Now that the Surge has been indisputably successful, and the debate is mostly about what one does with that success going forward, it’s possible to have more intelligent and dispassionate discussions of what has happened, is happening and should happen in Iraq.
Here are two examples that were side-by-side on the WSJ‘s opinion pages this morning:
- Francis Fukuyama’s "Iraq May Be Stable, But the War Was a Mistake," in which he tells of a $100 bet he lost. He had predicted in 2003 that at the end of five years, Iraq would be a mess of the sort that "you’ll know it when you see it." Of course he lost, and paid up. But he is not giving ground on whether we should have gone into Iraq to start with. He still says that much-larger-than-$100 gamble wasn’t worth it.
- Jonathan Kay, in a book review of The Strongest Tribe by Bing West, describes how local U.S. commanders in Iraq understood from the start what it would take to succeed as we now have. But they were hampered by a SecDef who ironically had a little too much in common with the antiwar folks:
Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary until November 2006, was focused from the get-go on bringing the troops home and insisted that "the U.S. military doesn’t do nation- building."
It was only after Bush got rid of Rumsfeld and then decided to do what the likes of Petraeus and McCain advised did our success begin.
Probably the most compelling part of the review is at the beginning, where a passage describing what it was like to be a gyrene in Fallujah in 2004 was quoted at length:
"Imagine the scene. You are tired, sweaty, filthy. You’ve been at it day after day, with four hours’ sleep, running down hallways, kicking in doors, rushing in, sweeping the beam of the flashlight on your rifle into the far corners. . . . there’s a flash and the firing hammers your ears. You can’t hear a thing and it’s way too late to think. The jihadist rounds go high — the death blossom — and your M4 is suddenly steady. It has been bucking slightly as you jerked and squeezed through your 30 rounds, not even knowing you were shooting. Trained instinct. . . . ‘Out! Out!’ Your fire team leader is screaming in your face. . . . [He] already has a grenade in his hand, shaking it violently to get your attention. . . . He pulls the pin, plucks off the safety cap, and chucks it underhand into the smoky room."