We've lost in Iraq, haven't we?

I was out doing an interview/having lunch at a deli (you’d be amazed how well those two items go together) with a local elected official who’s plugged into the state Republican party. We’ve known each other for years so it was less an interview than two pals shooting the breeze. We both figure we’ll enjoy the arguments and the sandwiches and I’ll get some quotes for a story. Very congenial.

Our argument ranged all over the landscape but it always comes back to Bush and the War on Terror/the war in Iraq. He keeps insisting that Iraq is a ‘must win’ because it’s the frontline in the WOT. Simple enough. I disagree. But I end up sort of surprising myself by saying as we get up to leave “believe what you want…we’re going to lose.” Kind of a downer note to end a fun lunch.

But it got me thinking. That statement took me further than I’d previously gone. I think it was one of those personal watershed moments of self-revelation. To wit:

I no longer think that the United States has any practical chance of securing victory in Iraq on any realistic level.

It’s a depressing revelation. I’m a citizen of the most powerful nation on Earth. Not only the most powerful but the most powerful there has ever been. And we’re not going to be able to achieve our goals (democratic nation-building, suppression of terrorism, what-have-you) in a nation thousands of miles away.

I think that Iraq is going to continue to spiral out of control until we pull back or out and Iraq is going to shatter into two or three independent nation-states that are going to be decades pulling themselves back together. Meanwhile it’ll stay a prize-biscuit in the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for dominance of the region and the oil resources.

Crap. I’m gonna go listen to Queen to cheer myself up.

What do you define as “victory”? Even the top US military commanders now say there’s no way for us to “win” militarily. But, since that’s the only approach Bush will take, and there’s still (most likely) almost 2 years left before he can be relieved of duty (and the righties can blame somebody other than their hero for the loss), then there’s only one conclusion to draw.

Diplomatically, the next President will have the opportunity to make the best arrangements he can, with an independent Kurdistan, an Iran-dominated Shiastan, and a Wahhabi-controlled Sunnistan supporting the revolt in Arabia. He won’t be able to do anything militarily, with an Army that’s already on the verge of breaking now and that will be broken by then. But at least there will be more different oil suppliers to cut deals with. That’s the best we can hope for. Maybe that can be spun as “victory”.

There was never any clear goal other than to “return democracy to Iraq” :dubious:, so there was really no chance for “victory” in the sense of accomplishing a goal. If our goal was to force out Hussain and let the pieces fall where they may–a stupid, brutish approach, but at least one with a qualifiable resolution–then we could claim to have “won”, but bringing democracy to a region which has never really had it and in which at least a violent and active strong minority of people oppose the tenets of democracy, i.e. abiding by the will of the majority, is a pretty hopeless task for any external military force.

It’s a stupid war that was justified on the basis of vaporware claims and appeals to emotion and fear over logic and diplomacy. We never stood a chance of winning, or even breaking even.


That was not the ‘clear goal’ for the war and clearly is inachievable in nation whose political, economic, and physical infrastructures have been destroyed. As any IR student with half a brain knows. Sadly POTUS wouldn’t listen to the top experts, much less an IR student with any proportion of brain.

Thanks to the administration mentioning that their blueprint for Iraq is the same as for El Salvador, I already see what is the level of “success” they are seeking now:

After finally realizing no clear victory would be achieved, negotiation with a third party will broker a peace accord, Iraq will remain in one piece, but virtual and literal walls will emerge separating the country into tree areas, the economy of some areas will be dependent to the US for decades, crime will be rampant and dead squads will re-appear from time to time, and the economy will benefit only a few. (In less than a generation civil war will flame again when the groups in power continue to show dependency on foreign powers.)

The price for that “victory”? (and it will be declared a victory by this administration):
An economy in shambles, 5 million refugees, more than 300,000 Iraqi dead, and 6000 dead American troops. (estimations based on 2 more years of this)

The clear aims of the war, as stated in the UK Parliament, were:

  • to prevent Saddam attacking British bases (within 45 minutes of giving the order)
  • to remove all the WMD’s from Iraq

Both of these have been ‘achieved’.
Hurrah. :rolleyes:

That seems to me to be the most idiotic aspect of this entire war.

Why would you make a mission goal that is so broad in scope as to be almost unachievable? For a politician - wouldn’t it be so much smarter to have tangible achievable goals?

Out of messianism, born of ideologuism, nourished by a tradition of “American exceptionalism”.

Reread that last statement again; you seem to be saying, “Shouldn’t politicians want metrics that allow the public to quantify their performance in pursuit of stated promises?”

Think about it…


Touche :slight_smile:

Well, you’ve lost when you decide that you’ve lost. The Iraqi insurgents can’t bring the war to you, any more than the Viet Cong did, and their only hope of victory is to keep fighting until the US populace gets distracted by some other hair in their ass - That’s what bin Laden was talking about when he said the US is as weak and easily humbled as the USSR was in Afghanistan. Looks like he was right after all.

This is really the key. The insanely arrogant notion that we were going to disassemble and re-build an Islamic, tribal culture centric state into some western style democracy now seems crazy, naive and borderline loony toon… but it was an article of faith 4-5 years ago. With the USSR gone we were kings of the new millennium world, and our foolish, fundie President, naive Israel Centric neo-cons, and much of the United State’s Federal apparatus supported this worldview.

When we first invaded did most in the US expect a reasonable return on the investment in regime change? -You bet they did!
Does anyone now expect any sort of reasonable return on the hundreds of billions we’ve spent? -If there are such people, they’re getting damned rare.

