Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Declaring Victory in Iraq

One of the more enticing aspects of blogging is it's propensity for taking an idea or concept from a single individual and transforming it into something of a viral phenomena. We've witnessed it here firsthand in an impressive fashion (impressive by my standards, anyway) with Munz' own Antilibrary post (in which Nassim Taleb's concept was made viral) which still realizes both the occasional link and visitation some seven months after being published.

A recent example of an idea or concept going viral is ZombieTime's declaration of November 22, 2008 as Victory in Iraq Day.

By every measure, The United States and coalition forces have conclusively defeated all enemies in Iraq, pacified the country, deposed the previous regime, successfully helped to establish a new functioning democratic government, and suppressed any lingering insurgencies. The war has come to an end. And we won.
Various justifications are given for this claim. A sample:
"THE WAR IS OVER AND WE WON:" Michael Yon just phoned from Baghdad, and reports that things are much better than he had expected, and he had expected things to be good. "There's nothing going on. I'm with the 10th Mountain Division, and about half of the guys I'm with haven't fired their weapons on this tour and they've been here eight months. And the place we're at, South Baghdad, used to be one of the worst places in Iraq. And now there's nothing going on. I've been walking my feet off and haven't seen anything."
I'd encourage all to read the post in full for a complete context.

The concept here is interesting. In lieu of official recognition of America's victory in Iraq by the outgoing administration and in an effort to deprive the incoming administration from claiming victory in a war they clearly identified as lost, ZombieTime has subverted the traditional method of triumphalism (via the state) and placed in the hands of the populace.

Sounds a bit sensational, doesn't it? Fine, but scroll down that post and give a look at the viral property this concept has attained. Over 200 blogs have hopped on board in a matter of hours. I'll go out on a limb and predict the MSM picks up on and reports about this within a week.

I've clicked on some of those linked at ZT and have found little more than popular compliance, which is understandable given that all have likely argued in favor of America's Iraq war and are happy to join a popular coalition of this sort. But the best conversation I've yet read regarding this movement is first entailed at CIID:
The point that I was trying to develop over there before I used up my share of John’s patience was that fear of being crucified for triumphalism and hubris should the enemy muck up one’s predictions of success causes strategic communicators to give the domestic target audience unenthusiastic, hesitant, unconvincing, caveated, asterisked, weasel-worded CYA explanations of what (they think, but they may be wrong, don’t shoot them they’re only the messsenger) has been accomplished in Iraq, along with timid suggestions (just a thought, In Their Humble Opinion, YMMV) of possible future successes which just might possibly (Imshallah, don’t hold us to it, the enemy gets a vote) lead to a generally positive conclusion to whatever the hell we’ve been doing over there for the last 5 freaking years.

C4 quite obviously understands that victory in asymmetric warfare (4GW) is as dependent upon the American populace as it is upon any political or kinetic effort in Iraq. The tragic Madrid bombings is, in my opinion, the quintessential lesson on the potential effectiveness of a 4GW operation as its consequence saw Spanish population boot Prime Minister Jose Aznar (who'd commited troops to Iraq) in favor of the leftist Rodriguez Zapatero, who after being elected yanked Spanish troops out of Iraq.

The John that C#4 refers to is aka the Armorer who commands the milBlog, Argghh! and was a tad reticent (see commentary) to embrace this concept of declaring victory. I'd encourage a full read of the commentary, but here's a snippet via John that illustrates his reasoning:
But my muted sense of success is because... this isn't a binary outcome war, no matter how much we would prefer a nice clean ending.

The reality is, in this kind of war, we can get a clean ending by losing, but winning will be measured over years and decades.

Just as the triumphalism of the victors regarding WWI was, shall we say, somewhat overshadowed by the unanticipated Part II?
The dramatic and infamous aircraft carrier landing and subsequent unfurling of a "Mission Accomplished" banner upon the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln may have been a political faux pas but it wasn't entirely inaccurate. In terms of what John refers to as binary warfare, it was dead on accurate. American forces had quite handily eviscerated Iraq's military and destroyed the Baathist regime. As is mentioned in a related and subsequent post at Argghhh!, the essence of a "clean" victory ended when the US chose to stay on and realize it's core objective.

