What a week for me.
I turned 35 on Monday, my second birthday in Iraq. I've never been big on celebrating my own birthday, it's really just another day for me. But this year I got several presents.
The first was a new house, courtesy of my wife. We are moving to Owatonna, where my unit is based out of. I'm hoping to end up working full time for the Guard, but even if I don't, I have at least 5 years left in the Army so the prospect of another deployment is high. My wife has gone through most of this deployment, and all of the last one, isolated from the other wives by geography. And though my son's kindergarten teacher is a former military wife, I would like my kids to be at a school where other children have parents serving in the military.
Next came a very nice article in National Review Online about the Appeal For Courage. It was picked up my CBS News as an opinion piece, and seems to have given a big boost to our visibility. The signature count has jumped up 200 in the last few days alone. Aside from the good press, we now seem to be pulling away from the anti war appeal, which looks to be stagnant. Apparently all the funding that I've heard they have access to isn't enough to get many more takers.
And lastly, due mostly to a nice referral from Greyhawk at the Mudville Gazette, I've seen as many comments in the past week as I have in the first four months of writing this blog. I really appreciate the words of support that folks have written, and it's nice to hear from folks back in the States that think the way I do.
There was one comment I wanted to address specifically though. Aspice asks a common question from folks who oppose the war, and that is what will victory look like? I think good intelligent debate is crucial to convincing Americans that the war is worth finishing. I can 'preach to the choir' all day long and never influence anyone. But to persuade someone with facts and logic is what we should all be striving for. So the question is valid, in my mind. What will victory in Iraq look like?
As I see it, it will look quite a bit like what you see in Iraq today. There will be violence in Iraq for many decades to come, there is no real debating that. Years of Saddam's brutal authority combined with the Arab tradition of vengeance as a family affair, the differing ethnic and religious factions, and the location of Iraq as it relates to international politics are all combining to keep Iraq off the tourist hotspots for the near future. But when the question is asked 'what will victory look like?', you can be certain that the person asking is concerned with what an American victory will look like. The level of violence we see in Iraq today would hardly merit more than an occasional story on the news were it not for the presence of US troops. If you don't believe me, ask yourself how ofton you've seen media coverage on Darfur. If it weren't for Hollywood celebrities, you might not have even heard of it.
Victory in Iraq will look like the same sort of violence we see today, minus the large number of Coalition forces. It will look like the same patrols through the streets of Baghdad, but they will be Iraqi Army rather than US Army. It will look like the same border patrols along the Jordanian and Syrian borders, but with Iraqi Border Police instead of US Marines. And it will look like the same naval activity in the Gulf waters, but done by the Iraqi Navy instead of the British.
Victory in Iraq will be when we have taken Saddam's Iraq apart, put it back together in the shape of a democracy, given it time to get on it's feet, and then withdrawn the bulk of our forces. Will it last? I can't say. Critics say the Iraqis aren't willing to fight for their country. I say that's BS-I've seen more courage in a lowly Iraqi policeman than in 100 war protesters. Critics say that Arab culture isn't ready for democracy. Again, I think that's BS-as 13 million Iraqis demonstrated in the elections. But our military mission in Iraq will be done when we are able to let the Iraqis defend themselves against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Victory in Iraq will look like the end of this battle on the War on Terrorism. It may just be a pause before the next battle, or it may be the start of several years of relative peace. That's a question way above my pay grade. But it wont be the last battle against Islamic terrorism, that is for certain. We will bury our dead, lick our wounds, and start preparing for the next battle.
But whatever victory in Iraq looks like, there is one guarantee. It will look much better than defeat in Iraq.