I was right about Iraq

In an April 2004 article at FrontPage Magazine, I made the same argument that I made scores of times at VFR between 2003 and 2007: that not only were we not winning in Iraq, but we had no strategy in place that even theoretically could result in victory.

Does the tremendous reduction of violence in Iraq and the apparent vanquishing of al Qaeda prove my oft-repeated statement wrong?

To answer that question, we must consider two factors.

First, the surge, which began in January 2007, represented a major change in strategy. Had our forces been pursuing a surge-like disposition of forces starting from 2003, the situation in Iraq would have been entirely different. For a period longer than America’s involvement in World War II, President Bush stayed the course with a losing strategy, even while his worthless, unprincipled flacks, a.k.a. the neocons, kept triumphantly insisting that Bush’s Iraq policy was heading toward victory in the same way that America’s actions in World War II led to victory. In reality, it was only by abandoning his 2003-2007 policy when it had reached the verge of absolute disaster that Bush saved the situation. As a result of the U.S. increasing the number of troops, adopting a serious approach to counterinsurgency, and placing U.S. forces permanently in Iraqi civilian areas to keep them safe, the horrifying violence decreased and Iraqis began to be able to have a normal life.

However, the surge by itself would not have been enough to result in what is now being described as a victory, namely the virtual disappearance of al Qaeda as a force to be reckoned with in Iraq. None of the advocates of the surge, including Gen. Petraeus (whom, unlike the miserable time-servers Bush placed in Iraq before him, I’ve always treated with respect and said is an honest intelligent man), ever predicted that the surge would have that effect. Rather the purpose of the surge was to stabilize the situation, secure areas where Iraqis could be safe, and keep the country from falling into utter chaos. The fact that the results went far beyond mere stabilization to something resembling victory is due to a second factor that no one predicted: the Sunni Awakening, the Sunni’s rejection of al Qaeda and cooperation with the U.S. forces against al Qaeda. The Bush supporters themselves have said over and over that the Sunni Awakening was a shot out of the blue.

Thus the tremendous improvements in Iraq have been due to a major change of strategy, plus the unexpected and unplanned-for Sunni Awakening.

Here is what I said at FP in April 2004:

Let us hope that I am wrong, and that the insurgency soon collapses and the jihadist forces fade away, allowing the Iraqi people to continue forward to the “broad sunlit uplands” of freedom and self-government. But if that wished-for event comes to pass, it will have happened as much by good fortune as by any conscious plan on the part of the Bush administration.

The positive change in Iraq has come about exactly as I said it would: through a combination of a working strategy (which turned out to be the surge) and good fortune (which turned out to be the Sunni Awakening).

In this article I have only discussed the discrete issue of routing the insurgency and reducing violence, not the larger question of Bush’s policy of democratizing Iraq and other Muslim countries. That policy remains an inherent absurdity, given the fact that a Muslim people free to choose its own government will choose the tyrannical sharia law. Even apart from the question of sharia, Iraq is still described by Freedom House as Not Free.

* * *

Here is a selection of VFR articles about Iraq.

Iraq war debate

Rethinking the Bush doctrine [September 2002, praising Christopher Ruddy article that thoughtfully challenged Bush’s planned war]

I’m looking through you, but I’ve been looking through you for 4 1/2 years, and I’m so tired of this [April 2008, new book on the war recapiulates the false arguments.]

Iraq and Democratization

Facing the Unpleasant Reality [October 2002. I list the bad consequences to America of invading Iraq, including flood of refugees, while saying that war seems necessary and unavoidable.]

VFR, March 6, 2003: For invasion, against democratization

The dangers of “democratization”—March 6, 2003

Flash to neocons (and America): Freedom is not government (April 10, 2003)

Doonesbury has VFR view of Iraq

Wounded GIs

The ambiguous thing that America now is

How democratization of the Moslem world could make jihadists more dangerous

Bush puts the burden on us instead of the Palestinians:

Or, how Bush’s messianism leads to moral relativism [Feb 2005: summing up both Bush’s disastrous “peace process” and his “democracy” policy]

Our main goal in Iraq remains an unsustainable “democracy,” not victory

America and the Method of Bush: Why do we simply assume that democratization will be a good thing?

