Sunday, July 27, 2008

Because Bush Would Not Lose

The question of the day is have we won in Iraq? This is an astounding piece from the Associated Press:

The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost. Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had. The new phase focuses on training the Iraqi army and police, restraining the flow of illicit weaponry from Iran, supporting closer links between Baghdad and local governments, pushing the integration of former insurgents into legitimate government jobs and assisting in rebuilding the economy.

Indeed. Eleven months ago it took a willing suspension of disbelief for some to see the first signs of our victory over al Qaeda. Even I was unwilling to declare victory from the first signs of winning.

Now two senior AP writers see military victory.

They are wrong that Bush declared the combat phase over in May 2003. He declared the end of major combat operations--we'd defeated the organized military forces of Saddam and there were no more to fight. It was a declaration, as I understood it, designed to signal that allies who would not fight major combat operations that they could commit troops to the post-war stabilization phase. Violence led those unnamed "allies" to back out, it seems.

We are still needed for the new phase. Don't believe we can run as fast as we can just because the military operations are ending. There is more to winning than defeating our battlefield enemies. Building a government and the economy still requires our help. And the Iraqi military needs our help to build a force capable of defending against conventional enemies. Our forces are still able to help against al Qaeda, too.

And just because the war in Iraq is mostly won does not mean the Long War is over. Al Qaeda is weakened but not dead. Enough Moslems still sympathize with the idea of killing us to provide recruits. And enough states are eager to use these jihadis to kill us to keep us busy for years to come.

Never forget that we have reached this stage because President Bush stood nearly alone in our government in refusing to lose the war in Iraq. We came within a few wavering United States Senators of losing the war about a year ago. It was that damned close.

We still have miles to go before we sleep. The war is dead. Long live the war.