Iraq: In Retrospect

The canard that Iraq was a poorly conceived, executed endeavor that proved harmful to strategic U.S. interests is an insight that may be historically if myopically correct, yet completely misplaced.  Gone is the mention of numerously failed U.N. Resolutions; Saddam was a problem that was left to fester for decades.  Briefly, the growing conventional consensus that Iraq was/is an unmitigated fiasco that squandered American lives and treasure for the sake of a goal that wasn’t worth the price is dangerously misplaced thinking that must be exposed, for it engenders simplistic thinking enamored to a historicism preventing honest appraisal.

Iraq was won.  It was pacified.  Obama’s predecessor gave him a win.

What did we do with it.

Before we answer, I think it necessary to review what Fouad Ajami has written on the American endeavor in the heart of Bagdad.

Can we acknowledge the crucible, the suffocating dependency that underwrote Islamic Civilization, it brutal autocracy, it genocidal conflicts; for the reach and grasp of the sons of Ismael has grown.  September 11 exposed a nasty civilizational conflict that was brewing to reengage since the discovery of the America’s and the birth of modernity.

The conflict between Christendom and Islam has a very long historical pedigree.  I simply cannot recount it here.  But we must acknowledge what September 11 bequeathed. . .

Iraq was a war waged with Congressional authorization, with the endorsement of popular acceptance, and with the sanction of more than a dozen U.N.  National Security Resolutions calling for Iraqi disarmament.

The disappointment that Iraq became under Rumsfeld is well noted.  So was the win that Petraeus devised.  What remains to be witnessed is how a cynical political class in D.C. wagered against both Bush and Petraeus!  This story must be told!

It won’t.  My guess is that Bush will be considered on par with Truman, decades from now.

Enough.  The facts themselves can reveal a net positive gain despite how Obama dealt with the achievement that was Iraq.

By far the largest failure was one of imagination.  Putting overly institutionalized personnel like Franks, exacerbated a needlessly inept General, one trying to gauge a series of intractable social/military engagements more suited to one formally schooled in  irregular warfare.  John Abizaid’s light footprint approach (the exact opposite of C.O.I.N. doctrine) suited the ideological preferences of Rumsfeld alone, all this hampered strategic insight that is a required necessity when waging war.  This would half to wait until we nearly failed!

Leaving aside how the Saudi’s, the Iranians, and the al Qaeda jihadi’s all joined in to bleed the great satan, we should note that Rumsfeld, Abizaid and Franks all thought in compartmentalized fashion, for they all believed that the emerging insurgency simply required political accommodation, not outright defeat.

This is where the genius of political instinct that was Bush, divined an insight not seen since Lincoln or Johnson.   An insight that gave us Petraeus.

Even still, the loyal domestic opposition placed its bets!

I write this for the simple reason that such political opportunism only obscured the achievement that became Iraq!  This cynicism is not sought from within the house of American Conservatism.

Given how inept team Bush became in handling its domestic critics, we cannot separate how we won from the feverish pandering that underwrote the American ideological left. Even if such insight contradicts the maneuvering of Gadhafi, Tehran or bin Laden, especially how these actors moved once the great satan had thrown down the gauntlet and moved against Saddam.   These truths were uncomfortable for the American left!

Despite the Sunni awakening, the American left relishes its numerous canards.  Why?

The arrival of 2008 spoke to the aspirations of a defeated American political class!  But this defeat was always self imposed.

Two final thoughts.  One regards the absolute necessity to look for a social/political solution to how Democracies fare in difficult insurgencies.  There is a cautionary tale to mine in understanding the impact such endeavors have on the life of egalitarian societies.

Tocqueville had much to say here, but that’s for another time.

Second thought:  the wanderings of Nouri al-Maliki cannot be separated from his divination of team Obama.

Still. . . we won!

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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