The War is Over

By Peter McManus

The war is over! Iraqís streets are filled with euphoric citizens celebrating the end of Husseinís evil regime. The streets are filled with euphoric citizens looting the leaderless cities. Despite the looting, it is a great day for Iraq.

Back in the United States it is very satisfying to see our nation saluted by Iraqís citizens, although our satisfaction canít compare to their jubilation. For us, the warís end is more like a thud. Itís over now. Whatís next? I remember the day the 100-hour ground campaign ended the first Gulf War. The warís end was the climax of months of rhetoric and military build-up, and 38 days of bombing. A friend of mine commented that the abrupt end of the war left him feeling an unexpected void. I gave him my best left-hemisphere response, that I was grateful for the quick and successful conclusion. But he always had a way of saying the uncomfortable but true, and this was no exception. For a few unfortunate Americans, Iraqi Freedom has been horribly tragic. For most Americans, the war was more like a gripping movie. It occupied our days and nights, and then it ended.

An overwhelmingly successful military campaign was virtually a foregone conclusion from the very start. War is one of the things we do best. We spend almost as much on our military as all the other nations combined. We have by far the absolute best war making technology. Our soldiers are highly trained and highly professional, and they represented us very well in Iraq.

Now comes the hard part. While our nation has mastered the art and science of war, we have neglected the art and science of peace. We are well able to topple a regime, but how good are we at replacing one? I wonder what great things could be accomplished if we dedicated even a relative fraction of our resources to the art and science of making the peace. This is just speculation Ė Iím not convinced it even makes sense. One could argue that most of our society is dedicated to making the peace, and we can just apply our societyís demonstrably successful principles to Iraq and other nations. But I fear that is too glib, as our values are not easily portable to a nation such as Iraq.

Conventional wisdom has long held that the proof of our strategy would not be in the war, but in its aftermath. Conventional wisdom has also worried that this is an area that the Bush administration would skimp on. Bush campaigned against nation building. It is dangerous. It is not very glamorous. And there is no well developed art and science to it. It will not be easy to rebuild Iraqi society. However, the dangers of doing it poorly are self-evident, and therefore I hope and believe that the Bush administration will do everything they can to succeed here too.

Unpublished work © 2003 Peter McManus