I've read several articles lately--by Michael Yon, Michael Totten, and Strategypage--all of which I saw linked at Instapundit--that argue that, yes, the U.S. has won, and now things shift mainly to political and police tasks. All this is qualified by the understanding that "winning" doesn't mean no more violence, or no risk of conflict or instability, or that the political situation in Iraq will be as clean and honest as we might expect in, say, Chicago or Louisiana. It means, to me at least, that we've reached a point where we can say we accomplished something worthwhile, that may be sustainable, and that we can think about winding down our military engagement in Iraq (just in time to give our mission in Afghanistan more attention it seems).
Well, some may wish to debate whether the facts support so positive a conclusion. Fair enough. This part of the world is rather uncongenial to stability and good government; but it sure seems clear the current government of Iraq--if it can sustain itself and work even moderately well--is way better than Saddam Hussein.
But if the U.S., Iraq and allies really have accomplished something, here's my question: would it really have been better to have pulled out rather than go ahead with the "surge" strategy, which appears to have brought us to this point?
I think it's very reasonable to fault the original decision to go to war, and many aspects of the war's execution, and to lament bad effects of the war. That said, once in, didn't the U.S. and allies have a responsibility to see things through, if at all possible, to a reasonably better state than chaos? I.e., we "broke" it, so we were morally obliged to "fix" it, if possible. Walking away after handing the folks a check would not, to my mind, have been moral, if more could still have been done given the mess we made. I.e., even from an anti-war point of view, there is still, I think, a case to be made for continuing engagement; it has never struck me as particularly "moral" to say, as so many have, that all we (Americans, Britons, Westerners) want is a pullout, we don't care what horrors follow (example, the New York Times opined some time back that even genocide might break out, but pullout anyway).
But if we could, by staying, and even engaging further, bring things to a better state than chaos, weren't we obliged to do that, even at cost to our nation--since we decided, as a nation, to go to war (Congress voted, and their protests after the fact have zero credibility to me)?
Insofar as it appears staying has helped, what do you think? Should we still have started a pullout a year or so ago? Would that have been the optimal moral choice?