Friday, August 20, 2010

What Progress Looks Like

“When I go to downtown Baghdad, and I’m stuck in traffic, and I’m not jumping curbs, and going against traffic, I’m driving in traffic like everyone else — and I’m looking to my left and right, and there’s a guy selling fish,” he said at Forward Operating Base Falcon, a base on Baghdad’s outskirts.
“He’s got a fish cart. He’s cooking fish. And there’s a watermelon stand and then there’s an electronic store right next to it, and people are everywhere. And I’m sitting in traffic and I’m going, ‘Man, this is unbelievable.’ That’s a victory parade for me.” 
NYT has a good story about the experiences of the American soldiers in Iraq who are now on their way out.

Is Iraq fixed?  Certainly not.  The future is most uncertain, as it depends on Iraq's politics, Iran's interference, and a host of challenges.  Is it better off now than before the Awakening and before the Surge?  Absolutely.  Was the invasion worth the cost?  Um, no.  Not at all, as too many Americans and too many Iraqis (and Italians and Brits and others) have paid with their lives for a foreign policy effort based on either lies or misperceptions or both (certainly an effort based on arrogance).  Could we have lived with Saddam Hussein?  Sure, we had done so for quite a while.  Would the Iraqis have been better off with more years of autocracy or with the war and its costs?  Hard to say, but the aggregate costs for the US in terms of lost opportunities in Afghanistan, a nearly broken military, deep budgetary holes, diplomatic costs that are still being felt, and so on, make the effort a net negative.  We may have won the counter-insurgency campaign (for the time-being), but the war cost more than it got us. 

But things are better now than they were a few years ago, so sticking it out for a bit longer was worth it.  Whether it is sustainable, I don't know. 

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