The Ignorant Way of War

Glenn Reynolds:

MCCAIN ON IRAQ: “Well in war, my dear friends, there is no such thing as compromise; you either win or you lose.”

People love straight talk, but the trouble with this analysis is that it’s, um, wrong. Wars frequently have somewhat ambiguous outcomes. Think of, say, Korea which ended in a stalemate. Or Israel’s war in Lebanon just this past summer. Or, for that matter, the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. This began as a fight between the United States’ government and Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime. The regime was toppled, but a Sunni Arab insurgency that was, in important ways, continuous with the Old Regime stayed in the field. At this point, though, it seems overwhelmingly likely that neither side of that conflict will achieve its main objectives.