I’ve just gotten to reading the Iraq symposium in the current NR. I disagree with the general consensus — that we are losing or have already lost. Before reaching such a conclusion, one needs to first examine what ought to be a threshold question — “What is the definition of victory?” In this, I think the symposium reflects a confusion in the wider public and even the administration itself.
Why we went into Iraq is largely forgotten: (1) to eliminate once-and-for-all the potential danger of Iraq’s WMDs; (2) to eliminate a state-sponsor-and practitioner-of international terrorism; and (3) to eliminate one of the most savage and brutal regimes of modern times.
When you consider these, you realize that we have accomplished every single one of these objectives. To set the definition of victory as high as achieving an Iraq that “has defeated terrorists,” is “peaceful, united, stable, and secure,” and “provides the fruits of democratic governance to the region” is tantamount to equating military victory in Iraq with civilization’s victory in the Long War against Terrorism — the victory of the moderates over the extremists in the great civil war for the heart of the modern Islamic World. But that victory could be decades away — and in any case it only marginally implicates us, and much less our armed forces.
Beware mission creep: It’s a killer.