I don't think we will know if the war in Iraq was a success or not until many years, decades even, after we are gone. If, for example, a few years after we leave, Iraq breaks down terribly and alliances that are very much against our geopolitical interests are formed, that won't be a success, will it? We just don't know yet if it is a success or not, and furthermore, if things do break down, we will have no way of knowing if an alternative path would have produced a better outcome -- we can't run the alternative scenario and find out.
I hope it is a success, let there be no mistake about that, but I just don't see how we can say anything beyond so far so good, and we'll see how it goes from here.
So, there we have it. The consequence of the Perfect Storm that never came. The Republicans used the Surge™ successfully as a propaganda tactic to postpone political reckoning for losing a costly war. And, at least part of the liberal blogosphere, apparently, is primed to blame the Democrats, who withdraw, for the civil war that follows. When the Iraqi Civil War breaks out, the American Media, of course, will focus on the destruction of bloody destruction of Iraq and its society, in a way that they never, ever did during the years in which the American Occupation was destroying that unfortunate country.
"Hoping" that Iraq "has been a success" reveals a weak-mindedness in Mark Thoma of the Economist's View, shared by, unfortunately, an apparent majority, including a large number of Democrats.
We know right now, if we are willing, morally, to face the simple, hard facts, that the War in Iraq has been a catastrophic failure, enormously costly in blood, honor and money, and unproductive in anything but corruption and destruction.
Iraq may well recover to some degree in the future, and in the interim, absent an American occupation, Iraq may well have its civil war. Neither eventuality is properly an outcome measure for the U.S. The outcome of the Iraq War is now. The outcome is the need to recover, and the apparent inevitability of a civil war.
Personally, I am no pacifist, nor am I an isolationist. I actually think the U.S. should have a foreign policy, which is not so different from the foreign policy George W. Bush says we have: promoting democracy, ready to oppose military dictatorships with international cooperation and even armed force, etc. My objections are not to what Bush says, but to what Bush has us do. I object to the cynical corruption, which directs a war to profit Halliburton, a company that wasn't even willing to remain American. I object to torture as a policy. I object to the cavalier disregard and disrespect for international treaties, obligations and institutions. Above all, I object to the incompetence and stupidity and irresponsibility with which great power has been exercised.
I am disappointed with Mark Thoma's willingness to go along with the Bush propaganda, which asserts the narrative trope that we cannot know the outcome, as a way for distracting attention from the reality in front of our eyes. We can know the outcome. The outcome is now. The only question is whether we have the moral substance to face the realization of the consequences of our evil.
I've watched the news media bully Barack Obama on "the success of teh Surge" and am disappointed that the Democrats have not found any way to puncture this propaganda offensive. The Surge has been successful, alright, in the only way it was intended to be successful, as a way of extending the war long enough, that Bush would not be forced to withdraw within his term of office.
Mark Thoma asks if we will learn the right lessons from Iraq. I am afraid he answers that himself, and in the negative. The Surge was intended to prevent the American People from learning the outcome of the War in Iraq and from blaming the politicians most responsible. In that it succeeded. It succeeded as a public relations offensive, even if it accomplished no more than a costly delay, from a military perspective.
After a Democratic Administration withdraws American troops from Iraq, the full power of the right-wing propaganda machine will be turned on the Democrats, to prove that Obama "lost Iraq", snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, wasted the sacrifice of the brave troops whose Veteran's Benefits the Republicans have been trying to cut, etc. No matter how brief the inevitable Iraqi civil war may be, it will be treated in the news Media as bloody and destructive, in ways never acknowledged in U.S. Media for the bloody and destructive Occupation. That Civil War will be an "outcome" of the withdrawal, but, somehow, not the long-postponed "outcome" of the American invasion and occupation, which did so much to destroy the civil institutions, infrastructure and economy of the country.
I have some reserve hope that Americans may be gradually awakening to how easily they are manipulated by these propaganda narratives, and an escalation in critical thought, fed in part by the blogosphere, will change what the body politic "learns". But, today, I am a bit discouraged.