July 14, 2008

The Iraq War is Over?

Michael Yon infuriated a whole swath of his audience some years ago when he said Iraq was in a state of civil war. Only the most committed anti-war leftists wanted to hear it. Vice President Dick Cheney famously and foolishly said the U.S. was “turning the corner” around the same time. Cheney is a politican. Yon is a straight-shooter. So it means something when Yon writes the following:

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.

I’m not willing to go that far yet and say the war in Iraq is over. I’ve been burned too many times by events in the Middle East. Optimism and reality don’t coexist easily in that part of the world. But I’ll be back in Iraq myself soon enough, and I’ll weigh in on that question then.

I should add that Yon thinks we're losing the war in Afghanistan. I'm afraid he's right, and I'm sorry as hell to say it. The American public seems to think we're winning in Afghanistan and losing in Iraq, but that is not so.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2008 11:44 AM
Comments

Michael:
I have read and supported you and Mike Yon all along, and contributed when I could. I look forward to seeing what you think what progress is being won so far. I don't remember if you have been on as may combat patrols as he has, do you think it makes a difference in your perspective? I we manage to pull this one off, do you think it will ever be appreciated by the MSM and the legions of the America-is-bad, or will it be left to future historians for the answer.

Posted by: richard everett Author Profile Page at July 14, 2008 12:07 PM

...a fair-minded person could say with reasonable certainty that the war has ended.

Good to hear.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 14, 2008 1:02 PM

"I we manage to pull this one off, do you think it will ever be appreciated by the MSM and the legions of the America-is-bad, or will it be left to future historians for the answer."

Personally I would love to think so; however, the America-is-bad" groups need us to blame. Otherwise, they would have to take accountability for their own incompetence and issues. That is not going to happen. I think it is time for Afghanistan to take the stage if the Iraq war will not provide the necessary fodder for these groups to use. Anyway, it was good to hear what Michael Yon had to say.

Posted by: Chris in Tulsa Author Profile Page at July 14, 2008 1:43 PM

I suspect the trick in Afghanistan is similar to the trick in Anbar: wait until the locals get fed up with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, the locals are split between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Pakistani army has been misused and demoralized by the politicians. And then there are the poppies...

Posted by: chuck Author Profile Page at July 14, 2008 7:22 PM

Well, flypaper #1 did its job. Now, to activate flypaper #2, it'll be necessary to make the Global Jihadis think they've got a good shot in A-Stan. Then, when they're fully committed, stomp'um. Just like Iraq.

;)

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at July 15, 2008 12:18 AM

Michael,

er, both Michaels,

How can we be "winning" Iraq? How can it truly be a sign of the long term stability?

Tell me, please, how many walls have been built up around Baghad? How many neighborhoods are separated by 12 foot high walls? How many Iraqis are still displaced? How's the integration of Sunnis going?

What happens when people try to get back to their homes? What happens when the walls get removed? Will they ever be removed?

I'm glad to see Maliki showing some backbone, stopping Bush's attempt to own Iraq for the foreseeable future (bad bad move---but then again, going into Iraq was a bad bad move). But his power isn't very good right now.

Posted by: The Good Democrat Author Profile Page at July 15, 2008 3:47 AM

The war in Iraq is far from over. We are in the eye of the storm. The fall out from the war will be felt decades from now. Our children will pay much of the bill, in many ways, for the invasion.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 15, 2008 10:10 AM

We are in the eye of the storm.

If U.S. troops leave now or permit the Iraqi government to follow the usual Arab path, you are probably right.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 15, 2008 10:57 AM

Good Democrat-

"How can we be "winning" Iraq? How can it truly be a sign of the long term stability?"

The post refers to the War being over. Judging by violence levels in Iraq, the War-organized violence designed to either tip Iraq into a civil war (AQI's goal) or tip it into Iran's sphere of influence (JAM's goal) is pretty much over. US forces are not the point primary point of the sphere-Iraqis are. Monthly US casualties are way down, while monthly ISF and Iraqi civilian casualties are also slowly going down.

"Tell me, please, how many walls have been built up around Baghad? How many neighborhoods are separated by 12 foot high walls? How many Iraqis are still displaced? How's the integration of Sunnis going?

