Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 17:51 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 17:51 | SYDNEY

Iraq: The audacity of punditry


Rodger Shanahan


This post is part of the Defining victory in Iraq debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

5 February 2010 11:19

This post is part of the Defining victory in Iraq debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

I don't think I have seen the words 'victory' and 'Iraq' used in the same sentence since President Bush declared in 2003 that the 'Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror...' But having read Sam's link yesterday to a piece by Chris Kenny I was a bit taken aback to find out that the US is going to be victorious a second time:

Even those who opposed the Iraq war should recognise that America leaving the country victorious, with a relatively peaceful and functioning democracy in place, is far preferable to the war having been lost.

I nearly coughed up my falafel when I read this because there is so much to contest about it. I won't go into the meaning of 'victorious' because that's an essay in itself. But when you have lost nearly 4,500 dead and over 30,000 wounded, spent untold billions of dollars, but did not achieve the aim of the invasion (finding WMD, I think — it was so long ago), calling it a victory is 'interesting'.

But leaving aside the notion of a victorious US triumphantly ceasing combat operations seven years later than it thought it had, and only having to leave behind a skeleton force of 50,000, I do take some exception to his view of Iraq as relatively peaceful. Relativity is a funny thing, and if Kenny's intent was to compare Iraq with, say, Afghanistan or Somalia then he may have a point.

But to say that a country in which 253 civilians were killed in December, 118 in January and 80 in the first week of this month is relatively peaceful is drawing a (relatively) long bow. And that's not to mention the Iraqi security forces, or the numbers wounded. Space precludes me from arguing the toss about a 'functioning democracy' (or is that a 'relatively' functioning democracy?).

But the best line from this 'we showed 'em' view of foreign relations comes after the Iraq section:

This leaves Afghanistan. And it is here that there are signs Obama may be learning about the audacity of strength.

Surely after the tragedy of the Iraqi adventure, armchair pundits should be more attuned to the limitations, rather than the audacity, of strength in campaigns in complex environments.

Photo by Flickr user mashroms, used under a Creative Commons license.