Commentary Magazine


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Re: Where Is This Story?

I second you heartily, Jennifer, and wanted to add some thoughts of my own.
The offensive in Mosul, and the larger success in the struggle against AQI,  are achievements of staggering importance. Iraq is, after all, the nation which al Qaeda itself made the central battleground in the war against jihadism. Everyone, on every side, knew the stakes of the struggle. If al Qaeda prevailed against America in Iraq, it would rightly rank among our allies and our enemies as among the most important victory jihadists had ever attained.

Not long ago it became fashionable to declare that Iraq was a finely concealed trap set by bin Laden; that, as the author Peter Bergen declared, bin Laden had defeated President Bush; that the war in Iraq was the best recruiting mechanism al Qaeda could have ever hoped for; that Iraq set back the war against terrorism in incalculable ways; and that the victory by al Qaeda in Iraq was a crushing blow against American credibility.

The war itself was lost, it was said; all that remained to be determined was the exact terms of our surrender. Some wanted a full-scale retreat, others embraced the Baker-Hamilton report as the vehicle for our retreat, while still others argued that Iraq needed to be partitioned into three separate ethnic regions (Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish). Countless pundits, members of almost the entire foreign policy establishment, and virtually the entire Democratic Party believed Iraq was in a death spiral from which it could not escape.

Those counsels of despair were not only premature, they were, it turns out, quite wrong. And rather than the Iraq war being a massive set-back in our struggle against militant Islam, it is now plausible to argue that it will be, on balance, a net plus.

The final verdict on the Iraq war is as yet unknown. Iraq, for all the indisputable strides it was made in the last year, remains a fragile nation. A series of unfortunate events could turn the wheel the other way. Nor does the success of the so-called surge and all the good that has come as a result of it excuse the enormous planning failures when it came to the occupation stage of the war. The Iraq war has cost us far more in blood and treasure than it ever should have. Nevertheless, driving Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country is, in the words of the Times of London story, “the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.”

That war will go on, as will the struggle for the future of Islam. But we are in far better shape than anyone could have imagined during those difficult days in early 2007, when most of the nation and the political class had given up on Iraq.

President George W. Bush, General David Petraeus, and the brave men and women serving in Iraq, almost alone, did not. All three deserve our gratitude and respect for having saved Iraq from descending into civil war and unending grief, and for having dealt al Qaeda a blow from which it might not recover.