Health care is the big f'in deal today (and good on ya, Joe Biden), but there exists other news in the world. Two other big events happened last weekend, and they deserve a mention, too: the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and a huge march on Washington for immigration reform. I'll tackle the second in a separate post, probably tomorrow, because I have a lot to say about it. Now, though, let's talk about the little war that couldn't end.
Yes, "just" seven years ago, there was this:
WASHINGTON, Thursday, March 20— President Bush ordered the start of a war against Iraq on Wednesday night, and American forces poised on the country's southern border and at sea began strikes to disarm the country, including an apparently unsuccessful attempt to kill Saddam Hussein. Mr. Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday night, about 45 minutes after the first attacks were reported against an installation in Baghdad where American intelligence believed Mr. Hussein and his top leadership were meeting. ''On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war,'' the president said.
Seven years, nearly 100,000 deaths, and more than $700 billion later, where are we? On course for some kind of withdrawal in 2011 and having just completed a contested election that could leave Iraq more closely allied with Iran than with the U.S. Yes, I feel safer.Anthony Shadid has a nice meditation on the meaning of voting, and of the new Iraq, in the New York Times. He writes:
For many people calloused by the breathtaking carnage of 2006 and 2007, Iraq today seems a far more peaceful place. The war indeed may be over, at least the conflict for communal survival. But today’s far more ambiguous political struggle, perhaps no less dangerous, is still ordered by the sentiments that propelled intercommunal killing.
This will continue. The violence of 2006 and 2007 happened in large part between U.S. forces and Iraqi insurgents, some of them part of Moktada Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Sadr's followers seem to have taken the majority of seats in the mostly-Shiite Iraqi National Alliance in the recent elections, holding a block second only to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's party. This means that every thin possible hope the American government had at the beginning of the war toward creating a Western-friendly Iraq has now been dashed: the country is set to be ruled by the prime minister, who wants closer cooperation with Iran, and the Sadrist-led INA, who will cheer for nothing more than the expulsion of Americans from the country.
The legacy of the Iraq War is still to be written, but some lessons are already pouring in. Strategy cannot be ignored in favor of operational or tactical considerations. What are we doing there? What is our goal? What could have been done differently? What could we still do?
Why can't we answer these questions, seven years later?