More important on occasion than the ability to execute missions flawlessly can be the ability to identify and adapt to the need for change.
BAGHDAD -- The U.S. military, in a major revision of strategy, has decided to limit the scope of its raids in Iraq after receiving warnings from Iraqi leaders that they were alienating the public, the top allied commander said on Wednesday.
In its search for Baath Party operatives and other foes, the military has carried out large sweeps, some of which have rounded up hundreds of Iraqis.
But Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of allied forces in Iraq, said in an interview that the military had virtually exhausted the gains from this approach and that continuing it could be counterproductive.
"It was a fact that I started to get multiple indicators that maybe our iron-fisted approach to the conduct . . . was beginning to alienate Iraqis," Sanchez said. "I started to get those sensings from multiple sources, all the way from the Governing Council down to average people."...
Sanchez said Iraqi leaders who supported the allies had indicated that they understood the goal of the U.S. raids but that some had expressed concern over their effects on the Iraqi population.
Their message, he said, has been that "when you take a father in front of his family and put a bag over his head and put him on the ground, you have had a significant adverse effect on his dignity and respect in the eyes of his family."
Sanchez said the message from the Iraqis was that, in doing this, you create more enemies than you capture.
Under the new approach, U.S. forces might withdraw from towns that are quiet and leave the policing to the Iraqis. When a raid is conducted, troops will be encouraged to carry out a "cordon and knock" procedure in which a house is surrounded and the troops seek permission to enter accompanied by an Iraqi representative, instead of breaking down the door. But troops will not shrink from attacking their foes when their locations can be pinpointed.