November 15, 2007
By Tony Blankley
It has become obligatory for both pro- and antiwar commentators
to never mention the possibility of victory in Iraq. The most that
antiwar people will admit is that the surge has gained a temporary
military advantage in a war that cannot be won militarily. The most
pro-war commentators will claim is that they see the possibility of
"success" perhaps, maybe, someday, somehow.
But as of Veterans Day 2007, I think one can claim a very real
expectation that next year the world may see a genuine,
old-fashioned victory in the Iraq War. In five years we will have
over-turned Saddam's government, killed, captured or driven out of
country almost all al Qaeda terrorists, suppressed the violent
Shi'ite militias and induced the Sunni tribal leaders and their
people to shun resistance and send their sons into the army and
police and seek peaceful resolution of disputes. And we will have
stood up a multisectarian, tribally inclusive army capable of
maintaining the peace that our troops established.
The reports coming out of Iraq in the last month suggest that we
are not yet there - but almost. As The Washington Times summarized
this week: "the Associated Press reported: 'Twilight brings traffic
jams to the main shopping district of this once-affluent corner of
Baghdad, and hundreds of people stroll past well-stocked vegetable
stands, bakeries and butcher shops. To many in Amariyah, it seems
little short of a miracle.' According to The Washington Post: 'The
number of attacks against U.S. soldiers has fallen to levels not
seen since before the February 2006 bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in
Samarra that touched off waves of sectarian killing... The death
toll for American troops in October fell to 39, the lowest level
since March 2006.' "
And on Thursday, the New York Times noted: "American forces have
routed Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Iraqi militant network, from
every neighborhood in Baghdad, a top American general said today,
allowing American troops involved in the 'surge' to depart as
planned." Investor's Business Daily assessed: Many military
analysts - including some who don't support the war - have
concluded that the U.S. and its allies are on the verge of
Last weekend Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that
violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites has nearly disappeared from
Baghdad, with terrorist bombing down 77 percent. This was confirmed
by Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. forces south of the
capital: "If we didn't have so many Iraqi people coming forward to
help, I'd think this is a flash in the pan. But that is just not
All of this is the result of the most underreported successful
military operation since the invention of the telegraph. (For a
detailed account of Gen. David Petraeus's, and Gen. Raymond
Odierno's counterinsurgency campaign see Kimberly Kagan's
meticulous article in the Weekly Standard.) But the point to take
away from the surge is that, though a brilliant military operation,
it was never just a military operation. Rather it developed a
political, economic and communications infrastructure that is
permitting local-level reconciliation. We are creating
representative governance from the bottom up - not from the Green
Zone down. Despite a frail and inept national government, the
people in the towns and provinces (under the tutelage of the U.S.
military,) seem to be forming order out of the chaos.
The victory will not have come cheap. According to the Associated
Press 3,861 American troops have been killed in Iraq. Last Sunday I
attended a Veterans Day commemoration at the Dallas-Fort Worth
National Cemetery. My only role there was as husband of the keynote
speaker. After the formal ceremonies, as we were chatting with
people, I had a conversation with a former Marine. He was there
with his eight-year-old son. He explained that his 21-year-old -
the oldest of his four sons - had been killed in combat in Iraq
just a couple of months ago.
He showed us a picture of his fallen son. He was a good-looking,
open-faced kid with a winning grin leaning out of his armored
vehicle. He died leading his men to the sound of the guns. He is
now buried there in that central Texas veteran's cemetery where
last Sunday a hard wind blew, snapping the many old glories that
stood sentry for our fallen warriors. And the eight-year-old -who
idolized his fallen big brother - can hardly wait to be old enough
to join up to finish his brother's job.(Of course, we know that in
this world, that job of warrior will never be done - as the postwar
period ever glides seamlessly into the new prewar period.) Standing
there surrounded by thousands of veterans' grave stones, and
looking into the faces of the bereaved, I think of these young
heroes who today are making victory in Iraq possible what Ronald
Reagan said of and to the men who climbed the cliffs at Normandy's
Pointe de Hoc (quoting Stephen Spender): "You are men who in your
lives fought for life - and left the vivid air signed with your
Tony Blankley is executive vice president for global public
affairs at Edelman International. He is also a visiting senior
fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the Washington Times
It has become obligatory for both pro- and antiwar commentators to never mention the possibility of victory in Iraq. The most that antiwar people will admit is that the surge has gained a temporary military advantage in a war that cannot be won militarily.
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