The War is Over, and We Won

Karl Zinsmeister, Editor-in-Chief of The American Enterprise, proclaims “The War is Over, and We Won.”

Your editor returned to Iraq in April and May of 2005 for another embedded period of reporting. I could immediately see improvements compared to my earlier extended tours during 2003 and 2004. The Iraqi security forces, for example, are vastly more competent, and in some cases quite inspiring. Baghdad is now choked with traffic. Cell phones have spread like wildfire. And satellite TV dishes sprout from even the most humble mud hovels in the countryside.

Many of the soldiers I spent time with during this spring had also been deployed during the initial invasion back in 2003. Almost universally they talked to me about how much change they could see in the country. They noted progress in the attitudes of the people, in the condition of important infrastructure, in security.


Contrary to the impression given by most newspaper headlines, the United States has won the day in Iraq. In 2004, our military fought fierce battles in Najaf, Fallujah, and Sadr City. Many thousands of terrorists were killed, with comparatively little collateral damage. As examples of the very hardest sorts of urban combat, these will go down in history as smashing U.S. victories.

And our successes at urban combat (which, scandalously, are mostly untold stories in the U.S.) made it crystal clear to both the terrorists and the millions of moderate Iraqis that the insurgents simply cannot win against today̢۪s U.S. Army and Marines. That̢۪s why everyday citizens have surged into politics instead.

I’m sure these things are true. But does that mean that “we’ve won”? Even Zinsmeister admits that,

The terrorist struggle has hardly ended. Even a very small number of vicious men operating in secret will find opportunities to blow up outdoor markets and public buildings, assassinate prominent political figures, and knock down office towers. But public opinion is not on the insurgents’ side, and the battle of Iraq is no longer one of war fighting—but of policing and politics.

As I noted a few days ago, defining victory in this war is difficult. Still, it’s rather hard to see how the status quo qualifies.

Indeed, even war supporters are credulous of Zinmeister’s piece. Bill Ardolino finds it “bold” and “premature.” Our victory is news to Glenn Reynolds, too.

PowerLine’s Scott Johnson does seem to take the place at face value, however.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. reliapundit says:

    the right is not credulous; the anti-war folks are if they believe that 20-30,000 “insurgents” can WIN and re-inflict baathist/neojihadist tyranny on the 25 million Iraqis now led by SHIAS and KURDS!

    it can NEVER happen.

    The ONLY – repeat – ONLY way things can go badly (between NOW and WHENEVER the anti’s/doves accept that WE HAVE WON) is if anti’s/doves in Congress pulled the plug on SUPPORT for the nascent Iraqi democracy the way they SHAMELESSLY in IDIOTICALLY did to the South Vietnamese Government in 1975 (which was a year after the US had signed a TREATY with the Tyrannical Commies of North Vietnam and after we’d withdrawn nearly all our troops and had already become sideline players in the war.

    I am 50 – was a dove then – and KNOW this is a FACT!

    Reagan PROVED that hawkish polices are MORE EFFECTIVE at dealing with bad guys than dovish policies. His deployment of Pershings in Europe – WHICH I OPPOSED AT THE TIME! – WORKED!

    As the doves were wrong about Vietnam and the USSR, so too are they WRONG – repeat – WRONG NOW!

    The hardest parts are OVER in Iraq – hard things remain to be done – by Iraqis, and EVERYONE who calls themselves ALLIES OF DEMOCRACY.

    How IRONIC that you pooh-pooh the great VICTORY that has already been won in Iraq just as Kofi and others who opposed the war arew accepting that it is going well.

    SURE: we need to do more – but as GEORGE W. BUISH and all other HAWKS ahve ALWAYS said: this GWOT/WW4 – is going to be a decades long struggle.

    We are only in the 4th year of this war. We have a long way to go. It is FAR FAR FAR too early to be getting wobbly.

    I remind you that Allies in WW2 took more casualties AFTER D-Day than before, and more after the Battle of The Bulge on a weekly basis than during the entire war.


    The cause is great; we must show great resolve.

  2. Ol' BC says:

    That is very interesting. Victory? Probably premature. Progress? Definitely! And definitely underreported in the MSM.

  3. Just Me says:

    I think if you mean by victory, that the insurgents are now unable to really stop the democracy ball from rolling downhill, no matter how many Iraqi’s and soldiers they blow up, he is probably right-although kind of hard to call it victory just yet.

    Even though the insurgents are still active in Iraq, they aren’t really fighting for anything, and the majority of Iraqi’s want democracy-and I suspect that as the Iraqi government grows in stability, the less the Iraqi’s are going to put up with the insurgents.

  4. Rod Stanton says:

    The war is not over. Since March over 1,700 have been killed by the trerrorists and $billions of infrastructure destroyed. The election was a great success but a free Iraq can be crushed by terrorists before it has its next election if things continue as they have the last 3.5 months.

    We have not won. We seemed to be winning in Feb; now it is not clear who is winning. Far from over – as Gen. John Abizaid’s testimony today clearly stated.