What happens when people try to get back to their homes? What happens when the walls get removed? Will they ever be removed?"

IIRC, our host reported on the barrier around Fallujah, and the necessary restrictions on automobile traffic there. Fallujans by and large supported these measures because they understood how they benefited from them. The walls would not survive if they were unpopular.

As the saying goes, "Good fences make for good neighbors."

Regrading repatriation, that's somehting Iraq will have to sort out internally.

Regarding Sunnis, I think that the elections this fall will show how integrated they are into the government.

"I'm glad to see Maliki showing some backbone, stopping Bush's attempt to own Iraq for the foreseeable future (bad bad move---but then again, going into Iraq was a bad bad move). But his power isn't very good right now."

Maliki says he was mistranslated. He does not want to be seen as an American puppet, but he probably knows that his job becomes a lot harder without American military support.

To summarize, the Iraq War is largely over. We won't be able to see that we have won until Iraq has a well established democratic tradtion of peaceful transition. What we can say is that we have given them the opportunity to do so-a chance they never would have had had we not invaded.

Posted by: MartyH Author Profile Page at July 15, 2008 1:29 PM

..."a fair-minded person could say with reasonable certainty that the war has ended."

Good to hear.----DPU

Couldn't agree more. Doubtless many more people just standing around, merely trying to get by, will have to suffer before those that just have to die are finally dead, but as we 'triumphalists' have been saying for some time --- "the war has ended".

Thanks be to ALL those who stood by their duties in Iraqm during the worst of times, so that the worst of times would not become the ONLY times.

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at July 15, 2008 3:36 PM

They said the Surge would never be successful.

They said that the war was lost.

They said the Surge was not reducing casualties.

They said General Petraeus was a liar and traitor.

They cannot afford to suffer a victory...

Posted by: Freedom Now Author Profile Page at July 16, 2008 2:28 AM

I'm confused. Why is the war over, exactly? Because U.S. casualties are back to where they were in 2003 and 2004? If so, why wasn't the war over in 2003 and 2004?

The war wasn't over then because we expected 0 casualties after "Mission Accomplished" and because a lot more casualties happened in the following years.

Similarly, what Mike means when he says "The war is over" is that "we could stay here as long as we wanted without casualties going back up".

Of course, he has no f*cking clue whether that is or is not a true statement, and neither does anyone else. Either way, I tend to associate "war is over" with "people are no longer shooting at US troops". Mike Yon, probably not on purpose, is playing games, creating new meanings for the word "war" by drawing unstated distinctions between levels of conflict, and stating that only the high levels get to be called "war".

So, the "war" is over, and welcome to the "police action". Of course, in both events, US troops and Iraqis get blown up and shot at.

I suggest we get the heck out of there so we never have to find out if Yon is right about what happens if we stick around (i.e., the 'war is over'). If we'd done that in 2003 or 2004 - in an empirically identical situation* - we'd have never had to lose a war for several years before winning it.

*empirically identical in the ways that matter, like the amount of violence directed at the US forces

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at July 16, 2008 8:36 AM

Glasnost-

That's about the most disingenuous statement you can make, saying that Iraq is 2003 and 2004 is empirically identical to 2008. You choose one metric for measurement and declare the outcome identical. You probably say that a hard boiled egg and a chick are the same thing because in the empirically identical ways that matter they have both had the same amount of energy input into them. You put X calories into an egg at 100 degrees C for a short time, or X calories at 40 degrees C for a longer time and you get totally different results.

The difference in Iraq between 2003 and now is dramatic. There is a functioning government, a competent military. A growing economy exists. Oil is being pumped; cities other than Baghdad get electricity. Thousands of evil men-including Saddam and his sons-are dead. Sunnis and Shia are working together. AQI and JAM are thoroughly discredited. Everyone has learned a lot-the American military, the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi people. There was a void in 2003 and 2004 that has been filled over the last five years. "We'll stand down as the Iraqis stand up" is one of Bush's sayings. The Iraqis are standing up, allowing us to stand down.

Posted by: MartyH Author Profile Page at July 16, 2008 10:24 AM
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