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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 09:00 | SYDNEY

Iraq: Smells like victory

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31 August 2010 14:02

The recent withdrawal of the last US combat forces from Iraq and the equally recent reminder from the Al Qaeda affiliates across the country that they remain operationally active has elicited little in the way of introspection from commentators in this country. 

Australia left what seems a long time ago, well after public interest in our contribution had faded. If our much more costly military operations in Afghanistan rate such limited discussion in this country, it is hardly surprising that 'yesterday's war' is not considered newsworthy. Nevertheless, one would have thought that at least some discussion was warranted of what our contribution to the overall Iraq venture achieved.

Amid photos of soldiers giving the thumbs up and proclaiming victory as they leave Iraq, there are some who have a sense of the enormity of the problem that remains. In an earlier post, I was critical of those who conflated US withdrawal from Iraq with victory, so I watched with interest the US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, take the long view in a recent interview: 'To say whether we've won the war or not, we can see that in three to five years, as we see how Iraq turns out. I think we can call operations a success...'

In the good old days of 'classical war', successful military operations were the sole determinant of success. But as General Odierno has acknowledged, contemporary warfare among complex societies is about much more than military operations. And success or otherwise can only be measured after years, or even decades. 

I hope that if parliament ever gets around to debating our commitment to Afghanistan, speakers will have taken heed of General Odierno's words before they pen their own.

Photo by Flickr user tommigodwin, used under a Creative Commons license.

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