Was the Iraq War worth it?
By Jeff Lukens
They say if it bleeds, it leads on the nightly news. The recent silence from the mainstream news media on Iraq, however, is speaking volumes. While the war remains unpopular, our success there has been unmistakable. The Iraqi people, with the help of the U.S. led coalition, have succeeded in establishing the world’s first Arab democracy. Their achievement is a milestone in the war on terror and for the cause of liberty.
Beyond the Iraqi Constitution and the elections, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has emerged as the true leader of the governing coalition. He has battled and won against fellow Shiite and problem child Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia. The Sunni, Shiite and Kurd people work together in a national Iraqi Army. Together, they are taking their county back from the foreign insurgents that have invaded their homeland. Iraqi troops took the lead in clearing Basra and Sadr City, and are now finishing off the insurgent remnants.
No one likes to go to war, but even an elective war is sometimes necessary. With all the consternation these past years, President Bush may finally be able to say “Mission Accomplished” to what he originally set out to do.
This we know, Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. He even gassed his own Kurd and Shiite populations in the 1980s. What happened to those chemical weapons? Who knows? Whether they buried them in the ground somewhere or trucked off to Syria, we had every reason to believe he had them.
In the months leading up to the war, Saddam acted as if he were hiding a nuclear program by obstructing UN inspectors visiting his installations. We have since concluded that his nuclear program was still in its infancy, but we could not have known that then. Saddam’s power was in his bluff, but his bluff was called.
Following 9/11, we had to show we meant business in the fight on terror. Afghanistan fell quickly, but it was a sideshow. Look at any map of the Middle East and smack in the middle of it is Iraq. Think about it, if we could flip Iraq form a dictatorial state that sponsored terrorism to a democratic republic, there would be profound implications throughout the region. When most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, we needed to show Saudi Arabia, as much as anyone, our resolve. Regime change in Iraq was militarily and politically feasible, so Iraq was where Bush chose to make his move.
Saddam fell quickly too, but the subsequent insurgency dragged on for another five years. Though our casualties have been mercifully low, the political angst against Bush has grown virulent. Maybe Bush could have handled the occupation better, and the war should have been over more quickly, but our reason to go there was strategically sound. Bush made the proper decision with the urgency of 9/11 still fresh, and with the information available to him at that time.
In the early years of the Civil War, Lincoln lost battle after battle with a revolving door of generals who could not or would not fight Robert E. Lee. Lincoln finally found his general with Ulysses S. Grant who took after Lee’s army and ground it down.
Bush had a similar problem with Don Rumsfeld and generals who would not adapt to insurgents who did not wear uniforms and hid among the people. Bush finally replaced Rumsfeld and found his Generals in David Petraeus and Ray Odierno. The counterinsurgency strategy they employed made quick work of our enemies in Iraq.
Back in the U.S., however, liberal opposition to the war has at times reached hysterical levels and threatened to unravel all that we sought to achieve. Some things do not change. They have been acting this way since our days in Vietnam. And like our experience there, instead of finding ways to win they sought the worst possible outcome by unilateral surrender.
Liberals have never considered Bush a legitimate president. They have never gotten over the myth that the 2000 election was stolen. For them, Bush’s decision to enter into an elective war that took longer than expected was just too much. His presidency is too emotional a subject for them, and reasoning with them about any aspect of it has become nearly impossible. But for anyone who still cares and is willing to listen, what we are seeing in Iraq today is exactly what we set out to accomplish from the beginning — establish a beachhead for democracy in the Middle East.
Before the war, state sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East were Iran, Syria, Libya and Iraq. Today, only Iran and Syria remain — with a democratic Iraq located between them. And in the information age, don’t believe for a moment that the infectious seeds of freedom are not being sown in those countries and throughout the region. The promise of freedom for the oppressed is America’s greatest strategic weapon in this war. In due time, tyrants in those countries may come to fear their own people more than any army that may threaten them.
We must remember that the struggle in Iraq is only one campaign in the larger global war on terror. History will intimately judge, but yes, early indications are that President Bush’s victory was a worthy step in that overall goal.
Radical Islam is at war with the civilized world because of our tolerant values toward women, different lifestyles and different religions. For Americans, understanding the threat posed by this enemy, finding ways to triumph over them, and mobilizing public opinion to support that effort remain as challenges for the years ahead.
Jeff Lukens is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.