Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is the Iraq war coming to an end?

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?


Padre Steve said...

I think we are doing the right thing by finishing what we started. We never did leave Germany after the Second World War! We stayed there and helped to rebuild. I don't like the idea that we will be in Iraq forever, but any idea of a complete pullout is premature and irresponsible. God bless the troops for their sacrifice and God bless the Iraqi people as they rebuild their homeland.

Anonymous said...

Father: When you added "I.e., we "broke" it, so we were morally obliged to "fix" it" this jumped out at me. I don't agree that we "broke it." As you mentioned, Congress/our allies looked at the facts at hand...many, to this day, believe the WMD were hidden and Syria was the place most of them disappeared to... But, that said, I see you agree that morally once we were there, the U.S. was obligated to help the Iraqi people. I think our leaders should have had more troops at the start, but, again, that's me, a civilian talking. It's not my *job* to question every move our President or military leaders have made since I have no where near the expertise and intelligence they must have. If we're not careful, Obama's going to benefit with our winning, and he will have had absolutely no hand in it. Kind of ironic. Anyway, I agree with how our military and the President conducted this war and hope we can end the outbreak in Afghanistan must sooner. It humbles me to know end to think of all our brave young men and women whose blood has been shed for the Iraqi people and for America and the rest of the world's safety.

Anonymous said...

Go to Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. Then consider your opinions. More than 300 of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried there. Other than a handful of family members, no one goes there. It's easy to put a yellow ribbon on your car. It's easy to post on a blog. It's not so easy for many to send their own child to fight. Regardless of whether you think the Iraq war was a good idea or a tragedy, regardless of whether you think George W. Bush is a great leader or a war criminal, those who have died and those who love them deserve the awareness of their fellow Americans of the enormity of their loss. If you can walk through Section 60 and not be moved by all the deaths -- civilian and military -- in Iraq and Afghanistan, your heart is colder than any stone on any grave at Arlington.

mbyrne said...

Father, I think you have hit the nail on the head--regardless of a person's initial position on the war, we had and have an obligation to do the best we possibly could to leave Iraq in (relatively) good shape. Thanks.

Andrew I. Miller said...

Another reason not to vote for Obama

Anonymous said...

Father Fox, Padre Steve, Eileen, mbyrne and andrew i. miller, if you go to, you can find information about how you can sign up for the Army and help finish the job. I'm sure you're all eager to go to Iraq and help in any way you can.