Short Term- Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorist, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.I would argue that conditions for this short term victory have already been met. Progress is being made. Suicide bombings fell in November to their lowest level in seven months. We are getting 10 times the number of tips from civilians than we were even a few months before. There are far fewer foreign fighters in Iraq due to the fact that we have killed a whole lot and fewer are able to come across the now more secure Syrian border. We are still taking casualties because we are systematically gaining control of terrorist safe havens but they are not retaking those areas so Iraq is getting smaller and smaller for them. Take for example Route Irish, the road to the Baghdad airport. One journalist once said when you can safely drive that road then you can believe the war is winnable. Well what was once the most dangerous route in Iraq is now one of the safest due to the Iraqis that now patrol the area.
We have seen political milestones with the election of constitutional delegates and then ratification of a constitution. We will see another election in December that will put a face on the leadership of Iraq. Do you think anyone who runs on a platform of kicking the Americans out could possibly win? The left says that ”80% of Iraqis want us out”, they fail to mention the caveat “but not yet”.
Democratic institutions are being developed, the old saw that Arabs or Muslims can’t be democratized is especially odorous and will be proven wrong in Iraq just as Turkey and Indonesia have already proved. Iraq has several things going for it when it comes to democracy, as well as some against. Democracy is easier if a country has a GNP per capita of $5000 or above. At $2500 Iraq is not there yet but its economy is growing in leaps and bounds. Besides oil Iraq was once an important player in world agriculture and a lot has been done to restore that sector of the economy. After the lifting of UN sanctions and the implementation of the 100 "orders" decreed by Paul Bremer economic growth of 53% in Iraq topped the list of the world's fastest growing economies. Strong democracies require high literacy rates which Iraqis posses. There is a large middle class which sees democracy as being in their best interest. There is a free press. Article 85 of the new constitution states: "Judges are independent and there is no authority over them except that of the law. No authority shall have the right to interfere in the Judiciary and the affairs of Justice.", so you have an independent judiciary. Going against Democracy is a lack by some, especially Kurds, of a sense of national unity. However we need to remember that when we were a fledgling democracy we were not a United States regardless of what we called ourselves. We were Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, etc. with a huge mistrust of centralized government. How did we manage? Same as the Iraqis, with a federalist style of government that leaves a great deal of autonomy within each state or region.
The standing up security forces is occurring. Every day the Iraqi armed forces are getting better trained, more experienced, and better equipped. Gradually they take over operations, bases, towns, and whole regions freeing up American and other coalition forces who can then further take the fight to other areas. Since September Forward Operating Base Lima in Karbala, Camp Zulu in As Suwayrah, and one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces in his home town of Tikrit, Forward Operating Base Dagger have been turned over to Iraqi Forces. 25 bases in all are now in full Iraqi control. 6th Iraqi Army Division took over authority of the Kharkh, Rusafa, Thawra and Adhamiyah districts of Baghdad on Oct. 3. British forces have handed over their main base in the city of Basra to the Iraqi military to allow it to take over the main security duties there. On Nov. 29 the 2nd Iraqi Army Brigade from al Hillah successfully accomplished its certification process and is now ready to plan and conduct military activities independently when it takes over responsibility of Babil Province.
Short term victory is not victory however. Even though it is only a matter of time when we can leave Iraq to the Iraqis to leave now would jeopardize all we have gained. We need to hold out for the Medium Term Victory. The goals for that include an Iraq that can provide for its own security, has a fully functioning constitutional government in place, and is on its way to achieving its own economic potential. When that eventually happens then we can safely leave without all the blood and capital we have invested being for naught. Stay the course is not “tired rhetoric” as Harry Reid said, it’s common sense.
The Long Term Victory as defined by Bush’s strategy is a peaceful, united, stable, and secure Iraq, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terror. That victory must be won by the Iraqis themselves, but if they bring it to fruition then we will have changed the Middle East forever and that was what this whole endeavor was about.