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The U.S. Lost the Iraq War

The U.S. lost the Iraq war by any reasonable definition.

Pete Wehner writes a typically delusional response to a recent George Will column:

On Iraq, he’s simply wrong. Because of the success of the surge, the Iraq war–unlike, say, the Vietnam War–was won [bold mine-DL].

This is just pitiful. Bush loyalists will believe whatever they want to believe, but their self-serving spin has to be rejected for what it is. The Iraq war may not have been “the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history,” as Will claimed, but it ranks among the four or five worst blunders in the annals of the United States. It was an unnecessary war, it had nothing to do with securing the U.S. or its allies, and it has manifestly made the region less stable and secure than it was before the invasion. The U.S. paid an appalling price in thousands of lost lives, tens of thousands wounded, and trillions of dollars wasted on a fool’s errand to “disarm” a government that had been disarmed years earlier. American soldiers were sacrificed year after year in the name of creating a democratic government in Iraq only to usher in a sectarian, semi-authoritarian regime whose abusive misrule helped to create the current conflict. Along the way, millions of Iraqis were displaced internally or forced into exile, over a hundred thousand died, and most of the rest have been living in a failed state for more than ten years.

The U.S. lost that war by any reasonable measure in that it threw away thousands of American lives and more than a hundred thousand Iraqi lives for the sake of creating a wrecked, impoverished country ruled by sectarian thugs. The “surge” served the purpose of allowing American politicians to pretend that this hadn’t happened in order to extricate American forces from the debacle sooner rather than later. Daniel Bolger made a related point earlier this week in his assessment of the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

The surge in Iraq did not “win” anything. It bought time. It allowed us to kill some more bad guys and feel better about ourselves. But in the end, shackled to a corrupt, sectarian government in Baghdad and hobbled by our fellow Americans’ unwillingness to commit to a fight lasting decades, the surge just forestalled today’s stalemate.

To the extent that the “surge” ever “worked,” it provided Americans with an excuse to leave the country that our government helped to ruin and created just enough of an illusion of stability to permit walking away from the disaster that Bush and his allies caused. Bush will never own up to his responsibility for this disaster, and apparently neither will many of his supporters. That is their failure. No one else has to share in it.

Maybe it would be “interesting” for Will to give a more complete accounting of when and how he came to be so disgusted with the Iraq war, but it would be even better if dead-ender Iraq war supporters such as Wehner stopped offering laughable apologies for the worst foreign policy failure of the last generation.