J. Podhoretz admits Iraq policy was based on a cockeyed belief [December 06] [important article, he admits the falsity of thinking political change would lead to military victory]

McCain’s utopian advisors [tying together many things in one paragraph: the belief that McCain can persuade conservatives that he is a conservative, just by calling himself one. This connects with nominalism all kinds of liberal utopian beliefs, such as that Islam can adopt democracy.]

How Yon’s “hopeful” message on Iraq wins us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence [Yon charges up the neocons with the arguments that have misled them throughout, thinking that the accomplishments of our troops mean that the policy itself is working.]

Dynamite: Commentary abandons democratism [commenting on the key point in Bret Stephens’s article; but the whole article, laying out a new approach to Islam based on internal conflict within Islam, needs to be analyzed.]

“Victory” a chimera in Iraq

“We have no strategy to win” (collection of excerpts from various articles)

How do we defeat militant Islam? Sept 10, 2003, [included in above]

The Dream of Iraqi Democratization vs. the Reality of Iraqi Violence, FrontPage magazine, April 20, 2004, [included in above]

Did Bush misspeak or did he speak the truth?, September 2, 2004 [included in above]

E-mail to a pro-Bush blogger, September 30, 2004 [included in above]

Our main goal in Iraq remains an unsustainable “democracy,” not victory, Nov 10, 2004 “Staying the course” means staying in Iraq—forever

US commanders in Iraq grim about prospects

Buckley: we cannot win in Iraq

The unreality of our Iraq policy—and of the thought process required to defend it [September 13, 2007]

Podhoretz’s fake reply to a decisive refutation of democratism [How Norman Podhoretz dimisses the problem of Hamas in his book.]

Our perverted Iraq policy [On the murder conviction of Sgt. Evan Vela.]

Summing up the Iraq disaster

Running out the clock, time standing still

Neocons trying to wash their hands of Bush’s failures in Iraq

Pro-war neocons turn on Bush, washing their own hands [I tear apart their claims in Vanity Fair that they did not support actual Bush policy.]

Iraq general

What we need to do in Iraq [a response to “if we leave it will be a bloodbath”]

Bacevich: the U.S. should take in “millions” of Iraqis [we must not take in Iraqi refugees]

New strategies for the Mideast following failure in Iraq [re Friedman’s proposal of giving up on Iraq and defending Saudi Arabia; I quote key passage from “What we need to do in Iraq”]

What we’re doing now in Iraq is worse than our worst-case scenario [My three week invasion once every five years plan]

Helprin on how to wage the war

Helprin’s comprehensive strategy for the war on terror

Helprin excoriates Bush, proposes new strategy

How to win the war on militant Islam

Codevilla and Podhoretz Debate the War

The fictional quality of the war

The fictional war—a collection [containing all the below]

The core contradiction that makes the “war” a mess and the “war” supporters mad

[we say we’re in a war, but the outcome depends on what other people do.]

Hanson’s brain has flatlined [“His liberalism—meaning his horror of identifying an actual enemy, as distinct from the fictional, fascist, enemy—forces him to keep veering all over the place to avoid making true and consistent statements about the nature of Islam.”]

Denial, to the nth degree [on FP’s “Islomofascist Awareness Week]

The parallel frauds of liberalism and conservatism [The war against “Islamofascism” is to conservatives what Sam Francis’s “anarcho-tyranny” is to liberals.]

Really, really extreme [the fictional war against fictional Islamofascists]

Masters of (fictional) War

The McCain candidacy reveals the essence of Bushism: the promotion of a non-existent war for which we must sacrifice everything

The Surge

The Surge—a collection [November 2007]

The surge [December 2006]

The eternal surge [September 2007]

The debilitating dream that never dies [September 2007]

The unreality of our Iraq policy—and of the thought process required to defend it [September 2007—excellent analysis of how we mistake an endless process for “success”]

What is the failure we fear? What is the success we seek? [september 2007]

On the Petraeus testimony [September 2007—my fullest consideration of the surge at its best]

Iraq update [November 30, 2007, status of surge]

The official story on Iraq, then and now [December 2007—the reversal in our strategy from “A will lead to B,” to “B will lead to A,” but both are equally illusory.]

Does victory over al Qaeda in Iraq mean victory in Iraq? [July 2008—while victory over al Qaeda in Iraq seems imminent, GIs and Iraqis in Baghdad say the relative peace in Baghdad is only a lull which will end when the surge ends.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 19, 2009 02:00 PM | Send

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