Jay Reding.com

What Victory Looks Like

ABC News finds that Iraqis are more secure and more supportive of democracy. Security is a necessary prerequisite to any kind of political reconciliation, and it’s now looking like the Iraqi people really do feel more secure. For example, the poll found:

While deep difficulties remain, the advances are remarkable. Eighty-four percent of Iraqis now rate security in their own area positively, nearly double its August 2007 level. Seventy-eight percent say their protection from crime is good, more than double its low. Three-quarters say they can go where they want safely – triple what it’s been.

Few credit the United States, still widely unpopular given the post-invasion violence, and eight in 10 favor its withdrawal on schedule by 2011 – or sooner. But at the same time a new high, 64 percent of Iraqis, now call democracy their preferred form of government.

While it would be nice to be popular in Iraq, what we have achieved through the surge is what needed to be achieved. The goal of the surge: to provide enough security to prevent Iraq from exploding was met. The surge worked. It not only created a more secure Iraq, but thanks to our willingness to work with all sides, it has dramatically reduced sectarian tensions. The surge did exactly what it was supposed to do, and it represents one of the most important military turnarounds in the history of counterinsurgency. Future military leaders will be studying the tactics of great military minds like Gen. Petraeus and Col. H.R. McMaster for years to come.

Now, imagine an alternate scenario where John Kerry was elected President in 2004. He would have pulled U.S. troops from Iraq, leaving the country defenseless. An Iraqi civil war would have been inevitable. The Iraqi Shi’a would have looked to Iran for protection from al-Qaeda. Iraqi Sunnis would have banded either with al-Qaeda or looked to the Saudis and other fellow Sunnis for protection from the Iranians. The Kurds in the north would be fighting a pitched battle against both al-Qaeda and Iran.

For all the talk about how terrible a war Iraq was, it could have been much worse. Had Kerry been elected, it almost certainly would have.

Had now-Vice President Biden gotten his way and split Iraq down sectarian lines, the result would have been much the same. Iraq would be divided, and soon conquered.

Biden, now-Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama, Sen. Reid, Rep. Pelosi, all of them were wrong on Iraq. None of the advances that have been made in the past two years would have happened had they gotten their way. There should be a lesson in that.

Iraq still has a long period of transition. Other, more mundane problems like corruption and government efficiency still pose a threat to its future. But the days when terrorists threatened to destabilize the country are now over—and if we continue to meet our commitments to the Iraqi people and continue to train their military and government leaders, those terrible days will be over forever.

But peace is a tenuous thing. If Obama withdraws American troops in an irresponsible manner, the gains we’ve made could be lost as al-Qaeda, the Sadrists, or other groups exploit the vacuum. We must withdraw with full cognizance of the situation on the ground and be prepared to alter our timetable as necessary.

We have won in Iraq, and we should not ignore the lessons we have learned. Future conflicts in the 21st Century will look much like the one in Iraq, and we must be prepared to fight them—and we must also be willing to learn that the model of Iraq may not fit elsewhere as easily. What we need in Afghanistan is the same kind of visionary leadership that we had on the ground in Iraq as well as a political structure back home that will listen to them. President Obama should learn from President Bush’s mistakes and understand that the path to victory should be dictated by the theater of battle, not the politics of Washington.

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