Michael Totten

Is the War Over?

(Note: I wrote “a brief post”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2008/07/the-iraq-war-is.php on this topic a few days ago. This is an excerpt from a longer piece for COMMENTARY.)
Independent reporter Michael Yon has spent more time in Iraq embedded with combat soldiers than any other journalist in the world, and a few days ago “he boldly declared the war over”:http://michaelyon-online.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1690%3Asuccess-in-iraq&catid=34%3Adispatches&Itemid=55%23yvComment:

Barring any major and unexpected developments (like an Israeli air strike on Iran and the retaliations that would follow), a fair-minded person could say with reasonable certainty that the war has ended. A new and better nation is growing legs. What’s left is messy politics that likely will be punctuated by low-level violence and the occasional spectacular attack. Yet, the will of the Iraqi people has changed, and the Iraqi military has dramatically improved, so those spectacular attacks are diminishing along with the regular violence. Now it’s time to rebuild the country, and create a pluralistic, stable and peaceful Iraq. That will be long, hard work. But by my estimation, the Iraq War is over. We won. Which means the Iraqi people won.

I’m reluctant to say “the war has ended,” as he did, but everything else he wrote is undoubtedly true. The war in Iraq is all but over right now, and it will be officially over if the current trends in violence continue their downward slide. That is a mathematical fact.
If you doubt it, “look at the data”:http://michaelyon-online.com/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=7&Itemid=.
Security incidents, or attacks, are at their lowest level in four years. Civilian deaths are down by almost 90 percent since General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency “surge” strategy went into effect. High profile attacks, or explosions, are down by 80 percent in the same time period. American and Iraqi soldiers suffer far fewer casualties than they have for years. Ethno-sectarian deaths from Iraq’s civil war plunged all the way down to zero in May and June 2008.
Yon is braver than the rest of us for declaring the war over, but it’s important to understand that there are no final battles in counterinsurgencies and it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact dates when wars like this end. The anti-Iraqi insurgency — a war-within-a-war — really is effectively over. As long as another such war-within-a-war doesn’t break out, Yon will appear more perceptive than the rest of us in hindsight when the currently low levels of violence finally do taper off into relative insignificance.
“Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/is-the-war-over–11599.