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Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s myths about Iraq

Rajiv Chandrasekaran is a Washington Post reporter who has written extensively, and inaccurately, about U.S. involvement in Iraq. Years ago, I criticized his reporting here, here, here, and here.

Now, for the tenth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, Chandrasekaran is back with what he claims are “five myths about Iraq.” His analysis is as distorted as ever.

Parts of Chandrasekaran’s piece are just silly. For example, he cites as “myth” the claim that “the Americans have all left” Iraq. Not so: 220 U.S. military personnel remain.

But has anyone said that every last American military-type has left Iraq? Chandrasekaran’s argument is a bit like saying I didn’t clean my house because I failed to dust the nightstand in the basement guest room.

Turning to more important questions, Chandrasekaran deems it a myth to say that “the troop surge succeeded.” He agrees, as he must, that the surge helped bring about a sharp decrease in sectarian violence. But another goal, he insists, was to bring about a grand bargain between the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. This hasn’t happened.

By the same kind of reasoning, Chandrasekaran could argue that the Union’s Civil War effort didn’t succeed because, although it defeated the rebellion, it didn’t lead to a harmonious reconstruction or to real freedom for most southern Blacks. Under any fair-minded analysis, a military operation succeeds if it accomplishes its core military objectives, even though some hoped-for political consequences don’t follow.

The military objectives of the surge were (1) to curtail the sectarian violence that was tearing Iraq apart and (2) to deal a major, Sunni Arab assisted blow to al Qaeda (a goal Chandrasekaran neglects to mention). The surge accomplished both. That’s more than good enough for government work.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has staged a comeback. But that’s due to post-surge developments including decisions by the Obama administration. The revival of al Qaeda in Iraq does not demonstrate that the surge didn’t succeed, any more than the rise of the Ku Klux Klan shows the Civil War effort to have been a failure.

Tomorrow, I will attend an AEI program that looks back at the Iraq war. I hope, as a result, to have more to say about the surge and related matters.

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