Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Victory Is As Victory Does

Good essay. It ends:

A narrative has been created in which the impression of victories simply could not occur

Now we're achieving the real thing, on the most massive scale. The major element of the "insurrection" (an unsatisfactory term, but does anyone have one better?), the Al-Queda, is being chewed to pieces. The new "surge" strategy -- actually a classic counterinsurgency strategy similar to that utilized in the final years in Vietnam -- has proven itself as clearly as any on record. The enemy has been unable to respond, and is on the run wherever engaged. The Sunnis have been coming over in ever-increasing numbers, fulfilling one of the basic requirements of a successful counterinsurgency effort: the full cooperation of the civilian population. A serious reconciliation has been blooming between the newly-dominant Shi'ites and Sunni minority.

Barring unforeseen setbacks, the Coalition appears to be set to prevail. (A number of critics newly cognizant of counterinsurgency are pointing out that it takes years for such an effort to succeed, overlooking the unique aspects of the Iraq situation: the "insurrection" is actually a form of invasion by outside forces, namely Al-Queda. Destroy them, end the invasion, and the "insurrection" becomes a matter of bandits and diehards, easily handled by domestic Iraqi troops.)

And how is all this being depicted? It isn't. Early coverage of the surge emphasized how it could go wrong. A "September surprise", a sudden rise in casualties prior to General Petreaus's report to Congress, was predicted. Discord between Iraq factions was emphasized. Several Jihadi "offensives" were announced. None of it came to anything. No "surprise" occurred. The factions are, for the moment, reconciled. Al-Queda offensives, if they ever existed, fizzled out.

And in recent weeks... almost nothing. Suddenly, Iraq is not a topic. Achievements in the field have gone unmentioned in a media that couldn't get enough of car bombs, IEDs, massacres, and assassinations. The focus has shifted to the domestic: the endless campaign, bogus "health-care" bills, Al Gore's latest prize. If Iraq is mentioned at all, it's in the context of scandal, as in the Blackwater shooting incident, quite serious in and of itself, but nothing to overshadow the events of the past three months. It's as if news of Pvt. Eddie Slovik's execution overwhelmed any mention of the Allied advance into Germany.

We will see more of this. Last Friday, the New York Times, which has granted no meaningful coverage to the surge, featured no less than three stories dealing with civilian casualties. Reportage of a speech by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez ignored his criticism of the media's role in Iraq (or the fact that he calls for redoubling our efforts there), in favor of his attacks on the administration's war efforts. Last week the UN demanded not greater support for the newly-invigorated Iraqi government, but an investigation into the Blackwater incident.

There are muted lanterns in the graveyard, the clink of shovels on gravel. Victory in Iraq, one of the hardest-fought in recent American history, is being buried before our eyes.

This is unacceptable. American victories are not those of a Tamerlane piling up skulls, of SS units reveling in genocide. As Victor Davis Hanson revealed in his classic study, The Soul of Battle, American wars are fought to free the enslaved, to punish the tyrant, to set right what has been overturned. American victories are nothing to be ashamed of.

Pacifist opposition to victory in war is a case of misapplied idealism creating more of the very horrors it decries. A war not properly ended simply engenders more conflicts and creates more misery.

If war is useful for anything, it is for solving intractable problems completely and finally. Victory is a key element of this. Victories that are not victories, but simply cessations of combat, will always end up being only temporary.

They used to ring bells, the bells of churches, in both thanksgiving and celebration when a war ended victoriously. We don't do that anymore. But we do need to discover the equivalent for the new millennium. The rituals that will enable us to reclaim victory, and with it a lost portion of our humanity.

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