The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

Why Iraq Still Matters: Remarks to the Montgomery County (VA) GOP

The Iraq War is not the foremost issue in voter’s minds right now. A floundering economy has eclipsed the “Iraq question” as the top issue in the American electorate. However, there are many reasons why you should still be concerned about our mission in Iraq, and a few things you can do to ease those concerns.

The current strategy in Iraq-the surge of forces that began in early 2007-has succeeded above and beyond what anyone could have realistically expected. Because of the resolve of the Iraqi people and the strength of our military men and women, violence has reduced enough to allow reconciliation and political processes to continue, and to allow Iraqis to begin seeing the fruits of a fledgling, yet prosperous, economy. In keeping with the “return on success” theme, all of the surge brigades and two additional Marine battalions have returned back stateside, with an additional 8,000 troops to return by February 2009.

Two of the most common falsehoods you will hear about the Iraq conflict are that “the Iraqis need to begin to take responsibility for their own security,” and that Iraq should begin to shoulder more of the costs of their own reconstruction and security. Both Barack Obama and Joe Biden have highlighted these points in their recent debates. The facts are these:

To date, eleven of eighteen Iraqi provinces-most recently, the former terrorist stronghold of Anbar-have been returned to the control and security of the Iraqi government. The first province passed to Iraqi control-Muthanna province in southern Iraq-was passed in July 2007, a few months after the last surge brigades arrived in Iraq. Two more provinces are scheduled for transition back to Iraqi control in November, with the remainder to be transitioned by May of 2009. The Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi Police, who hold responsibility for security in the transitioned provinces, benefit from the increasing confidence of the Iraqi people. 65% percent of Iraqis say they feel secure when they see the Iraqi Army in their neighboorhoods, and 61% share that sense of security when they see the Iraqi police. These are 8% and 14% increases in the trust of these respective organizations. The Iraqis have taken the lead on maintaining their own security, and 63% of Iraqis now feel confident that their national government will continue to improve the security situation.

The 2008 Iraqi budget, passed in April, includes $9 billion for security. This represents a 23% increase over the amount budgeted in 2007. The Iraqis have, with each succeeding budget, increased their expenses for reconstruction and security in their country. Oddly enough, the recent surge in oil prices worldwide have benefited the Iraqi people, and they recognize that the profits they recieve through the global oil trade should be first committed to rebuilding and continuing to secure their homeland.

The question of whether not the surge has succeeded, just like the question of whether any military action in Iraq was justified in the first place-is no longer relevant. What is relevant now is what will be left to the next administration to ensure that our success there continues.

The next president will have to deal with a continued, though substantially weakened, terrorist and extremist presence in Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq, while knocked down, has not been completely knocked out. Malign Iranian influence-arming, training, funding and directing insurgent activity-poses the greatest current threat to the security of Iraq. Local militias, such as the Mahdi Army, could restart their activities. The Sons of Iraq-groups of Iraqi citizens who have taken responsibility for security in their individual cities, have not been accepted into the Iraqi Security Forces, even though their successes locally greatly contributed to the overall success of the surge.

On top of these elements, the Iraqi people will again head to the polls sometime in 2009. While recent elections have been conducted with minimal violence, sectarian elements among the Iraqi people could split or completely fracture the government, and threaten to undo the reconciliation and political progress made to date.

Before taking command of Multi National Force-Iraq in 2007, GEN David Petraeus said “The way ahead will be very hard. Progress will require determination and difficult U.S. and Iraqi actions. But hard is not hopeless.” Today, we have the hope for a strong, stable, and secure Iraq that we did not have a year ago. On the home front, we have made the difficult decisions and the sacrifices that allow us to speak of “victory in Iraq.” And as we head into our own elections, there are three things we can all do that will move us closer to that victory.

 The first is to realize that Iraq is a front in the War on Terror-not a separate war. Stabilizing and securing Iraq will not be the final curtain on the struggle against terrorism and religious extremism. Much more work remains before we can declare victory over those elements that wish to see-and do-our country ill.

 The second is to support the military, regardless of political feelings. The military is the only remaining apolitical organization in the government today. The men and women who wear our country’s uniform swear to obey the orders of the president, regardless of his political affiliation. As citizens, the least we can do is pledge our support to them, regardless of ours.

 Finally, the last thing we can do is support those candidates that offer the best plans and visions for the military. As voters, we face a critical choice in this election: whether to continue on a path that has yielded success, or bow to political whims and step back to the path of failure. On the Iraq question, the litmus test is not Republican or Democrat; but victory or defeat.

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Written by Coby Dillard

October 7, 2008 at 6:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Hi D., what’s your view, as an observer and former military man, on what “victory” will mean, and other what conditions you would change your definition of “victory” or your evaluation of the cost/chance of accomplishing “victory”?

    Is it even legitimate to conduct a cost/benefit analysis of a continuing war? On a moral level, we are repulsed by the idea that car manufacturers might calculate whether the benefit of air bags is worth the cost. But the reality is we do these cost-benefit calculations all the time — the problem is when we misjudge the benefit or the cost.

    Right now I have an abstractly similar feeling about Iraq as the economy: a series of very bad, early mistakes have multiplied out over time such that the amount of resources necessary to fix the problem is staggering. I don’t see a painless way out of our current economic situation; nor one for Iraq either.

    D. I define “victory” as a strong, secure and stable Iraq. “Strong” being the ability to project both offensive and defensive force, “secure” being the ability to protect itself and its citizens, and “stable” as having a form of government that passes power peacefully. That definition really can’t change, regardless of the situation on the ground. The flipside is, that it’s a lot easier to achieve than people want to believe. 1/3-the “strong”-of the desired end state already exists (I could be overly optimistic and say 2/3s); the “stable” is the one part that’s still up in the air.

    You’re wasting time doing a cost/benefit now; that’s better left to history.

    And yes, this is what I was working on. Presentation was a lot different, and I didn’t name names when I gave it.

    Anderkoo

    October 8, 2008 at 9:11 am

  2. btw is the speech you were working on recently?

    Anderkoo

    October 8, 2008 at 9:11 am


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