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Monday, June 16, 2008

Is the war over yet?

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Before Barack Obama can get his presidential hands on the Iraq War, it might end, not in disaster as he figures, but in an American victory.

He, his fans and much of the media haven't noticed in the heat of the presidential campaign, but the war is winding down, if not nearing its end. Fewer military and civilians killed or wounded; fewer insurgent attacks; more order and security, especially in such troubled areas as Basra and Sadr City; more reconciliation; improved quality of life, and—not the least—greater liberties.

Still, Obama's perspective remains unchanged. There's no accommodation to changed circumstances, only his iron-willed pandering to anti-war voters. As of this writing, his campaign's Web site proclaims: "Obama would immediately begin to pull out troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of next year." Who knows, at the pace of progress in Iraq, maybe the troops could come home even quicker. But for Obama to withdraw troops faster than his stone-set timetable, he would have to acknowledge the progress Iraq has made. And explain how he would continue that progress. He would have to be as responsible as The Washington Post, which in a June 1 editorial noted: "Don't look now, but the U.S.-backed [Iraqi] government and army may be winning the war." The Post, ever critical of the policies of President Bush, could never be confused with drooling neocons.

No one should be uncorking the champagne and breaking out the ticker tape, and it is convenient for me—a war supporter—to quote the Post when it supports my position. So, let's turn to the Brookings Institution's "Iraq Index," which from the start has tried and succeeded to be the war's most objective observer.

It shows that civilian deaths, which a year ago numbered in the thousands a month, are down dramatically, although the hundreds still dying are way too many. Also dropping remarkably is the number of U.S.troops killed and wounded.

The number of Iraqi forces deployed is steadily increasing while the number of attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces is down dramatically. So is the number of Iraqi police and military personnel killed each month. The number of joint security stations and combat outposts, which are security checkpoints in strategic areas throughout Baghdad and manned 24 hours a day by U.S. and Iraqi security forces, has more than doubled. The number of multiple fatality bombings has dropped considerably, testimony to the greater security brought by the surge.

There have been no kidnappings of foreign nationals—once a standard tactic for insurgents—for the last year. Attacks on Iraqi oil and gas personnel and installations (e.g. pipelines) have nearly disappeared. Measures of political and press freedoms have improved appreciably, more children are attending school, more judges are being trained. Quality-of-life indicators have improved. Gross domestic product is more than twice what it was before the war. There has been an explosion of telephone and Internet use, of independent media and car ownership.

Since the surge has succeeded, war opponents have redirected their criticism: The Iraqis, critics say, have made no progress on the political front, which was supposed to be the point of the surge. The Iraq Index authors, Michael O'Hanlon and Jason Campbell, don't agree; they see a glass half full. On a scale of 0-to-1, the authors give a score of 0.5 to six benchmark categories dealing with de-Baathification, amnesty, purging extremists from government, security-force hiring, distribution of federal funding to provinces and allocation of provincial powers. Progress on issues dealing with Kirkuk, a permanent hydrocarbons law and provincial elections scored zero. In other words, progress on political benchmarks totaled five out of a possible 11. Not bad when you consider it took America 11 years after its independence to set up a workable form of government in the Constitution.

This is not to say that Iraq isn't a violent, dangerous place. And, of course, serious problems remain, such as inflation and unemployment. But Iraq isn't the same place that it was a year ago, which is one change that Obama needs to recognize.

Instead of just talking about change, Obama should start showing how he will adapt to change and continue the progress that the Bush administration achieved in Iraq.


Anonymous said...

Dennis Byrne,

There is no dearth of fools - you pick one brick and find 12 underneath it.

Your comment that we may be winning Iraq War - how gross a misrepresentation.

Neocons are still spend your an mine hrad readned dollars to the tune of $12Billionper month - yes 12 billion per month - and you tghink you have a brain better than a monkey? Get real you "damned fool".


Stephen Schade said...

Mr. Byrne:

Obama has it right. You obviously have not studied the issue thoroughly.

All wars have periodic lulls. The current one does not mean that we are on the verge of winning.

Moreover, the surge has had nothing to do with the current reduction in fighting. Shiites have laid down their arms only because Sadr has ordered his militia to stand down. Sunnis have quit fighting because we are buying them off. Even the most ardent neocons do not think that the two sides will stay apart once this money dries up. That is why they are not crowing about it; they realize how tenuous the peace is.

Even uberhawk John McCain no longer sees victory as a possibility. He now says that merely reducing casualties is the goal.

Of course, if we are really as successful as you claim, why not pull out right now?

Anonymous said...

It seems the very smell of victory is anathema to half of the country. Of course it is not the victory so much as the identity of the victors. The Iraq War has shown the Left to be a reactionary, insipid and hypocritical institution to its core. The militarist expansion of Saddam's Iraq, the rape rooms and human shredders, the finance of explicitly anti-American terror... these are all things in the past and if it were up to our Lefties, mutts that they are, the situation would be reversed. These curr, cowards and malingerers all, bark about Love and Peace and Happiness but it will do nothing to defend them and much to support our self-described enemies; even when they themselves have to do nothing they will impede and slander the better men and women who will. Numero Uno there is George W Bush.

Drew80 said...

This was a provocative article, and I enjoyed reading it very much, but Obama is too much a Hard Leftist to adapt to a changing situation--and neither are his supporters, to judge from the first two comments.


lake county democrat said...

The much maligned Thomas Friedman has it right: we can't stay forever and we can't leave immediately (both would have horrible consequences). We should anounce a withdraw date pretty far in the future -- maybe 1.5 years -- if we start pulling out immediately and genocidal killing breaks out, the world isn't going to "blame the victim" (Iraqi civilians who didn't court death by "pushing their elected officials" harder), they'll blame us for getting tired of a war we (not George W. Bush, we as a nation) started.