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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy VI Day

Today is VI Day (Victory in Iraq Day)

We won. The Iraq War is over.

I declare November 22, 2008 to be "Victory in Iraq Day." (Hereafter known as "VI Day.")

By every measure, The United States and coalition forces have conclusively defeated all enemies in Iraq, pacified the country, deposed the previous regime, successfully helped to establish a new functioning democratic government, and suppressed any lingering insurgencies. The war has come to an end. And we won.

There aren't going to be any parades. No signing ceremony on the deck of the U.S.S Missouri. No widespread acknowledgement.

But it is important that this be acknowledged. We have won the Battle for Iraq. And passed one of the great tests we will face in the prosecution of the Long War.

Mr. Democracy, currently in Baghdad, writes:

There's a momentous event about to happen here. It may seem almost inane, but the excitement is in the air here. We are about to see the end of the Green Zone as we know it.

I have been in Iraq for 49 months, and for much of that time, the Green Zone in the Karkh District (downtown Baghdad) has been my world. With the signing of the SOFA, and the move of U.S. personnel to the new Embassy - all this will be going away December 31.

This bubble, this small facsimile of the western world, this fortress, is opening up. Iraqis are getting their downtown back. It's a sight to behold.

You could say that June 30, 2004 was the de jure transfer of sovereignty. December 31, 2008 is the de facto transfer. Iraq has finally become a normal country.

This is going to make our lives more difficult here. We'll be dealing with a fully sovereign nation just like any other. There will be difficulties as both sides learn to deal with the new situation. But ultimately, this is a good thing.

I spend most of my time in Ramadi now. In January 2007, it was an active war zone. In November 2008, I can walk down the street without body armor. Life is returning to normal in Ramadi, and with the signing of the SOFA, it will become completely normal. No more giant MRAPs careening down the streets. No more military intrusion into the lives of Iraqis (unless specifically requested by the Iraqi government.) Our movements will be more constrained. But we will also have more access to the outside world. Hell in Al Asad, they are hiring Iraqis to work on the base just like we did in 2003 before they started blowing themselves up in DFAC's. Soon, Iraqis will never want American bases to leave because their economies will be too dependent on them!

Barring some total collapse precipitated by a complete withdrawal, we've won this battle. We made our saving throw and stuck it out, allowing us against all odds to win. It was much more a near run thing than it ever should have been, but we've won.

Well spoken Mr. Democracy!

History will eventually record the courage of George W. Bush, who ignored the whining of the modern day Copperheads and had the temerity to choose victory:

Imagine life as an Iraqi in Baghdad or Ramadi or even Fallujah or Najaf or Baquba and all points between had President Bush relented to common popular domestic and international wisdom, opinion and sentiment and left the Iraqi people to the wolves among them, only to abandon them by "ending it," executing an "honorable withdrawal," or "redeploying" our forces. Our defeat would have been theirs ten-fold. Ask one.

Our current narrative-defining trifecta of media, political elite, and academia will surely not credit George W. Bush with achieving victory in Iraq while they are afforded the more palatable option of crediting a President Barack H. Obama with a draw-down of forces. But it is with certainty afforded by said trifecta's predictability that without President George W. Bush's steadfast determination and leadership, the events, discussion and reporting surrounding Iraq today would be horrific in nature.

The audacity of victory. You have to want it.

Ironically, this has likely helped his successor, Barack Obama. yet that is of secondary importance. What is important is that we have won this battle in the Long War.

Yet both leaders are likely to see benefit from the agreement. If a broadly based Iraqi government emerges as American troops withdraw, Bush's Iraq policy will demand and deserve a major historical reassessment. And the SOFA should allow President Obama to reinterpret his campaign pledges on Iraq in a more responsible manner -- giving deference to the best military advice during the next three years and avoiding destabilizing actions.

The success of the surge has achieved some extraordinary things -- not only the possibility of peace in Iraq but also a convergence in American politics. Bush's and Obama's modified positions on Iraq are quite close. Both leaders have accepted a responsible, gradual withdrawal and the possibility of leaving behind success instead of failure.

But it needs to be said that the Battle for Iraq was only one battle in a larger war, but as Douglas Stone says, people need to be reminded that it was the right battle, in the right place, at the right time.

It needs to be said: It was smart to go to war in Iraq; it was courageous to go to war; but most of all -- even though there are few things as horrific as war -- it was necessary to go to war against Iraq. Had we not gone to war against Iraq in 2003, we almost certainly would have done so there or in another Arab country at another time, and all in less advantageous circumstances.

Iraq was the right time, right place, right war.

We had to go to war, because the only sure way to ensure our national security is to drain the swamp of terrorism: to finally begin the process of wrenching the Arab world from a culture of backwardness, oppression and hatred toward the West.

We cannot slacken. We cannot rest. We have to continue to prosecute the Long War to transform this area from a desert of despotism to an oasis of freedom. Our security depends on it.

But for right now, we can crack open a beer and toast our success, and remember the costs of the right war, in the right place at the right time.


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