“What Happened to Iraq?”

Victor Davis Hanson:

Suddenly there are no longer any more litmus tests — remember the Democratic primary bickering in autumn 2007? — over who was, and was not, always against the war in Iraq. There are no more hearings in which a Sen. Obama or Clinton seek to outdo each other in grandstanding condemnations of the war effort.

We see no more discounted “General Betray-Us” ads in the New York Times. The protestors on our street corners have taken down the “No blood for oil!” signs and replaced them with “Hands off Iran!” placards. A Sen. Durbin or Rep. Murtha is quiet about supposed American war crimes and cruelty. That Barack Obama said he wanted all U.S. troops out by March 2008 is quietly forgotten.

In other words, it is now a good time to reflect back on the last five years of conventional wisdom about the war. When the histories of the Iraq War are written — in contrast to the dispatches published in mediis rebus by critical journalists and born-again antiwar critics — expect to see a much different narrative from the conventional ignorance that became the gospel these last five years.

I don’t think that even Hanson himself has listened to more antiwar and pro-defeat blather, and staunchly rebutted it, than I have. I’m serious. In fact, I don’t think that anyone that I know of or have even heard of has ever bothered to use, as I have, the United Nations Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 1441, to attack the Left’s ground argument that this was an illegal, unjustifiable, unnecessary war. It’s not clear to me that anyone, except perhaps those who drafted it, has ever bothered to read 1441 in detail, understand it in relation to the resolutions that underlie it, see its clarity vs. its ambiguity, or bothered to find its most important core purpose, which was to apply the laws of nations to the criminal regime in Iraq.

After the fall of Baghdad no one expected an insurgency, at least not in the form it took. Civil war, as serious observers knew, was always a possibility. But the insurgency as it took form was at first a difficult puzzle to solve. And so there were a few terrible years in Iraq, which the anti-American Left jumped on with near glee and allowed itself every conceivable wild argument it pleased, as the Left always does, as it consciously and unconsciously seeks to “increase the contradictions.”

And in the midst of what could still pass for legitimate dissent I saw real treachery, and I called it that. I will always call it that.

Iraq’s recovery and success to this point is fragile. It is a country that turned back to a state of nature, to the war of all against all, and has come back now to form a reasonably modern civil society. The first principle of counterinsurgency, by my interpretation, is to get the people to turn against the violence, the terror of the insurgents, and give them civil institutions of order to turn to. I began saying this back in 2003: the great army in Iraq is civil society.

That is what George Bush and General Petraeus sought to establish, in the middle of the Middle East, replacing the most destabilizing regime in the most unstable and destabilizing region in the world, with a functioning civil society. If it holds, history will recall that they did it in an impossibly brief period of time with bold vision and iron will.

It’s in that very spirit of civility that I’ll restrain myself the next time I hear some ill-informed, ah, person go on about “Boooosh.” Boooosh kept his eye on the ball and did his duty.

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