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Which Is The Good War, Again?

Iraq is the good war, Afghanistan the bad. So says State Department coordinator for Iraq, David Satterfield, according to timesonline.com. The evidence is substantial. The past six months in Iraq have brought not only a semblance of order to the chaos, but also the beginnings of political cooperation. The violence that continues to flare is restricted to a much smaller region than the country-wide theatre of one year ago. Meanwhile, the Afghanistan effort grows ever more hobbled by a self-restrained NATO, resilient Taliban, and political bedlam. From the Times:

It is the nature of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has many deficits not present in Iraq. Iraq is a wealthy country, it has resources, badly used, but it has resources,” he said. It is rich. Iraq, for all its difficulty in unifying politically, has many quasi-democratic, recognisable political forces. Afghanistan has warlords,” he said.

Funny how Satterfield’s description of Iraq recalls the very points made by those of us who were optimistic about that country’s chances for democracy when the war began. Surely, this counts as pre-war intelligence of the non-laughable variety.

Satterfield also points out: “today more Iraqi citizens in more areas of Iraq were more secure than at any time since the US invasion in 2003.” One should add that with pre-war estimates of state-murdered civilians at between 20,000–25,000 annually, more Iraqi citizens in more areas of Iraq are more secure than at any time in the past thirty years.

One wonders how this novel flip-flop will play out politically. Will Hillary Clinton insert Afghanistan for Iraq in all her upcoming speeches? Not likely. That would be an acknowledgement of the fact that she’s based her withdrawal rhetoric on a sense of defeat rather than on having been lied to. But then, if public sentiment shifts, she’ll be sure to follow.

However, it’s most useful to think of these wars not in terms of good and bad, but as improving and waiting to improve. If General Petraeus moves to Central Command (as Max Boot suggested), he could inspire the clarity and ingenuity allowing us to call them both good wars.



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