Transitioning to Iraqi control was a logical option for the long run. But it did little to solve the problem of the insurgency, which was generating sectarian violence. Based on the belief by many senior commanders, especially Gen. Abizaid, that U.S. troops were an “antibody” to Iraqi culture, the Americans consolidated their forces on large “forward operating bases,” maintaining a presence only by means of motorized patrols that were particularly vulnerable to attacks by improvised explosive devices. They also conceded large swaths of territory and population alike to the insurgents. Violence spiked.
In late 2006, President Bush, like President Lincoln in 1862, adopted a new approach to the war. He replaced the uniformed and civilian leaders who were adherents of the failed operational approach with others who shared his commitment to victory rather than “playing for a tie.” In Gen. David Petraeus, Mr. Bush found his Ulysses Grant, to execute an operational approach based on sound counterinsurgency doctrine. This new approach has brought the U.S. to the brink of victory.