Nothing but a battle lost, said Wellington of Waterloo, can be half so melancholy as a battle won. And so it is as the war in Iraq turns into a fight for peace and a nation's soul. The conflict may be over, but the combat hasn't stopped. Markets are open, but the lights are still out, and there are shortages of everything but flies. Iraqis are free to march through the streets demanding that U.S. troops pull out, and to walk up to Marines and ask why there aren't more of them to help keep the peace. The oil wells have been kept safe, but many ancient treasures are lost. Bodies have piled up, and the gravediggers have disappeared, so it's up to people to bury their own. Peace is painted in more subtle colors than the black, white and blood-red days of war.
The looting has subsided, partly because there is nothing left to take. U.S. troops who began last week as soldiers ended it as cops, trying to distinguish the bad from the worse. They did foil a bank robbery, recovering $3.68 million in American hundred-dollar bills from the thieves' car. But the ransacking of Iraq's national museum, home to some of the world's most precious antiquities, left a wound in the country's heart. General Tommy Franks took his victory lap through Baghdad, passing out cigars to his commanders and brushing off a legion of armchair generals who had cast doubt on his plan. Seven rescued prisoners of war were on their way home. Iraqis exchanged their dinars for dollars, 2,000 Saddams for one George Washington. For the first time in a generation, leaders from different regions and faiths and tribes met to imagine their future, and emerged with a 13-point platform.
The fact that both Saddam and his weapons were still missing made for some uncomfortable conversations in Washington--particularly when Saddam popped up again on TV. Virtually an entire air wing of Soviet-made MiG-25 fighters was found hidden in the desert, and more gold-plated AK-47s turned up in Saddam's palaces. But there was no sign yet of the buried nerve gas or a proven biowarfare lab. Polls in America are reflecting relief that the worst is over, more than concern at what remains to be done. But failure to achieve all the ends for which the war was launched may exact a higher cost over time.
At every briefing for weeks, U.S. officials have been asked how we would know when the war was over. Now CNN has changed its running headline to THE NEW IRAQ. A&E has a special called Saving Private Lynch. More than a dozen companies are looking to trademark the term shock and awe. "Victory in Iraq is certain," President George W. Bush said last week in the Rose Garden, "but it is not complete."
--WHERE IS SADDAM?