I'm not so sure.

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