Iraq War : Seven Years

Today marks the completion of seven years of US second invasion of Iraq. It was today in 2003 that American Abrams rolled into the Iraq, and lot of water has flown down Tigris by now. So an obvious question is was Iraq worth seven years of American blood, dollars and time (not belittling the contribution of the "Coalition of the Willing"). The answer is not that easy as you may think so. To see the picture in totality, you need a bigger construct. American ambition (call it Bush' ambition, it doesn't matter) in middle east was shaped by that fateful morning in mid-town Manhattan. After that US wore a tinted glasses with cross hairs where everything seemed to be a moving target & a potential threat. Iraq seemed to be an obvious target. There was history for it as well. Plus the CIA did a really good job(?) in flunking up intelligence of illicit uranium linked to Iraq. It was not that only Bush wanted war, when marines entered Baghdad, Bush's approval rating were record high, denoting widespread approval of his job in Iraq. At that time, the war seemed to be worth fighting for, even if there was collateral damage for America.

The problem started when America rammed into the driver's seat & not knowing how to drive. There were colossal failures in dealing with former Baathist & disbanded Iraqi armed forces. Plan B was not a choice then, because there was not even Plan A. All America had were newly painted humvees that they rolled that into the capital thinking they will be welcomed & indeed they were welcomed initially. But as the days passed by, a visible chaos in urban settlements, the disbanded Sunni majority armed forces become a freelancing mercenary carving out their areas of influence. When these areas began to intersect with Shiite areas of fiefdom, what followed was a carnage, where America took it on the chin & Al Queda (AQ) had all the prime footage. Then the coalition 'surge' followed which has brought a little semblance of sanity to Baghdad & other urban areas. I must give it to Bush that he has achieved some success in restoring order to those killing suburbs of Baghdad like Sadr City. Even I was sceptical if the surge would work especially in the desert expanse of Al Anbar, but it worked partly due to more boots on ground, Sunni tribe joining the fight against AQ, and alienation of Sunni masses with AQ besides Shiite factions backing down. Since the summer of 2007, the violence has been on the downward trend and the number of American soldiers have dropped to there lowest numbers since 2003 with complete with drawl by 2011. The elections had just been completed and they seems to be by and large peaceful, giving hope that this freckled country can still find its feet and prosper. But the Iraqi landscape is still deeply fragmented & this draw down of forces could hold ominous potent. Firstly the ability of AQ to still do mischief through a shock-and-awe campaign. Secondly the critical question of Kurdish areas and the fate of Kirkuk. Thirdly the criminalization of the Iraqi society. Forth, Iran. Fifth is the schism between Shiite factions. Sixth, is alienation of Sunni's with the Shiite led government.

Still all are are hopeful that the worst is over for Iraq and challenges going forward are not going to be as existential as they were before. I am hooting for optimism this time, after failing miserably on my misgivings on the effectiveness of the "surge".

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