Saturday, November 3, 2007

Victory in Iraq? The War Has Been Won

It's been an interesting week for media coverage of Iraq. The good news keeps pouring in (see here and here, for example), and despite a tendency among some media outlets to portray stability in Iraq as a lull (see here and here), it's becoming increasingly clear that we've reached a turning point in the war.

In fact, Andrew Bolt,
in an article syndicated from Australia's Daily Telegraph, agues the Iraq war's been won:

Here it is: The battle is actually over. Iraq has been won.

I know this will seem to many of you an insane claim. Ridiculous! After all, haven't you read countless stories that Iraq is a "disaster", turned by a "civil war" into a "killing field"?...

You have. And you have been misled. Here is just the latest underreported news, out this week.

Just 27 American soldiers were killed in action in Iraq in October - the lowest monthly figure since March last year. (This is a provisional figure and may alter over the next week.)

The number of Iraqi civilians killed last month - mostly by Islamist and fascist terrorists - was around 760, according to Iraqi Government sources.

That is still tragically high, but the monthly toll has plummeted since January's grim total of 1990.

What measures of success do critics of Iraq's liberation now demand?

Violence is falling fast. Al Qaida has been crippled.

The Shiites, Kurds and Marsh Arabs no longer face genocide.

What's more, the country has stayed unified. The majority now rules.

Despite that, minority Sunni leaders are co-operating in government with Shiite ones.

There is no civil war. The Kurds have not broken away. Iran has not turned Iraq into its puppet.
And the country's institutions are getting stronger. The Iraqi army is now at full strength, at least in numbers.

The country has a vigorous media. A democratic constitution has been adopted and backed by a popular vote.

Election after election has Iraqis turning up in their millions.

Add it all up. Iraq not only remains a democracy, but shows no sign of collapse.

I repeat: the battle for a free Iraq has been won.
Bolt anticipates left-wing denials of victory. For instance, he makes a penetrating point about assessing violence in Iraq comparatively:

Iraq remains an ugly place, with lethal hatreds, yet none of these killers are winning and Iraq will not fall to them.

Consider: Iraq's official estimate of civilian deaths from violence is now about 25 a day. In South Africa, with twice the population, the official murder toll is 52 a day.

That's a rate of killing equal to Iraq's. Do you think those murders will topple South Africa? And does anyone say of South Africa that these killings just prove freedom was not worth it?
Of course, radical war opponents will respond with, "Yeah, but Bush lied about WMD," or some such nonsense. Yet, truth be told, the radicals will have to sink to the depths of denial in refusing the obvious fact of impending victory.

Indeed, the time for political recrimination and division is over. Neither Americans nor Iraqis have an interest in endlessly debating the origins of the war or the administration's earlier incompetence. We are winning now. Americans need to unite.

Roberts Gates,
in his comments on Iraq this week, indicated that substantial progress was being made, but he was careful not to declare a full-blown victory:

Asked whether he would declare that the United States was now winning the war in Iraq, Mr. Gates responded: “I think those end up being loaded words. I think we have been very successful. We need to continue being successful.”
Gates tempered his comments to show a proper concern about resisting euphoria over the war's progress. That said, the administration's been rightly criticized for its failure to adequately market Iraq's importance. Former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird made this point in 2005:

The president must articulate a simple message and mission. Just as the spread of communism was very real in the 1960s, so the spread of radical fundamentalist Islam is very real today. It was a creeping fear until September 11, 2001, when it showed itself capable of threatening us. Iraq was a logical place to fight back, with its secular government and modern infrastructure and a populace that was ready to overthrow its dictator. Our troops are not fighting there only to preserve the right of Iraqis to vote. They are fighting to preserve modern culture, Western democracy, the global economy, and all else that is threatened by the spread of barbarism in the name of religion. That is the message and the mission. It is not politically correct, nor is it comforting. But it is the truth, and sometimes the truth needs good marketing.
Laird was writing a year before the administration shifted to a new counterinsurgency strategy with General David Petraeus.

But the success of America's new course is clear, and it needs good marketing. Even if the administration hesitates in declaring victory (
since war opponents will never acknowledge the point), the message of impending victory in Iraq ought to be distributed as widely as possible. We may have setbacks ahead, which is why a lengthy and large postwar military presence in the country is expected. But the Republicans have an historic opportunity to package success in Iraq as the defining issue of the upcoming elections. It's time to seize the moment.