Friday, June 03, 2016

A Victory by Any Other Name

Did we win the Iraq War? Of course we did and even the Obama administration considers what we achieved in Iraq worthy of defending.

For those who insist that Iraq was a mistake and a defeat, consider that Vice President Biden called what we achieved one of the administration's great achievements:

On Larry King Live last night, Vice President Joe Biden said Iraq "could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government."

And President Obama praised Iraq as a stable and self-reliant partner as we prepared to leave:

Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we're leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We're building a new partnership between our nations.

And even though Iraq deteriorated a great deal in the two years following our departure, President Obama believed enough of that victory remained to justify Iraq War 2.0 in September 2014.

So yeah, we won the war in Iraq. A victory that President Obama is belatedly fighting to defend.

Let's re-win the war, okay? It could easily be the only great achievement of this administration.

UPDATE: And remember that the goal of trying to drain the swamp of jihadi recruitment by replacing autocracies with democracy rather than the alternative of mullah-run despotisms made sense then and makes sense now despite failures of democratization (and rule of law) as an alternative to endless war against bouts of jihadi fevers breaking out periodically (eventually with WMD in their hands).

Indeed, the Libya War of 2011 shows that even the Obama administration did not reject the objective of replacing autocrats with something better. They just thought that the real problem of overthrowing Saddam was that we sent in troops who provoked the jihadi resistance and thus caused the problem we sought to destroy.

The Libya War logic was that by not sending in American troops, the locals would work out their problems on their own and deprive jihadis a recruiting tool to wreck the post-war Libya.

But nearly 5 years after the Libya War, Libya is farther from a good end result than we achieved in 2011 just three years after finally winning the military campaign against the various jihadis and insurgents in Iraq because of the Surge and Awakening.

Heck, Iraq in 2008 looked a lot better 5 years after the initial invasion and overthrow of Saddam, if you want to mark it from that point.

It's going to take time for political passions to subside enough to judge the Iraq War. But I believe that in the future no historian worth their degree will argue that the Iraq War was any type of blunder at all let alone the biggest foreign policy error in American history as so many war critics (belatedly) call the decision to go to war.