What's Gone Right in Iraq


As the United States prepares for the Battle of Baghdad, this may be a good time to reflect upon the Iraqi war so far. It has been noted, in the media and through commentators, that the war hasn't been the cakewalk that some people thought it would be. The Iraqis are resisting, even in Basra, even though Saddam Hussein might himself be dead. There have been casualties, suicide bombings, friendly fire incidents, and a near-outrunning of the supply lines.

In all of that bad news, it's easy to forget that the war hasn't gone as badly as it could have. The United States feared that the hundreds of oil wells in southern and northern Iraq would get torched. Less than a dozen have been destroyed. And while progress towards Baghdad has been slower than some expected, it has been one of the fastest advances in military history. Civilian casualties remain lower than the first Gulf War and, until this evening, the lights were still on in Baghdad and the water was still running (remarkable shooting, there). The humanitarian disaster that many expected hasn't happened, yet. For that, the coalition forces deserve credit.

My own dire predictions about Kurdistan and Turkish intransigence haven't materialized. This could still change, but the Turks seem to be yielding to American commands not to invade, and the Kurds are taking care not to appear provocative. If this pattern holds, the United States will have an easier time rebuilding the country and establishing a functioning democracy.

Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star has more to say on these encouraging developments.

So, the United States could bring this war to a close in the next two weeks or so, and they might be well placed to win the peace following the war too. As a person who questioned this war, I not disappointed, contrary to what some idiots have suggested. Anybody who believes that I supported Saddam Hussein simply because I questioned the merits of risking hundreds of thousands of American and British soldiers, not to mention millions of Iraqi citizens and the stability of the region, is most seriously deluded, even if in the end my fears weren't realized. Americans have the right to question the merits of a rushed-into war without being labelled treacherous anti-Americans, so why shouldn't I have that same right? Remember, when war started, I prayed for a speedy resolution and for the safety of the troops and the civilians. Perhaps my prayers were answered?

If my fears are not realized, I will be delighted. But if I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change a thing I said. Without the benefit of hindsight, the questions I raised were perfectly valid. They could have been even more valid if the coalition forces had been less lucky. And whatever questions I ask in the future will remain just as valid.

The war may be over within the next two weeks, but the struggle won't be. To win the peace, the Bush Administration will have to pay a lot of attention to rebuilding Iraq. The Bush Administration justified this war as a battle against a cruel dictator; will they follow through on their moral stance and work to produce a free and democratic Iraq? Will they accept assistance from the rest of the International Community, including members that they shunned? Or will their attention falter, as the drudgery of reconstruction fades from CNN's screens in favour of shots from the next shooting war?

We did a lot of good in Afghanistan, but there's a lot that still has to be done. We could do a lot of good in Iraq as well, but only if we pay attention, follow through and don't falter. It's one thing to win a war, another to win the peace. Don't ignore the protesters; you can win a war, but you can't secure a peace with soldiers alone.

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