It looks like the first Washington Post reporter killed in Iraq may have been killed by a member of the “Anbar Awakening,” the group of Sunni insurgents who we’re now paying to stop attacking American soldiers. It’s a poignant reminder of how crazy the current version of our policy — basically help equip anyone who’ll accept our help and kind of hope for the best — has become. Since the “surge” failed to produce the kind of political reconciliation that was its goal, reconciliation and political objectives more generally have just been defined out of sight.
But a military campaign with no coherent political objectives is just a slow-motion disaster. It’s not saying anything against our troops to observe that when their orders don’t have any larger purpose beyond keeping the them deployed in Iraq that they can’t possibly succeed. After all, what could they be succeeding at? Note the fundamentally paradoxical character of administration claims to have crushed al-Qaeda in Iraq. Since AQI was only ever a small group of people whose importance existed primarily in administration rhetoric, why shouldn’t we be able to crush them? But at the same time, while Bush would like to claim a success on this front, officials are quick not to claim too much success, lest that success suggest that it’s time to pack our bags and go home.
Basically, if the policy’s failing, that means we must continue it. And if it’s succeeding, that means we must continue it. Meanwhile, GOP politicians are all running in terror of Freedom’s Watch where they want us to believe that “victory is possible.” But what victory? For whom? For the insurgents who kill Post reporters? For the Shiite militias who are pushing Sunnis out of Baghdad? For the PKK?