For all the criticism and mistakes (yes, there were too many mistakes), there is one thing that is clear now.
Former President George W. Bush alone assured the U.S. will be victorious in Iraq.
I know, liberals can’t stand that, but it is a fact. Without Bush, we wouldn’t have been in Iraq, and I think most of us agree it was a mistake to go in the first place. But considering every major Democratic leader supported the war (except Barack Obama, who had nothing to lose by being against the war at the time), this was a bipartisan effort to invade Iraq. However, when the going go tough, the liberals jumped ship. Harry Reid proclaimed the war was lost. Barack Obama insinuated as much. John Kerry said that our troops may return in shame. Joe Biden called for dividing the country and leaving. Nancy Pelosi said that victory was not an option.
They were all dead wrong.
After the 2006 elections where the public clearly told the government that they want to alter the course in Iraq, President Bush did. But not the way most expected. Instead of pulling out of Iraq or starting a phased withdrawal as the Iraq War Commission requested, Mr. Bush did the opposite. He adopted the General David Petraeus (and to some extent, John McCain) belief that a surge of troops could end the uptick of violence, and bring potential peace to Iraq.
George W. Bush was right.
He may have taken one of the biggest gambles in presidential history. If it had failed, the U.S. would be in much worse shape politically and militarily than we are now. We would be facing imminent defeat, which would have assured terrorists victory, and likely resulted in Iraq becoming a failed state.
Today, everything is better in Iraq. 60% of Iraqis say that things are improving, and will be better next year. The Washington Post reports that the country’s foremost Shiite politician, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has formed an alliance with Saleh al-Mutlak, an outspoken Sunni leader. It is a development that suggests “the emergence of a new axis of power in Iraq centered on a strong central government and nationalism” – a dramatic change from the sectarian passions that fueled so much bloody agony in 2006 and 2007. This shows the growing unity in the country; though not perfect, it is a start.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. And Mr. Obama’s Iraq policy is identical to that of Mr. Bush. Sure, Obama has a 16 month (well, now 20 month, but who is counting…) timeline to pull troops out. But Bush’s defense department had similar withdrawal plans, just they were contingent on presidential approval. So, basically no substatiative difference. The forces agreement stands in place. And there is no significant change in troop positions or tactics. In other words, Mr. Obama is continuing the Bush Iraq policy to a T.
Additionally, we shall see if Mr. Obama, supposedly the smartest man in the room, can do a better job in Afghanistan and Pakistan than Bush did in Iraq. With a surge on going in Afghanistan, and more intervention possible in Pakistan, Obama will have to earn credibility on the issue. Liberals and conservatives are already drawing the battle lines, with conservatives largely backing Obama’s decisions. Politics makes strange bedfellows.
Only time, maybe counted in decades, will tell how the Iraq War will be viewed. I like many think that in hindsight it was a mistake, but it could have positive repercussions. Mistakes are a fact of life; you live with the decisions you make. Others were willing to cut their losses at that point, and accept defeat. President Bush was not. Iraq is on its way to being an albeit imperfect democracy, but a democracy none the less. Violence will always exist there, especially with terrorists states and groups along all of its borders. But will it provide a relatively peaceful environment for its 25 million citizens? Will it no longer prove to be a threat to its neighbors? Will it join the international community as a equal member in good standing? The answers to all of these is likely yes.
And no amount of liberal angst will change the fact that this is primarily because of George W. Bush.