Winning usually involves some sort of tangible gain; losing, not so much. We’re not even getting warm fuzzies from the oppressed masses of the middle east out of this.

This is distraction? I’d say people are paying more attention now than they were four years ago, which is why they’ve realized it’s a disaster over there. It’s not a sign of weakness to stop doing something stupid and it’s not a sign of strength to keep making mistakes out of pride.

Yes, I think all is pretty much lost in Iraq. Things were looking ok, if not great up until the bombing of the Mosque in Samara a year ago. Since then the sectarian violence has been spiraling out of control. Every week or two there is a new article about an attack, wave of sectarian murders, or bombing, and every time something happens it’s worse than what happened before. This week it was a bombing that killed over 130 people. Obviously that’s bad enough, but what is worse is that it is almost immediately avenged by an attack on the side that perpetuated the attack.

A surge might have worked a year ago to stop the cycle of violence before it started, but too many atrocities have happened on both sides at this point for people to forget and make up. People just aren’t going to forget the hundreds of murders that have been occurring weekly in Baghdad for the last year. If you ask me the final nail in the coffin is when the Iraqi government became, or became viewed as, a sectarian instrument. The Shiite government won’t stamp out Shiite militias, they only want to curb the Sunni ones, and Kurds don’t want to fight in Baghdad.

A civil war has been simmering for the last year in Iraq, and the American troops are the only thing that are keeping it from completely boiling over.

Imagine, if you will, that Bush and Cheney were the sorts of men who realized the limitations on their own knowledge and worldview, and were accordingly curious about the world in its manifold complexities, and willing to learn from their own mistakes.

Yeah, I know: it makes my head explode too.

Even assuming that, I think that we lost, at the latest, back in 2003 when we tore down many of their institutions, and stood by as they helped, in that initial wave of vandalism.

The conservative Redstate blog recently posted “A Reactionary’s Shorter Catechism,” and it’s full of stuff that, if conservatives actually heeded it, I’d be more respectful of conservatism. For instance:

You can’t just go around tearing down a society’s institutions, even if they’re not very good institutions, and expect people to know how to keep on functioning as a society in their absence. Even bad institutions have some predictability to them, can at least be expected to behave in certain ways. The military, the bureaucracy, the courts - they all had some continuity to them, and could at least be relied on in some ways. Now, there’s very little that the Iraqi people can rely on for anything.

It was one thing for the radicals of The Sixties to say that we ought to tear down The System and start over from scratch. They were in their teens and early 20s, most of them, and didn’t know better. (And most important, they didn’t have any power to effect their wilder ideas anyway.) The radicals who went into Iraq, tore down their System, and put them in the position of starting over from scratch, were in their forties, fifties, and sixties, and held the radicalism of the 1960s in great disdain. What was their excuse?

At any rate, that’s where I believe we lost any hope of an effective reconstruction. We got rid of their military and a good deal of their bureaucracy; we let the Iraqis loot the government offices we’d later desperately need to function; we spurned the idea of getting state-run businesses, businesses that employed many Iraqis, back in working order. And to add insult to injury, the Bushies imported a bunch of ideologically correct kids who didn’t know jack-shit to rebuild the societal institutions from scratch.

All that happened back in 2003. IMHO, that pretty much killed our hope of leaving behind a stable Iraq in a reasonably finite amount of time.

It is peculiar how those pulling the levers on the JCB, don’t seem to understand what is happening.

Every Iraqi knows that the USA and UK will pull out in the next few years, which means that there will be massive destabilization while the tectonic plates shift and settle.

Living with an uncertain future is difficult, and it makes it hard to forge allegiances.
My view is that getting out ASAP will reduce the inevitable bloodbath, it might even prevent it if all parties can claim that they kicked the USA and UK out.

Curiously, the Law of Unintended Consequences has turned up again, the Iraq debacle has proven that a State can be thoroughly destabilized - and that is quite interesting - if anything the threat of chaos is a lot worse than the threat of imposed ‘democracy’.

Same thing goes for the other guys, remember?

Nor do they want to. They’re trying to expel a foreign occupier from their homeland, just as the VC were. Accomplish that and they’ve won. And they certainly seem able to “bring the war to” the occupying troops far more than the reverse, don’t they?

The civil war there does seem to be based on an assumption that the US forces have already been strategically defeated, if not yet tactically, and the primary goal of the factions is to control some of what’s left after they do leave. We are already powerless to shape the future Iraq. We have already become essentially irrelevant there. That’s losing, by any definition.

Or until the US leadership catches up with the populace in realizing there’s nothing available to gain by remaining.

But the same is true of almost any occupying power in any country. It’s just a matter of time scale.

A good point and any historian or sociologist worth their salt ought to be studying this scenario like a hungry dog studies a steak. This data is golden.

If I thought for even one moment that the people of the United States were the tiniest bit less likely to jump on the political bandwagon to invade Iran, or Lebanon, or Indonesia, or even Canada, for the Glory of Democracy, and the Politically Connected, the next time the opportunity presents itself, I would have to reluctantly admit that we had won the war in Iraq. But, that is not the case.

The idea that armies build nations is called “the right of conquest” and sometimes Imperialism. We are the evil empire. And the people themselves are to blame. Democracies always have the exact government that they deserve, and want. The evil emperor is us!

But, anything is worth the cost if it lets us drive our H3’s to work in city traffic!