Saturday, December 09, 2006

Victory, Schmictory

Despite the anger this position will surely engender amongst hawks, I agree with the idea that we should exchew the use of the term "victory" in Iraq, at least for the time being.

This is not, however, because I want to see the U.S. lose in Iraq, or because I see "victory" as an inflammatory term. Rather, it is because the term "victory" has become a substitute for a thoughtful articulation of what we hope to accomplish in Iraq.

"Victory" is not a strategy. Technically, in fact, it is not even a goal. Victory is the state of having met your goals. Therefore, saying that "our strategy is victory" is like saying "our strategy is to meet our goals," which is meaningless, as strategy is the proccess by which we hope to achieve our goals. Saying that "our goal is victory" is similarly tautological, amounting to "our goal is to meet our goals."

Rather, I like to talk in terms of concrete policy.

If we are to stay in Iraq (which I do not think is a wise idea), the goal ought to be pacification. That is, to bring Iraqis under our virtually undisputed control and for them to peacefully accept our dominance. Only a pacified country can be democratized (which would still be a pie-in-the-sky goal), or more realistically, defanged (i.e. we set up a stable government that is non-threatening and compliant with U.S. interests and desires).

The main failing in the occupation of Iraq is that we concentrated on democratization first, rather than pacification. We did this largely because we assumed that the Iraqis were on the "same page" as we were and wanted the same things. Still today, we portray our strategy in Iraq as helping the Iraqi to be able to police themselves, or more specifically to be able to train the Iraqis to work towards our goals in Iraq for us, which of course assume that they have the same goals for the country that we have and only need to be trained on how to realize these goals.

As long as we rely on others with different interests to protect what we perceive as our interests in Iraq, our strategy will be a woeful failure and we will be left either blaming others for Iraqi misdeeds (the constant chorus that the insurgency is enitrely foregin fighters or entirely a proxy army fighting on behalf of Iran and/or Syria), or trying to place all of the problems on the head of some Emmanuel al-Goldstein, such as Zarqawi or Sadr.

Some people argue that the way we fight in Iraq is criminal. I say that it is worse: it is stupid.

That is all.

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