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Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 07:21 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 07:21 | SYDNEY

Victory in Iraq? It's all relative

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This post is part of the Defining victory in Iraq debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

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9 February 2010 14:17


This post is part of the Defining victory in Iraq debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

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. 

In the same vein, Jim Molan says the counterinsurgency is finally, as wars go, a success. But when hundreds of Iraqis are routinely being killed (and more injured) every month by insurgents, I would argue that the counterinsurgency has been successful in relative but not absolute terms. And the latter is what we should be looking at more closely, because only Iraqi security forces will be able to achieve absolute success. 

My point is that the political measure of success appears to be the ability to withdraw US troops, not the security of the Iraqi population. By adopting this measure, Western commentators tend to conflate withdrawal with success, with little regard for the circumstances for the Iraqis left behind.

I wrote in October about the willingness of people to draw a line under Iraq because US combat deaths were now rare. But as attention has now irrevocably switched to Afghanistan, there is too little examination of what has been left behind in Iraq because we just want to 'move on'.  

I agree that there is little point in re-fighting the Iraq war, and it will ultimately be up to historians to decide on the long-term national and regional consequences of the decision to invade that country. As far as the Iraq invasion is concerned I strongly disagree with the use of the term 'victory' because I don't believe that the final chapter has been written yet. And until it is, we should be very careful in describing anything in absolute terms.

PS. Since I wrote the initial post four days ago, another 43 civilians have been killed in insurgent attacks in relatively peaceful Iraq, taking the total so far this month to 123. No US soldiers have died in Iraq in February.

Photo by Flickr user MATEUS 27:24&25, used under a Creative Commons license.

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