What's happening at the
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 09:10 | SYDNEY
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 09:10 | SYDNEY
Debates

Defining victory in Iraq

5 Feb 2010 11:19

I don't think I have seen the words 'victory' and 'Iraq' used in the same sentence since President Bush declared in 2003 that the 'Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror...' But having read Sam's link yesterday to a piece by Chris Kenny I was a bit taken aback to find out that the US is going to be victorious a second time:

Even those who opposed the Iraq war should recognise that America leaving the country victorious, with a relatively peaceful and functioning democracy in place, is far preferable to the war having been lost.

I nearly coughed up my falafel when I read this because there is so much to contest about it. I won't go into the meaning of 'victorious' because that's an essay in itself. But when you have lost nearly 4,500 dead and over 30,000 wounded, spent untold billions of dollars, but did not achieve the aim of the invasion (finding WMD, I think — it was so long ago), calling it a victory is 'interesting'.

COMMENTS

8 Feb 2010 17:20

Chris Kenny writes:

Rodger Shanahan makes clear his revulsion at the 'tragedy of the Iraqi adventure' and the audacity of anyone finding something positive to say about ongoing efforts to stabilise that country's future.

But he dances around the one point I made about Obama's Iraq policy; that is, simply, that the orderly withdrawal of US troops owes more to the success of George W Bush's surge strategy than to any decisions taken by the Obama Administration.

I pointed out that Democrats and our own Labor Party opposed the surge strategy and preferred a humiliating exit for the US. This would have seen the US leave in unambiguous defeat, it would have left Iraq in an even more precarious position and it would have emboldened terrorists everywhere.

Whatever Shanahan thinks of Bush's original decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein, perhaps he would at least concede that the surge strategy has allowed an orderly American drawdown and a more stable platform for the establishment of a democratic Iraq.

COMMENTS

9 Feb 2010 09:57

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

Rodger Shanahan has locked horns on the subject of victory in Iraq, a small aspect of Chris Kenny's article on how tough Barack Obama is. (Ed. note: here's Kenny's reply to Shanahan.)

Of course the stated aim of the war was related to WMD and there were no WMD. Of course there were probably other ways (over the long term) of isolating Iraq, controlling or finding out about WMD, and they were not used. Of course the cost to the participants was high in terms of life and treasure, and there is no point (particularly for the families) in mentioning that by duration, size and intensity, this must be one of the lowest casualty wars in history. Of course you cannot wage war with the aim of regime change and expect ethical endorsement.

COMMENTS

9 Feb 2010 14:17

Far from 'dancing around' Chris Kenny's point that the surge set the military conditions for the orderly withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, I agree with him. My post had nothing to do with the merits of the surge, the success of which (along with other tactical and strategic levers that were employed) is self-evident.

Rather, my argument was that Chris' piece spoke in absolutes such as '(US) victory and a functioning (Iraqi) democracy', or in uncontrasted relativities such as 'relatively peaceful'. It spoke of the Iraq war in terms of its impact on the US, and equated victory with an orderly departure of its troops. 

COMMENTS

10 Feb 2010 10:35

What strikes me about the Kenny and Molan responses to Rodger Shanahan's piece is that, although both men seem realistic about the challenges of militarised nation-building and sobered by the setbacks suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither will countenance the idea that it is simply too hard to transform these places in the ways we would like.

In fact, the solution both men offer to the Afghanistan problem is 'more'. More troops, more money, more advisers, more political and diplomatic capital.

The disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan seem unable to shake this faith in the restorative capabilities of military force, so how about we go back a little further in history? Here's the American military commentator Andrew Bacevich:

COMMENTS