Monday, May 30, 2011

War & Remembrance: Iraq on Memorial Day

This essay by Walter Russell Mead is being linked around a lot, so I thought I'd join in. It's a Memorial Day reflection on the Iraq War that dares to say what should be obvious: America won the Iraq War, and the world is a better place for it.

The Americans who served, suffered and died in Iraq — and who still serve there today — changed the world and won a great and a difficult victory. No account of their service, no commemoration of the dead that ignores or conceals this vital truth is enough.

To celebrate a momentous victory in Iraq is not to acknowledge that President Bush was right to go into Iraq when and how he did; it is not to justify or excuse the years of poor choices and strategic fumbling before the President found the generals who knew how to win. (One can say the same thing, of course, about President Lincoln. Like most great leaders, he failed his way to triumph.) I supported the invasion because I believed Colin Powell’s solemn assurances about weapons of mass destruction; I continued to support the war despite the absence of such weapons and the chaos and incompetence attending the occupation because I believed that vital issues were at stake in Iraq, that defeat was unacceptable, that victory was not nearly as unattainable as the hand wringing, pseudo-smart choruses of despairing ex-hawks so cluelessly and insistently asserted, and that if nothing else we had a duty to the Iraqis and to ourselves not to leave the country without giving it a fair chance to shape the future for itself.

Because of President Bush’s steadfastness, because of the military genius of General Petraeus (or Betray Us as the keen wits and intellects at so memorably called him as, to their frustration and fury, the evidence of victory began to appear) and his associates, because of the professionalism and honor of American officers, and above all because of the dogged courage, patriotism and humanity of the extraordinary men and women who served in the ranks, we won the war.

Mead notes that the vociferous Iraq War critics will make it impossible to write a "true" account of the war and its aftermath because they will work desperately to preserve their talking point that George Bush "lied" us into an "illegal war" that we "lost." Honestly, do we really have to put up with that? Do the 4,000+ Americans who died in Iraq really have to have the value of their sacrifice dependent on the say-so of the Paul Krugmans of the world?

Democrats were, of course, scurrilous and perfidous in their opposition to the war. Many of them voted to approve the use of force, even as they clearly salivated at the prospect of finding a 21st century My Lai to wave in the face of those of us foolish enough to believe in American Exceptionalism. Yet that has been their pattern since Viet Nam: they are always against the wars that America is fighting at any particular moment. If the war is not in our national interest (Bosnia or Kosovo), or the war is never gonna happen in a million years (the invasion of Darfur), then liberals are all for it. If the war doesn't fit those criteria, forget it. None of this should be a surprise.

But you know who was surprised? Republicans in the Bush White House and in Congress. They never seemed quite able to fight back against the endless smears against the military, the intelligence services, government contractors, or anyone else brave enough to spend time in Mesopotamia. Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld have admitted as much to which I can only say: thanks a freaking lot. How can you send thousands of young men to one of the ass ends of the world only to let them be undermined by the likes of Ted "Open Under New Management" Kennedy? The anti-war crowd had the Lion of the Senate. We had...Scott McClellan?? Talk about a messaging problem.

I've made it a habit of referring to our having won the war in Iraq. I think it's something that everybody on the Right should be doing. Let the Left rant about WMD's and Abu Ghraib and Haditha until they are blue in the face. Then, calmly repeat that we won the war.

It's the least we can do for those who gave all.

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