On the eve of the Iraqi elections
Readers may want to listen to an NPR broadcast describing what will probably be heavy turnout of voters in Fallujah and throughout the Sunni triangle. Or read a post by Captain Ed called Has The War Turned The Corner ... At Home?. Alastair Macdonald of Reuters now talks about what experts foresee may be irritants of long term US basing agreements with the new Iraqi government. Closer to the ground the Mesopotamian tells us which candidate he will probably vote for, and why, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The discussion has shifted almost unnoticed from the question of whether the US will win in Iraq, a goal recently denounced as impossible by Howard Dean, to a debate about the consequences following it.
Some pundits will now qualify their past analysis to say that predictions America would be defeated in Iraq did not really mean a military defeat like Vietnam, when NVA tanks rammed down the presidential palace gates in Saigon, but a more subtle political defeat, still certain, yet to come. One of the nice things about discussing post-modern warfare is that definitions of defeat and victory have become so elastic that the one may be impersonated by the other. Yet historical revisionism cannot amend the fact that once doubt has entered into the church of defeat there is no return to perfect faith. Honest men of the Left must recognize that the US might actually have already won the military battle, a horror in itself; and even worse, might actually win the political fight ahead.
David Ignatius of the Washington Post is still uncertain about the wider victory. But he is no longer doubtful, if he ever was, about the wisdom of the fight. He wrote, in his emotional salute to the recently assassinated Lebanese politician and writer Gebran Tueni:
The shame for America isn't that we have tried to topple the rule of the assassins but that we have so far been unsuccessful. ... it's still there, in the shadows of the shadows. George W. Bush gets a lot of things wrong, but he knows that he's fighting the assassins. On days like these, I'm glad that he is such a stubborn man. ... Amid the Bush administration's mistakes and lies about Iraq over the past three years, it's easy to lose sight of what is at stake in this battle. But this week brings it back to square one: It's about breaking the power of the assassins. ... People like the Tuenis who refuse to be intimidated should inspire the rest of us. So should the millions of Iraqis who will vote tomorrow. They are trying to break the culture of intimidation and death. Americans should feel proud to be on their side.
And what he feels, apart from pride I think, is a resurgence of hope. The most lasting achievement of enemy propaganda in Vietnam was to destroy hope; to eliminate any possibility of the conception of victory, so that in the end it became, as it did for Howard Dean, a bad word. For that reason it necessary to rescue the idea of victory from its fallen state, not to revive it as gaudy triumphalism, but to restore it as a real measure of achievement; and to recognize in it the fruit of sacrifice. There's a distance yet to go, but -- and let no one deny it -- a long road behind.