The Economist published a rather tepid estimation about the entire effort of Iraq. I have to admit that the President has done an admirable job of shutting down the war and shutting up everybody about it. From my perspective, the entire Iraq enterprise has basically faded into obscurity. I haven't thought about the entire enterprise in retrospect from a geopolitical standpoint for a number of reasons, mostly because I do not percieve a coherent theme in the Administration's actions which sustains active analysis. Obama is a canny balancing act among crushing themes of his own choosing, but he doesn't respond to the world I care about with anything more than a chummy populism.
What I have learned greatly about the past years of this sort of wartime America is that it passes beneath penetrating analysis on a set of minimally relevant, yet maximally memetic political themes. A stunningly obsessive amount of blather and ink has been wasted on the term 'WMD', something I noted that GWBush seemed to have invented and the entire political class digested as if they had been using it their entire lives. And so I have endured that polarizing debate more times than I care to remember.
There were endless tangents that occupied our attention as we occupied Iraq in the pre-sovereigty phase of Bremer's deBaathification disaster. It was during that period when I followed the paths of battles - First and Second Fallujah, and the fate of The Wanker, Moqtada al-Sadr. Like most supporters of the mission to liberate Iraq, I was acutely interested in the lack of battle reportage and the timidity of most reporters, embedded or otherwise. I was disappointed in the prejudice against the American military's abilities and conduct as exemplified by the outsized disgust over this or that looted antiquity and whose head got burned on that hot hood of a Hummer. And these mealy criticisms grew to a crescendo culminating most seriously in ultimately dismissed charges against Marines accused of a 'massacre' at Haditha.
I expected all American interest in this war to end rapidly as the number of troops killed surpassed the number of victims of the 9/11 attacks. But I didn't expect that so little of the nation's focus would be on matters tangential to the actual results of the most important fact of the war - that counter to the Baby Bin Ladin Theory which predicted conflicts breaking out all over the Middle East in response to the presence of American forces in the area, Iraq became the center of gravity for all of the region's Jihadis. In that regard, this was the war that Americans like me wanted, and our generals gave every Jihadi the opportunity of their suicidal desires. That we had to drain the swamp in Iraq amongst the deathly emnity of deBaathified Iraqis and civilians gave patriots and dissenters all of the moral ambiguity any war is bound to provide. Nothing exemplified the mess like the matter of Abu Grhaib.
The fundamental difference between Iraq and normal war seemed to be something most opponents I encountered didn't much bother to concern themselves with. What we never did in Iraq which we always do in 'Geneva Conventional War' is to treat every one of the enemy male population of fighting age a potential soldier. In that case, the American army would move through a town and capture or kill every one of them. That's how you capture a town and control territory. But in our pre-Surge ROE, we had a hybrid and failing apporach which proved an ineffective counter-insurgency. We rousted all those men from their beds, queried them on the spot and let them go, or cycled them through - based on our whims and reckoning - soon overcrowded prisons. The same ones Saddam used against his political enemies.
And so critics of the Bush Administration's war aims and conduct had a field day in the media accusing America of torture and breaking the Geneva Conventions. This all happened as a direct consequence of our troops NOT using artillery and continuing shock and awe. So we didn't kill, we mass arrested, taking sniper bullets and IEDs in the long, arduous and increasingly unpopular process. The spillover domestically with controversies surrounding AG Gonzales, warrentless wiretaps, GTMO and conspiracy theories and controversies around Dick Cheney, Valerie Plame, armor appropriations, John Murtha and a dozen other political fires smoldered for years as the entire nation politicized itself over the merest provocations, squabbling like brats while the Greatest Generation still lived.
For all that, you'd think that the following administration would make use of the successes and promise more than the previous. But that failed to be the case. No redeeming value has been articulated beyond the obvious. Saddam is dead and we're outta there. And so we are left to our own interpretations. There is obviously a great deal more I might say about the US in Iraq. I have long held that the great triumph of GW Bush, which I still hold to be the case, is that he managed to raise and keep high the respect most Americans have for its military. No longer were our primary military actions shrowded in secrecy and contemptible deniability. Bush said in front of the world, these are our enemies, this is what we intend to do, follow or get out of the way. That's the kind of leadership armies deserve and it is what they got. WMD might have been an abused and misfortunate term, but Axis of Evil remains potent and relevant to this day.
America showed success in both overwhelming global projection of shock and awe as well as success in COIN through the Sons of Iraq, and Petraeus has mastered that flexibility in extraordinary capability and style. We generated capabilities appropriate to the facts on the ground and executed, ultimately against tyranny and for democracy. But it was a failed revolution, and speaking for myself as a neocon, I have certainly come to understand that liberty's revolution can be sponsored best only after it is authored. Bush was not the author of Iraq's liberty - so his legacy as a liberator is dubious. But his leadership left no questions in American minds as to what lengths are required.
I may be chastened to know that liberty is not on the minds of many people on this planet as clearly and primarily as it is in mine and in those of my political cohort. That political statisticians at the Lancet could get people around the English speaking world exercised about 'excess death', and subversives like Assange at Wikileaks continue the counternarratives does not come as a surprise. I have found a new source of inspiration in the concept of revolution for liberty and armed struggle through my associations with new political allies to my left. There always remains that thing, encapsulated in our own American Revolution, worth fighting for. Today and soon those battles come to a close under our initiative and leadership on the ground in Iraq as the political promises and aims of the current President are fulfilled by closing that door. Our endgame is set and we leave the field of battle for freedom and come home to fiscal matters.
Iraq stands today with a sterling example of its future in un-partitioned Kurdistan, and the taste of freedom in its mouth behind its bloody face. I think this is the last war my generation will stand for the sake of anyone other than ourselves. It is the last gift that will stand without a much more imperial demand of self-interest. It is the last time we'll spend any money trying to clean up somebody else's mess. And in that regard marks the decline of America, an America that has managed to forget the purpose of its own freedom struggles. I am not convinced at all that this current political majority will gain strength and permanence. Those who understand the demands of liberty, including the two million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are far too deeply immersed in that life and death understanding to suffer in silence under the political will of a majority inspired by notions of peace through speeches.
So after seven years I am sanguine about the details known by those who cared to find out, motivated and inspired by those elevating spirits that the quest for liberty always brings. Let those who care little mind their own business.