Beyond the popular rhetoric that core objective was not the arrest of WMD proliferation (a subsidiary goal designed to entice an international coalition under a UN mandate) nor was it the "profiteering" offered up by both mainstream and prominent left wing ideologs and their sycophantic followers. Rather the effort was to destroy an aggressive, violent and secular Arab regime and realize a stable, Arab, pro-western regime.

The regime of Saddam Hussein was, strategically speaking, the most realistic choice for this effort. His Arab neighbors hadn't forgotten his expansionist nature in the '90's, his Persian neighbors certainly hadn't forgotten his war of aggression in the '80's and the US hadn't forgotten about his various violations of UN resolutions nor the attempted assassination of their President in Kuwait in 1993. Add the use of chemical weapons against Kurds in Halabja and the general tyranny of his rule and you have a regional pariah whose populace is aching for liberation.

In essence Iraq was to be Americanized in a fashion similar to that of MacArthur Americanizing Japan at the conclusion of the Second World War. After destroying the conventional resistance and securing a semblance of both diplomatic closure and political dominance (a wise, bastardized version of the American Constitution with caveats in our favor) America would realize it's westernized, Arab partner in the middle east and the GWOT would enjoy an new, localized satellite of both strategic convenience (dead center of the ME) and political sympathy. Iraq was to be the focal point of the GWOT not because AQ in Iraq was bomb-pounding mini-buses full of civilians but because Iraq was a transformed global citizen, progressive, westernized and more than willing to host both an American military and political presence in the middle east. The shortcomings that failed to immediately secure this type of victory are and have been discussed ad nauseam and for the sake of brevity won't be reinvented here. The now realistic concept that a strategic transformation has redeemed this initiative and rendered it no longer a lost cause has also been covered ad nauseam and includes the term "Surge" and a reference to the finest of American Generals by the name of Petraeus. I can only hope that this General Ray fellow takes the baton and does well by it.

That's my abbreviated take on the "why" of the Iraq war. That's also what I consider to be a true victory in Iraq. I won't besmirch C#4 and ZT et al's efforts to undermine rhetoric and excite a defiant popular insistence of victory. It's a noble and, as mentioned, rather effective effort to belie both the enemies tactics and the shortsighted political rhetoric that has attempted and failed to define our efforts in Iraq as that of a hopeless endeavor. President elect Obama should thank his lucky stars for the economic crisis as it presented political leverage to balance out his defeatist rhetoric during the early months of the campaign.

However, the idea that fighting a new method of war maintains the old method of victory is, from my perspective, fallacy. Settling sectarian violence is not equitable to signing a declaration of our enemies surrender and sending the boys back home. Quite the contrary, it's a beginning. A positive beginning but a nascent sort none the less.

My analysis of what defines the Iraq war is purely subjective, but still it is what I believe. The concept of victory is beyond the defeat of an insurgency and entails the shift in security responsibility from American forces to our Iraqi counterparts. In this respect I'd be a bit disingenuous in tossing my lot into the VI initiative. Victory in Iraq will be defined by domestic, political functionality. When Iraq realizes a functioning Sunni/Shia central government that allows a federalist autonomy to the Kurds (imagine China's assertion of autonomy regarding Tibet is real) that will be VI from my perspective.


Adrian said...

Beyond the whole concept of victory in Iraq being irrelevant, if you are talking about victory in Iraq then I have two words: Mosul, Kirkuk.

"Reticence and humility are appropriate attitudes for losers." (From the CIID link)

So, the appropriate attitude to create a winner is arrogance and brashness? "We will be greeted as liberators." Those attitudes is what got us bogged down in this mess in the first place.

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

The appropriate attitude to create a winner, Adrian, is confidence.

The appropriate attitude having won is pride.

It ain't bragging if you can do it.