I am disgusted by the media declarations and the presidential proclamations that the war in Iraq has ended with the departure of US troops. It is an erroneous conclusion, designed with political victory in mind–and heedless of the risk of projecting military defeat.
The Iraq War was a victory for the United States, for our allies, and for the Iraqi people. Our forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, and defended nascent Iraqi democracy against Iranian-backed terrorists, including Al Qaeda and remnants of Saddam’s regime.
Our soldiers maintained the peace of a country many feared would collapse into civil war–and which some, including our current Vice President, suggested should be divided. Against the plans of foreign enemies, and the pessimism of domestic critics, our forces prevailed.
The idea that the war ended today is absurd. If a war is not over until all your troops have withdrawn, then the Second World War is still being fought. If a war is defined by your withdrawal rather than your objective, you will always face defeat. And Iraq was not a defeat.
Our victory in Iraq was certainly clear enough to trigger uprisings throughout the region–beginning with the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, continuing through the Green Revolution in Iran, and culminating in the Arab Spring (whose consequences are yet uncertain).
Moreover, our success in the Iraq War enabled us to find and kill Osama bin Laden. The key step in the intelligence trail was the capture of Hassan Ghul in Iraq in 2004. He identified the courier who ultimately led the CIA to identify bin Laden’s location in Pakistan.
Victory in Iraq may not have come on May 1, 2003–the day President George W. Bush delivered his “mission accomplished” speech. But it had certainly come by November 11, 2010–the day political parties formed a new government, following Iraq’s second democratic election.
President Barack Obama has been determined, both as a candidate and in office, to re-write the history of the Iraq War–to re-define it as a swindle, a mistake, and a defeat. His partisan pettiness is a disgrace, unworthy of an American Commander-in-Chief.
Fouad Ajami observed today that Obama cares less about Iraq’s future than about “the past and its disputations.” Ajami believes Iraq can resist Iranian influence. I hope he is right. But we may yet find that what ended on December 17, 2011 was not the war, but the peace.