Hugh Pickens writes writes: "As the last American troops exit Iraq, two questions come to mind: Was the war worth it? And did the US, in any sense, win? "The two questions, of course, are related: The first concerns cost, the second benefits," writes Fred Kaplan. "However you do the calculation, it’s clear that the decision to invade Iraq was a major strategic blunder—and that the policies we pursued in the early months of the occupation tipped the blunder into a catastrophe." After Paul Bremer issued Order No. 1 barring members of the once-ruling Baathist party from holding any but the lowliest of government jobs and Order No. 2 disbanding the Iraqi army, tens of thousands of Iraqis, most of them young men with weapons were turned out into the streets, officially disenfranchised and, in many cases, eager to rebel against the agents of their fate. An insurgency arose and there were no Iraqi security forces to clamp it down. But Bush changed course dramatically at the end of 2006 ordering a “surge” of 20,000 extra troops in support of a new counterinsurgency strategy, a gamble that paid off as many Sunni leaders—beginning in Anbar province, which had been one of Iraq’s most violent sectors—suddenly realized that the foreign jihadists, with whom they’d struck an alliance, formed a bigger threat than the American occupiers, and so they turned to the U.S. troops for help. The good news is that there is now a functioning Iraqi government. "The means and institutions do exist for resolving these problems mainly through politics," concludes Kaplan but "failure to resolve the disputes in the halls of politics may spur the most militant constituents—of whom there are many—to revive their armed struggles in the streets.""
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