Jacob Weisberg has a very excellent column on “four unspeakable truths about Iraq” that, frankly, surprises me for making all four dovish truths about Iraq, without some token poke at liberals. I actually don’t think his fourth truth is true, though:
fourth and final near-certainty, which is in some ways the hardest for politicians to admit, is that America is losing or has already lost the Iraq war. The United States is the strongest nation in the history of the world and does not think of itself as coming in second in two-way contests. When it does so, it is slow to accept that it has been beaten.
I really think this is wrong. We won the war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his regime were deposed. We installed a new regime. The Sunni Arab insurgency remains active and will continue to remain active for osme time, but shows no realistic capability of defeating the regime we installed. We won the war. This is not Vietnam where the VC and PRVN drove US forces from the country, toppled the US-backed regime in Saigon, and unified the country under control of the Communist Party.
The problem in Iraq is that, we won a hollow victory. Defeating Saddam and replacing him with a new regime based around exiled Shiite political parties has a negative impact on America’s strategic position in the world. Even were Iraq to grow substantially less chaotic over the next 2-5 years this would continue to be the case. The win-lose frame, while factually wrong, is also politically counterproductive. As Weisberg indicates, voters are reluctant to declare defeat for understandable psychological reasons. But there’s no need to do that here. It’s the fact of American victory that makes further involvement so untenable — this is what winning looks like and, frankly, it looks like shit; there’s no earthly reason to keep doing this; becoming “more successful” at backing the Maliki government wouldn’t accomplish anything.