The opposite is also true. Below is the Griffon roller-coaster at Busch Gardens. It reminds me of our perceptions of Iraq over the last years.
Iraq is getting play in the news again, but the narrative is wrong. Some commentators – covering for their earlier dumb statements – disingenuously say that we don’t know what would have happened if we had followed the defeatist advice in 2006 and pulled out instead of surged. Anybody who has been to Iraq knows that we would be in a big mess today. The proper answer for the erstwhile surge opponents is to say that they were seriously wrong last year, but that they see the error in light of events and will work with conditions to take advantage of the success brought about by policies they opposed. I certrainly would not hold their earlier mistakes against them, but I don’t think I will hold my breath waiting for the truth.
The media correctly points out that w/o the Sunni Awakening and the decline of the Shiite militias we would not enjoy the success we do today. Lots of thing contributed to success. W/o the surge, however, Al Qaeda would have cut the head off Sunni leaders, as they did in 2005, and the Shiite militias would never have gone into decline. When you win, you get some of the things you want. That is what winning means.
Some people just cannot understand joint causality and that some conditions are indeed necessary but not by themselves sufficient. I have lived in Anbar for awhile now and met people involved in the Awakening. They hate Al Qaeda with considerable passion and we certainly could not have defeated the bad guys w/o their help. But w/o our help, THEY could not have defeated the bad guys either. Our friends would have been isolated and killed individually or in small groups, along with their families, and others would have been intimidated into silence. I don’t have to speculate about this. We saw that such things happened in 2005 and we still could see them happening on a smaller scale even in the time I have been in Iraq.
Let me be as blunt as I can. The surge worked. Those who opposed the surge were wrong. I feel justified in being so nasty because of all the defeatism and negativity we had just a year ago – about the time I was deciding to go to Iraq myself. I will not accept that those who told people like me that we were stupid for thinking we could win in Iraq – and chumps for volunteering – can now pretend that the success in Iraq would have happened anyway.
I believe in looking to the future and I don’t dwell on this to justify the past. Historians can sort out the details in the fullness of time. But we are still in the midst of this project and we have to keep our eyes on the ball. AQI and the bad guys are on the run, but they are not defeated. They are like an infection that has been weakened by penicillin. We are feeling good now and it is tempting to declare that all is well, but if we stop before the job is done, the disease will return, stronger and more deadly.
The success of the surge is giving us the options of bringing home troops – in victory – and of getting the Iraqis to share more of the burden. But it is important to remember HOW we got to this point and don’t pretend that it was just luck.
Re Afghanistan –Foreign fighters that until recently headed to Iraq now are on their way to Afghanistan. Why? Because they know they are defeated in Iraq. If WE had been defeated in Iraq in 2006, they would still be going to Afghanistan, but with greater confidence & resolve and in greater numbers. Iraq and Afghanistan are not the same war, but they are linked. Al Qaeda & other terror organizations send fighters and bombers to both places. Foreign terrorists fight us where they think they can hurt us. That WAS Iraq when we were weaker there. It may be Afghanistan now because our success in Iraq has made it too hard for the bad guys there. It could also, BTW, be New York or Washington. We control them by opposing them. That is just true. If we keep the imitative, we have more choices about WHERE we fight them, but we do not have a choice about IF we will fight them.
People who support extremists respond to the same sorts of pressures and incentives as other people. When being a jihadist is easy and it looks like success is at hand, lots of people want to volunteer or at least be on the winning side. As it gets harder or more dangerous, this support dries up. Fighting terrorists does not create more IF it is done properly. Please see my note from yesterday.
Extremist ideologies decline only AFTER they have been defeated or discredited. Nazism didn’t decline by itself. It went into terminal decline after it was defeated by force of arms. Until then it looked like the wave of the future. In 1941 things looked different than they did in 1945. A similar dustbin of history fate befell Soviet Marxism. Although in their case it was primarily an economic and political defeat, these forces were backed by forty years of resolve and strength on the part of the U.S. and our allies, without which Soviet communism would have blotted out the sun of freedom over a much wider area for a much longer time. Why does anybody think extremist jihadists would go away without a fight? They are standing on the edge of the precipice. Let’s make sure they fall off.
BTW – when we do succeed in this endeavor, let’s not think it is the end of history. We went down that path in the 1990s and it didn’t work out.