Foreign Policy Blogs

Iraq Town Hall: Are we winning?

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The video I’m posting is of the Iraq Town Hall that was put on by the Foreign Policy Association, last week in New York City. The panelists are Dr. Fred Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in defense issues and the US military. He is a military historian and taught at West Point. Dr. Richard Norton is a professor at Boston University in international relations and anthropology. He's a retired Army Colonel and also taught at West Point. The moderator is Dr. Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the  Center for American Progress. He's a former Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan in the early 80's.

The two panelists brought starkly different views to the table, with Dr. Kagan positing that the surge has been a success and that with the new elections in October of 2008 and again in 2009, there will be ‘a sea change in the nature of Iraqi political discourse’. Al Qaeda in Iraq is still a day-to-day danger, but has been defeated in the sense that they have no chance of establishing an Islamic state supported by the people, according to Dr. Kagan. Although in a 'transformative period’, there is still no way to pull out below 15 brigades this summer, he argues.

On the other hand, Dr. Norton acknowledges that although the surge is 'technically a success’, the war in general has been a ‘horrible failure on many levels’. He discusses the military being at the breaking point, and the lack of media attention paid to this fact because it is truly frightening. He discusses the long term effects on the military, with the junior officers and future leadership draining away. Another interesting point that the professor brought up was the nature of civil wars in general. He believes that there is one going on in Iraq, but the character of a civil war changes day to day. The nature of it changes with the economy and with groups having a vested interest in the continuation of the war, etc. The civil war in Iraq is quiet right now, excepting Basra, he posits.