What was Iraq like at the end of the Bush administration. David French of NRO was there, in the roughest parts. Here’s what he says:
I remember what Iraq was like in late 2008, when I left. My unit. . .had largely cleared out one of the last areas of al-Qaeda dominion in Iraq. At high cost we had taken thousands of square kilometers back from enemy control, broken the back of enemy resistance, and given the local population the chance to live something approaching a normal life. Want a measure of our success?
When we arrived in November 2007, in Diyala Province (labeled the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq by the al-Qaeda forces in control) every time any convoy rolled out of the gate, it had a greater than 25 percent chance of enemy contact — IEDs, ambushes, or sniper fire. When we left in late September 2008, that chance was down to approximately 1 percent.
Good men died making that progress. Friends and brothers, all of them.
But that’s not to say that al-Qaeda was completely defeated. Even as we prepared to hand over the battle space to an incoming unit, al Qaeda struck one last blow – killing a very dear friend of mine when our troopers cornered a senior leader.
The bottom line was that Iraq was under control, but still in a state of low-intensity war. Iraqi forces, with the help of small groups of American advisers and — in extreme circumstances — American air power, were more than capable of handling large-scale threats from jihadists but weren’t yet capable of stopping all violence (and, indeed, may never have been). The situation was stable, and — here’s the key — sustainable.
Yes, to sustain it would have required the continued presence of American troops, and those troops may have sustained occasional additional casualties, but that’s the price we pay to secure hard-won victories.
It’s the price we paid in South Korea, French reminds us:
Our South Korean ally was so stubborn, so difficult to deal with, that it initially refused the armistice agreement that ended the most brutal phase of the Korean war, requiring America to essentially force compliance. What followed — as an allied Army continued to stare across the DMZ at hundreds of thousands of hostile troops — was a long-term low-intensity conflict that cost at least 98 additional American combat deaths and 814 American non-combat deaths.
Violence flared again along the DMZ in the 1960s, including one incident when a North Korean MiG shot down an American electronics warfare aircraft, killing 31 airmen. I’ve served in South Korea, and just a short walk around Seoul demonstrates the value — the humanitarian necessity — of the American sacrifice in that country.
Should we have pulled out of Korea and left what was to become one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies and one of the world’s top economies (with a vibrant Christian community) to be swallowed into the abyss of North Korean totalitarianism? If President Obama had followed President Eisenhower, that’s exactly what he would have done — and proclaimed success even as South Korean cities burned.
Fortunately, our presidents, both Republican and Democrat, preserved our hard-won success in South Korea. It wasn’t the easy thing to do, but it was the right thing.
President Obama opted for the easy thing. In doing so, he has given away what brave Americans gave their life to win.
Indeed, Obama has disserved our Iraq War veterans both coming and going. Barring a reversal in Iraq, he has rendered their sacrifices a virtual nullity and he has failed to provide so many of them with the health care they were promised.
What a guy.