It’s Over?

Whatever the particular details around the “Mission Accomplished” sign prominently above President George W. Bush’s head when he spoke on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln as it returned from Iraq in 2003, all have been appropriate chastened against declaring victory in Iraq prematurely. Hence, it is with a “knock-on-wood” attitude that we have observed the steadily declining death toll among Americans and Iraqis. Indeed, from month-to-month, the number of American killed from hostile actions is very close to the number dying from non-hostile causes, ranging from illnesses to automobile. The reduction in violence is even more evident in the number of wounded which show the downward trends with less statistical fluctuation.

Is it time to declare victory? Former Green Beret, Michael Yon, an embedded independent journalist in Iraq who has often been critical of US strategy has concluded as much. He wrote in July of this year, “The war in Iraq is over. We won. Which means the Iraqi people won.” More specifically, “A counterinsurgency is won when the government’s legitimacy is no longer threatened by the insurgents, the government is able to protect its own people and the people are participating in the government. In Iraq, all three conditions apply.”

Since July, the low death tolls are continuing their decline. This is not to say that peace is not fragile, or that  any peace can not devolve over time to war. However, victory is at hand and none too soon. If Senator Barack Obama had been president two years ago, the US would have withdrawn already, without implementing the successful surge strategy. Iraq would have been a strategic and moral defeat that would destabilized the Middle East and augmented the influence of radical Islamists, particularly in Iran.

President Obama has two choices: precipitous withdrawal endangering the present increase instability, or slowly pull out troops as the Iraqis standup. The latter policy will irritate the far Left who have counted on defeat in Iraq, but so long as the death tolls recede there will be no strong political incentive to risk defeat. Given the present situation and the long term improvement in Iraq, any Obama policy that increases military instability in Iraq now will be all to easy to blame on Obama. He is too smart to take that risk. The biggest foreign policy risk of a John Kerry presidency  in 2004 will not be a similar risk in the Obama presidency.

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