War in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Iraq<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Is the war in Iraq over? That is the essence of a recent column by Bing West in the Wall Street Journal. As a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and combat marine, he had an interesting perspective.
He said: "The war I witnessed for more than five years in Iraq is over. In July, there were five American fatalities in Iraq, the lowest since the war began in March 2003. In Mosul recently, I chatted with shopkeepers on the same corner where last January a Humvee was blown apart in front of me. . . . I saw clean streets and soccer games. In Basra, the local British colonel was dining at a restaurant in the center of the bustling city."
He added: "For the first time in 15 trips across the country, I didn't hear one shot or a single blast from a roadside bomb. In Anbar Province, scene of the fiercest fighting during the war, the tribal sheiks insisted to Barack Obama on his recent visit that the U.S. Marines had to stay because they were the most trusted force."
He concludes: "With victory in sight, why would we quit? . . . The problem is not American force levels in Iraq. It is divisiveness at home. While our military has adapted, our society has disconnected from its martial values. I was standing beside an Iraqi colonel one day in war-torn Fallujah when a tough Marine patrol walked by. 'You Americans,' he said, 'are the strongest tribe.'" That, by the way, is the title of his new book, The Strongest Tribe.
I was struck by the title of his column because it was similar to a column written by Frank Rich in The New York Times three years ago. The title his column was, "Someone Tell the President the War Is Over." As you can probably surmise, Frank Rich meant just the exact opposite and was convinced that the war was lost and thus the war was over.
While I don't exactly share the current optimism of Bing West, I think his analysis is certainly more on target than the past assessment of Frank Rich. It is encouraging what has happened in three years.
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