Iraq War Over? We Won?
Michael Yon says that we’ve won the war in Iraq and all that remains is clean-up.
The war continues to abate in Iraq. Violence is still present, but, of course, Iraq was a relatively violent place long before Coalition forces moved in. I would go so far as to say that barring any major and unexpected developments (like an Israeli air strike on Iran and the retaliations that would follow), a fair-minded person could say with reasonable certainty that the war has ended. A new and better nation is growing legs. What’s left is messy politics that likely will be punctuated by low-level violence and the occasional spectacular attack. Yet, the will of the Iraqi people has changed, and the Iraqi military has dramatically improved, so those spectacular attacks are diminishing along with the regular violence. Now it’s time to rebuild the country, and create a pluralistic, stable and peaceful Iraq. That will be long, hard work. But by my estimation, the Iraq War is over. We won. Which means the Iraqi people won.
Granting that I haven’t been to Iraq in more than seventeen years and am relying on media accounts whereas Yon is a regular in the region, this assessment still strikes me as wildly optimistic. The United States military doesn’t seem to think that we’ve won in Iraq. Nor, so far as I can tell, do the Iraqi people. Or the Iraqi government. Or the people and governments of Iraq’s neighbors. Or the people I encounter in foreign policy think tanks.
Sure enough, though, a quick Google search for “iraq over we won” confirms it.
Seriously, though, these pronouncements bring up a real point that we keep coming back to: What’s the definition of “victory” here? We’ve announced numerous goals, many of which have been achieved.
- Regime change: Done five years ago. Saddam hanged to keep it changed. Check.
- End WMD program: Done before invasion. Check.
- Democracy: Two elections, albeit with some major actors sitting them out. Close enough by Middle East standards. Check.
- Shining example leading to democratization of region: Uh, no. Stupid goal. Rescind.
- 15 Milestones: Mostly achieved. Close enough for government work. Check.
- Stability: Amazing progress but not exactly Sweden. Incomplete.
Yet, despite the proponderance of Checks, I don’t consider the mission complete. Nor, as noted previously, do most observers. Are we right? Or is Yon? Discuss.