Ann Scott Tyson at The Washington Post reports this morning that,
“Violence in Iraq dropped further during the summer although security gains remain ‘reversible and uneven,’ with the main threats coming from Iranian-backed militias and the Shiite-led Iraqi government’s slow integration of volunteer Sunni fighters, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday…Potential is growing, moreover, for politically driven violence as ethnic, tribal and religious groups vie for influence in advance of provincial elections planned in coming months…”
This story continues the “drop in violence = success in Iraq” theme, which, as I pointed out earlier, is flawed and amoral. A drop in violence due to ethnic cleansing is not success. For more on this, see Gary Kamiya’s story on Salon.com, and Robert Dreyfuss’ article in The Nation (hint: the “Awakening” may end and a new Russian-backed insurgency may be on its way).
“Success in Iraq” is a bromide. It means nothing because, for the most part, users of the phrase intend for it to remain undefined for political purposes. If leaders get pinned down on what “success” means, they become accountable for providing policies to get there. Regardless, the debate on Iraq has fixated on success, with the result being that we let ourselves get dragged into debates about expediency and utility, but the question of faithfulness gets left out in the cold. To borrow from Mother Teresa, our business as Christians is fidelity; God’s business is success. The primary concern of Christians in and with regard to Iraq should be to remain faithful to the teachings and example of Christ.
The U.S. military can nuke a city in Iraq and put out a press release the next day that says “Success in Iraq: 100% Drop in Violence in City.” By the measure used in Tyson’s story and in the U.S. talking points, they’d be absolutely accurate. The problem is with the measure of success — numbers of non-state-sanctioned violent attacks on day X compared to day Y — outside outside of any other context.
The real indicator of “success” for Christians, though, should not be a myopic trend line, but rather, “How successful have we been in Iraq in our attempt to apply Christ’s words and example in our relations with Iraqis?”