President Bush initially defined “victory in Iraq” as “helping the Iraqi people defeat the terrorists and build an inclusive democratic state,” such that Iraq would be “peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.”
Most of those goals were fanciful and immaterial to the promotion of American national security. That is the most important lesson learned. Yet, Jeb Bush reaffirms his brother’s dubious linkage of our security and Iraq’s. On Wednesday, he opined that Iraq demonstrates the need to “have a strategy of security,” and that, while this broke down for a time, his brother had “solved that mess with the surge and created when he left a much more stable Iraq.”…
As retired Army General Daniel Bolger compellingly explains in his recent memoir, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the surge did not win the war. It merely slowed the descent into chaos. It bought time to allow the Iraqis another chance to overcome their internecine savagery. But by any measure, the Iraq War was, by then, a failure — whether we use President Bush’s lofty above-quoted aims, or we simply compare what America’s security situation was before our troops invaded with what it was after they left.
The surge was an exercise in mitigation. There was no plan to deal with Iran, which the bipartisan Beltway was then regarding as a potential stabilizing influence even as the mullahs fueled anti-American jihadists. There was nothing close to a commitment to the kind of resource-intensive, open-ended occupation that would have been required to turn Iraq into an American asset in the fight against radical Islam.