Guest Commentary by Gregory Hilton, Distributed by Matrix Media via WDHA 105.5 FM. (Editorial Note: This is part two of a two part 90 second commentary).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush presidency will be judged in large part by the outcome of the war in Iraq. Future historians are unlikely to be similar to the present partisan group. They will take a long term view and note that the Middle East truly began to change during the Bush era.
The conflict is far from over but the dominance al-Qaeda had on Iraq at the beginning of 2007 is clearly at an end. George Bush stood alone in advocating the surge strategy and it has been a clear success. The 22,000 troops which comprised it have already come home, and additional withdrawals will be occurring in the months ahead.
Two years ago war critics said our troops should leave Iraq immediately because the war was lost. Now they are telling us to leave Iraq because the war is won. Iraq’s future is not certain, but it clearly will not be the failed state the critics were predicting.
The best indicator is that the Iraqi GDP is now 30 percent higher than it was under Saddam Hussein. Foreign companies have already invested over $74 billion in new projects, and none of these investments involve oil.
Practically all businesses have now reopened, the refugees are returning in large numbers, and new construction projects can be seen everywhere. Street life is back to normal and the concrete blast walls have been removed. The suicide attacks have not ended, but the nation is safer than northern Mexico, and the homicide rate in Baghdad is less than Chicago.
The American drawdown is well underway and the Iraq army is standing up. U.S. forces will start leaving Iraqi towns and cities next June and they will complete their withdrawal by the end of 2011.
Iraq is clearly on the path to defending itself. The improved security situation can be seen in the graffiti on a bridge near Basra. A fleeing militiaman scrawled “We’ll be back;” and underneath an Iraqi soldier replied: “And we’ll be waiting for you.”
Other positive signs include oil production which is up by 400,000 barrels to 2.9 million barrels. Property values in Baghdad doubled in the past year. More and more women are driving cars. Christmas is now recognized as a holiday and Iraqi’s have the constitutional right to visit Israel, or any other nation.
Democracy is firmly taking root in Iraq, and the country will hold provincial elections in 14 of its 18 provinces on January 31. They first went to the polls in January of 2005, and national elections to determine the fate of Prime Minister Maliki will be held in December.
This transformation was possible because George Bush changed the world. Many of his predecessors were popular, but they did not respond to aggression with sufficient force, and their failure to use military power often emboldened our enemies.
If you do not believe me just ask Osama bin Laden. He spoke to TIME magazine about the October 3, 1993 botched raid in Somalia which resulted in the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers. Four days later President Clinton pulled all American forces out of Somalia.
Bin Laden said this incident made him realize “more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat.”
Other examples sited by bin Laden were the 1983 attack in Beirut, Lebanon when a 16 year old girl driving a bomb packed truck blew up the Marine barracks. The result was a total American withdrawal.
The terrorist also knew that the first Persian Gulf War ended after 100 hours, and Bill Clinton’s Kosovo bombing campaign resulted in no American casualties. The U.S. response was also muted after the African embassy bombings and the attack on the destroyer Cole.
There was nothing muted about the response of the Bush administration. The overwhelming enthusiasm for President Obama is encouraging, and this mandate will certainly help his foreign policy agenda. Our new Commander-in-Chief is leading the world’s only superpower, and perhaps he will be spared the scorn George Bush received at home and abroad.
Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar does not believe it. After the Obama honeymoon the criticism will come, says Aznar, because military and economic power makes America, “the Rome of our times, a target of so much criticism. This comes with the territory, and President Obama and Americans will have to get use to it.”