Friday, August 26, 2005

The Moose, Iraq, and Defining Success

By request, I'm cross-posting an A9 piece I wrote yesterday. I do have an update though, which can be found at the bottom.

The Moose delivered a good post today. "Win or get out" was his stance. Sorta reminded me of something I read somewhere else once! Still though, despite the elevation of discourse, we're left with a certain truth which everyone I know agrees on:
The truth is that America will withdraw if the situation does not improve in the next year and a half. The patience of the American people is not endless and the politics would dictate a withdrawal if there is not progress.
Right. We're bailing. Everyone knows it. I'd say 18 months is a bit long, I'd give it 9-12 (Fourth of July at the latest). Let's just accept that. We're leaving, and the mess that currently exists over there will be a full-out shitstorm after we leave. Believe it.

Now the question becomes, how do we leave? Or better, can we still win? My guess is, even a small improvement for a period of weeks would extend our departure date by a couple of months. For every week of success, tack on an additional month or month and a half of patience from the "American people" (you know, "us"!). You may not accept that. But I think things are fickle enough right now where just a few weeks of solid good news would be so welcomed that the press would practically orgasm on their way to file the report. Let's say its so for argument's sake.

Now, can we win? The Moose rightly parallels the situation to the Kosovo conflict. Yet I think he focuses on the wrong issue. As he points out, in Kosovo, many Republicans were so blinded by their hatred for Clinton that they failed to do the right thing, and decided to play short-term politics rather than long-range defense. And to be sure, there are many on the left who are committing that very same sin now. But politics is, afterall, politics.

The singular difference between here and Kosovo is the definition of success. In Kosovo it was simple, stop Milosevic. Once that was accomplished, the situation began to improve. Here though, we stopped Hussein, and ever since then things have all gone straight to holy hell. In other words, we find ourselves today in a situation where the definition of success is quite unclear. Stop the insurgents is far too vague a goal. So is make Iraq safe for freedom. What is the simple goal we are trying to accomplish in Iraq?

I fear the answer to that question has changed over time, and continues to change. But if Democrats would like to take advantage of the Iraq debacle, they need to have a two or three word answer to that question. Right now, all I hear is a lot of puff (from Sen. Biden's 8/14/05 MTP interview:
a secure nation within its borders that's basically a representative government where everybody thinks they've got a piece of the action that is federated in part where there is more autonomy given to the regions than ordinarily would be assumed in a united democracy, and the institutions in place where there is enough ability for that government, whatever is elected, to secure the physical safety of its people and not be a threat to its neighbors.) (does that seem a little abstract to you?)
and a lot of "i dunno". That isn't a strategy for success; neither at the ballot box, nor on the field of battle.

UPDATE: Gen. Clark comes forward w/a plan for success. I've only skimmed it, but will post more shortly on where I see good and bad in his details.