2,000

We have to resist two temptations, I think. The first is not to absorb the human cost of war. Every dead – and maimed – soldier has a story, a narrative, a family, a life and a soul. Their young deaths – so young in so many cases – are worthy of the deepest mourning; and their service of the deepest respect. I don’t think it inappropriate for the news media to show them in full, or to mark an anniversary like the one we just observed. It is an important part of our moral calculus.

But the second temptation is to move the goalposts on this war and to expect the impossible. If someone had told me three years ago that by October 2005, Saddam Hussein’s murderous tyranny would be over for ever, that Iraq would have a new constitution that emerged from a democratic process and that it will soon have a democratically elected parliament and government, I would have been thrilled. If I were further told that the inevitably embittered Sunni Arab minority had decided to throw itself into democratic politics to amend the constitution and protect its interests in a future Iraq, I would be amazed by how swiftly democratic habits can take root in a post-totalitarian country. If I had been told that, despite extraordinary provocation from Jihadist and Sunni Arab terrorists, the country had not dissolved into civil war, and that unemployment was dropping, I’d be heartened. If I had also been told that the United States had not suffered another major terror attack since the fall of 2001, I would have refused to believe it. The fact that the administration has made countless, terrible errors in the aftermath of the invasion and miscalculated badly on how the Baathists and Jihadists would fight back, should not distract us from these underlying realities. In 2002, I feared U.S. casualties approaching 10,000 in a brutal, urban war for Baghdad. The enemy gave us a simmering insurgency instead, shrewdly calculating that that was their best defense. They were right in the short term. But that makes it all the more imperative to prove them wrong in the long term. For the sake of the 2,000 who have already died; and the countless, innocent civilian Iraqis who have borne an even greater burden, let’s do all we can to make this work.

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