Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Karl Zinsmeister argues the war is over and we've won, which some are calling bold and perhaps premature, but I wonder if he actually understates the case. We defeated the main military opponent and won the real war in April 2003; everything since has really been mop-up/police work. The war itself was so easy in comparison to occupying the country and building a democratic Iraqi government from scratch that it seems as though we're still at war even though there really is little to no militarily significant opposition.

Now, had we bolted in 2004, we could have "lost" in the sense that new wannabe tyrants had a fair chance of overthrowing the interim gov't and re-imposing a Saddam-like tyranny. But now even that seems extremely unlikely, if not impossible, given their limited support from the populace. The Iraqi forces aren't quite up to defending the whole country at this point, but they're probably strong enough that if we left today they would hang on and eventually win (though it might not be pretty).

It's too easy to forget that

1) There are no standing armies opposing us
2) Elections have been held, creating a legitimate gov't
3) Polls tend to show the vast majority of the Iraqi population is firmly on the side of the democratically elected gov't
4) Iraqis are flocking to the democratic gov't forces in far greater numbers than to the insurgency
5) Unlike the insurgency, the elected Iraqi gov't has a continuing revenue stream of billions in oil revenue to bolster its position
6) A constitution enshrining basic freedoms and rights is 80% complete, with the constitutional referendum and later parliamentary elections now expected to be held on time
7) Iraq's economy grew at 50% last year, and growth for this year is estimated at 35%. This is very important, because as Fareed Zakaria noted in his book The Future of Freedom, there is a very strong correlation between GDP per capita and successful democracy; once democracies become rich, they become immortal. Between $6,000 and $9,000 GDP per capita (iirc) 2/3 of democratic states survive indefinitely. No democracy with a GDP per capita per capita over $9,000 has ever failed. Currently, Iraq is at about $3,500 GDP per capita right now, so in a few years they will probably reach the economic tipping point, esp if oil prices stay high and modern development of Iraqi oil fields happens as scheduled.

All that said, the violence will certainly continue for a year or two, and may continue for decades. But that shouldn’t be viewed as the final judgment on the war. Israel still sees violence 60 years after its inception, but they’ve managed to build a thriving society anyway.


Blogger Soldier's Dad said...


"The Shari’a Committee of Al-Qaeda in Iraq Issues a Statement about Fighting in al-Anbar and the Lack of Participation of the Muslims in Battles in this Area"

It would appear from complaints, Muslims believe the war is over as well.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you arrive in Baghdad, you're in a C-130. You do a corkscrew landing to make it more difficult for an enemy ground-to-air launched missile to take you down. When you land, you immediately have body armor placed on you. You are hustled quickly into a Black Hawk helicopter. In the helicopter, there are two brave young soldiers with 30-caliber machine guns hanging out the bays of those doors. You travel from the Red Zone to the Green Zone. The Green Zone is the supposed safe zone. You travel roughly 150 miles per hour, not a whole lot over 100 feet off the ground so as not to provide those on the ground with a profile [so they can shoot you down].

You get off the Black Hawk in the Green Zone, which has redundant great cement blocks and walls to keep it secure. You are hustled in your armor into a beefed up Chevy van....

In short, I did not come away with the impression that the insurgency was, as the Vice President of the United States suggeested, in its last throes. And unlike the President of the United States, I am not, quote, "pleased with the progress," end of quote, we're making as I recently saw it.

2:59 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

So, you saw a lot of security measures. Did you see any U.S. bases being overrun? Did you even see anyone trying? Lots of Israel isn't safe either, and they've had 60 years to work at it. But they own the country.

I'm not sure many people understand the historical measurement for "victory" in war. It's controlling the country, not turning it into Vermont.

Pretty soon Iraqis will be able to control the country themselves. The armed resistance is never going to be strong enough to dislodge them. Eventually the insurgents' last redoubts will be taken. The terrorists may never give up, but every car bomb just makes them less popular.

8:11 PM  

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