Victory and Violence in Iraq

Reducing the "Irreducible Minimum"

There are good reasons why General Petraeus and the other senior commanders in Iraq have been careful not to claim "victory" in Iraq. MNF-I has made striking progress in the last year. MNF-I and Iraqi reporting shows, however, that the violence is scarcely over. One of the most senior US commanders has warned that such violence may have reached an "irreducible minimum" until Iraq can make further progress towards accommodation, and towards creating effective security forces, improving its governance, and finding a path to development that can employ its youth.

The US still has years to go before it will know whether it can succeed to the point it can claim any kind of lasting victory in the grand strategic sense of the term. At the same time, using today's problems as an excuse to leave will abandon some 28 million people to problems we did much to create, and leave a power vacuum in Iraq that will directly threaten US strategic interests.  The attached report provides an analysis of the current situation in Iraq, and the path the US must take to achieve stability and to reduce the "irreducible minimum."

Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy