May 21, 2013
So This Is What Victory Looks Like?
Posted on Jul 7, 2009
By Scott Ritter
The incompetence, corruption and futility of the U.S. occupation of Iraq are matters of record. America has failed in Iraq, a fact many Americans recognized when they voted for change in 2008 by electing Barack Obama over John McCain. And yet today these same Americans appear to be as self-deceiving as those who supported George W. Bush’s attempts to spin the tragedy of the American experience in Iraq as something noble and worthy of support. To date, the war in Iraq has cost more than 4,300 American service members their lives. Tens of thousands more have been physically wounded or permanently scarred by the psychological horror of participating in the Iraqi conflict. We’ve stopped seriously trying to count the number of Iraqi dead, with estimates ranging from 100,000 to more than a million.
Even before the U.S. “withdrawal” from Baghdad, acts of violence in that city and elsewhere were on the rise. There is little doubt that the many Iraqi enemies of the government of al-Maliki will soon try to flex their muscle. Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence is all but assured. Some Iraqi military units will, at least initially, perform well; others will not. Neighborhoods once secured by U.S. occupiers will fall out of the control of central Iraqi authority. The more the Iraqi military tries to suppress this dissent, the more the dissent will grow. Though major U.S. combat forces are currently out of Baghdad, there is little doubt that there will soon be a call for their return, in force, either to respond to an ambush of a U.S. convoy supplying the American Embassy enclave in central Baghdad or to bail out the Iraqi military when it fumbles its effort to suppress the opponents of the government.
Iraq, for President Obama and his military leaders, is a lose-lose situation. There is no path toward military victory there today. With American forces out of the major urban areas of Iraq, the next step for Obama is to complete the planned withdrawal on schedule, with most U.S. forces leaving Iraq in 2010. This will be impossible to accomplish if America finds itself sucked back into the urban centers of the country to maintain the false perception of stability created through the surge.
The biggest challenge in Iraq facing the Obama administration is not to fall victim to the need to be seen as victorious. Victory today can be measured only in terms of mitigating the consequences of failure. There will be no “Battleship Missouri moment,” with the forces of a defeated Iraqi insurgency lined up to formally surrender. Instead, America will have to deal with the reality that, no matter how we spin facts, President Bush’s ill-advised Iraqi adventure has ended in defeat. Whether this defeat is memorialized with imagery reminiscent of the U.S. retreat from Saigon, with helicopters pulling the last occupiers from the roofs of the American Embassy in Baghdad (unlikely), or repeats the pathos of the Russian retreat from Afghanistan, with a convoy of American troops crossing over into Kuwait in orderly fashion (more likely), there is no victory to be had in the classic sense.
New and Improved Comments