Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Michael Yon Says the War is Over. Which War?

This means the troops can come home, right? Because, after all--that's how victory is measured, or is it not?
Independent reporter Michael Yon has spent more time in Iraq embedded with combat soldiers than any other journalist in the world, and a few days ago he boldly declared the war over:
Barring any major and unexpected developments (like an Israeli air strike on Iran and the retaliations that would follow), a fair-minded person could say with reasonable certainty that the war has ended. A new and better nation is growing legs. What's left is messy politics that likely will be punctuated by low-level violence and the occasional spectacular attack. Yet, the will of the Iraqi people has changed, and the Iraqi military has dramatically improved, so those spectacular attacks are diminishing along with the regular violence. Now it's time to rebuild the country, and create a pluralistic, stable and peaceful Iraq. That will be long, hard work. But by my estimation, the Iraq War is over. We won. Which means the Iraqi people won.

I’m reluctant to say “the war has ended,” as he did, but everything else he wrote is undoubtedly true. The war in Iraq is all but over right now, and it will be officially over if the current trends in violence continue their downward slide. That is a mathematical fact.

The civil war? The war against al Qaeda in Iraq? The war against the Mahdi Army? The war against the dead enders and the insurgents who weren't initially called insurgents? I don't think any of these people know which war ended and which war is about to start.

Then there are the facts on the ground--a snippet of that indicates to me that there are still issues:

Guerrillas launched a series of bombing campaigns in the eastern mixed province of Diyala and in the northern city of Mosul on Tuesday, killing at least 40 and wounding dozens. In Diyala, recruiting stations for security forces were hit, as potential recruits lined up. In Mosul, likewise, the targest were Iraqi security forces. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had sent the new Iraqi army up to Mosul, where it is encountering heavy resistance in the form of bombings and sniping from Sunni Arab guerrillas, some of them apparently neo-Baathists. Diyala is violent and the government is saying that it will send troops there, too.

Michael Yon is hardly "independent." And I wouldn't say the Iraq War is over. I think the American political will to continue sacrificing American lives has ended. So we're going to declare victory and get the hell out as fast as we can. But for Juan Cole, we'd never hear about the violence, would we? The media went to sleep and John McCain never had to pay a significant price for his 100 years in Iraq gaffe. He's being bailed out by people who were going to bring our troops out no matter what.

Consider this a lull. A lull created by over four exhausting years of continuous combat and civil war, beginning in the first part of 2004 when the insurgency matured around Shia and Sunni cadre that could organize better and more lethal attacks. We are only 29 months past the bombing of the Golden Mosque, perhaps the attack that served as the catalyst for carrying out comprehensive ethnic cleansing in Iraq. Once that cleansing was completed, the violence subsided, along with payouts to the Sunnis to stop attacking us and political maneuvering between the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi government. The idea that the surge solved all of this remains ludicrous--we didn't surge nearly enough troops to make a difference. What we did was create an illusion that we did something, and people like Michael Yon are applauding the results of that illusion.

Meanwhile, Americans never stop having to die for these lies.


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