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The path to 'victory'
September 28, 2008 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Is This a 'Victory'? "We hear again and again from Washington that we have turned a corner in Iraq and are on the path to victory. If so, it is a strange victory."
posted by homunculus (52 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 


It will be a victory, Lefty, when we get a permanent base in Iraq and when we get most of the oil rights there...then we can send troops to Afghanistan to make sure the poppy growth for heroin is controlled by us rather than the Taliban.
posted by Postroad at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


It will be a victory when there is no dependency on oil anymore...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2008


How could anyone possibly use a word like 'victory' to describe any aspect what happened in Iraq? It's a catastrophe, regardless of how it's spun.
posted by Adam_S at 10:23 AM on September 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


There can be no victory when the fight isn't defined. Why did we go to Iraq? What was our purpose? Define that, and then we can start to figure out what victory is. Saddam? Gone. WMD? There aren't any. By those standards, we won. Clearly, since we're still there, those weren't the reasons we went.

At least in Vietnam, we knew we were fighting a proxy war with the commies.
posted by gjc at 10:23 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


From the article:
"polls suggest that voters trust McCain more on Iraq than they do Obama."

McCain, for one, will continue to use the word "victory" -- in fact he tried to use it against Obama during an interview on ABC's This Week. In response to Stephanopoulos' question about McCain's neglect to refer to the "middle class," McCain weakly derailed the line of questioning with the suggestion that, well *harrumph* Obama never used the word "victory" with regard to our progress in Iraq!
That kind of answer only indicates to me that McCain is reading the same polls this article refers to, and remains inclined to ameliorate our presence in Iraq by using as much "topspin" as possible.
posted by skyper at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2008


Man, I wish this had come up in the debates. But it's hard to press Mr. McCain (and the republicans) to "define victory" without sounding like a holier-than-thou professorial terrorist-lover. So that could be the trouble. But it's a debate that we as a nation should have... There are such things as just wars. But those pretty much require a clear objective at the outset.
posted by zpousman at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2008


Let's see how it's defined in the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq:
  • Short term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.
  • Medium term, Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.
  • Longer term, Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:51 AM on September 28, 2008


That was one of Bush's biggest failings as our commander-in-chief: failing to inform the troops and We The People exactly what the victory conditions are in Iraq. You CAN'T win, or at least you can't KNOW you've won, without knowing what the victory conditions are. That leaves the American people -- and especially the troops -- in a form of limbo. McCain is doing the same thing.

Obama doesn't need to define any victory conditions, since his whole stance is that the entire mission was an enormous strategic mistake, which it was. The surge, tactically, was a success, but it was a tactical success in a strategic mistake. The way I would have replied to McCain if I were Obama is: "The surge, had it been implemented in the correct country, Afghanistan, might have resulted in us capturing or killing Osama bin Laden by now. The reason we haven't caught or captured him might very well be because we surged in Iraq when we should have been surging in Afghanistan. Apparently, McCain's priority is Iraq. My priority is now, and has been since 9/11, capturing or killing those responsible for the attacks against our people and our country. I'm sorry the good Senator here disagrees with that."
posted by jamstigator at 11:01 AM on September 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


That was one of Bush's biggest failings as our commander-in-chief: failing to inform the troops and We The People exactly what the victory conditions are in Iraq. You CAN'T win, or at least you can't KNOW you've won, without knowing what the victory conditions are.

If you are a neoconservative who wants neverending war, failing to define "victory" is actually a feature not a bug. If you never define what "victory" is, you can always say it's necessary to have more wars to achieve it.
posted by jonp72 at 11:11 AM on September 28, 2008


My hope is that if enough of these articles and analyses come out, fucktards like the one who challenged me about the reality of the Anbar Awakening when I posted about this a couple of weeks ago will finally realize that the "success" of the surge was more due to its timing than its anything. I don't ever expect fucktards to go so far as to admit that talking about "victory" is meaningless, but I always see it as a victory when fucktards are forced to confront the basic facts of reality instead of their own little fantasy worlds.

On preview: According to kirkaracha's little list, we're not even meeting the short term definition of victory, since no political milestones are being met. If anything, ground is being lost. I mean, I'm just an armchair general here, but to me it looks like, based on everything I've read, including this article, that Iraq is gearing up for a civil war with at least four sides, if not more. And that war is going to happen sooner or later, whether we're there or not.
posted by Caduceus at 11:17 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is extremely troubling that McCain bases all his statements about Iraq on military input (mostly from his 'Saint Petraeus'). His definitions of "strategy vs. tactics" are framed only in military terms.

Real political leaders are not military followers. It seems that diplomatic 'strategies and tactics' do not enter into McCain's consciousness.

No wonder he can only see military 'victories' ... and no wonder he still thinks Vietnam could have been defeated (or, as Ahmadinejad might word it -- 'wiped off the map').

When will McCain discover that he is the thing he most hates?
posted by Surfurrus at 11:20 AM on September 28, 2008


Tis a famous victory when the best hospital in Baghdad has no working elevators.
posted by rdone at 11:34 AM on September 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


When will McCain discover that he is the thing he most hates?

What makes you think McCain hates following the lead of the military? Almost everyone who serves believes the country would be better off if the politicians would keep their noses out of ongoing conflicts and just let the military do its job.

McCain would be the thing he hates if he actually treated Iraq as part of a larger context and started limiting and/or withdrawing troops before the mission was complete.
posted by tkolar at 11:35 AM on September 28, 2008


Fiasco is an excellent read about some of this, and it is also written in a style that does not require a great deal of preexisting subject knowledge. References are what really make it so solid.

Should Iraq end, Iran will be frustrated more so; bordered between occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. Go figure why they are so antsy already.

"Victory" would be akin to un-scrambling an omlette back into egg form. Probably not going to happen.
posted by buzzman at 11:40 AM on September 28, 2008


US ambassador appeals for patience in Iraq
BAGHDAD - U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Sunday accused Iran of trying to interfere with a new security pact between Iraq and the United States, and said Americans need to view Iraq with "a sense of strategic patience" because the stakes in the region are so high.

**

Dear U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker,

The American people have shown a great deal of patience with regards to the war in Iraq, but our patience is running out.

We invaded the country five and a half years ago: considerably longer than WW2, a war that had a clear victory. In Iraq, "victory" remains at best illusive and ill-defined, and at worst a complete illusion for those people at home who are still incapable of admitting our defeat, over 30 years ago, in Vietnam.

So your request for patience in Iraq is beyond stupid; it's downright criminal.

Sincerely,
ornate insect, on behalf of the American people
posted by ornate insect at 11:59 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


illusive elusive
posted by ornate insect at 12:07 PM on September 28, 2008


"polls suggest that voters trust McCain more on Iraq than they do Obama."
Polls after the debate showed exactly the opposite.

I understand Obama is doing what he has to do to win, but the framing of this whole discussion is really disgusting. I hate the way he continues to play along with describing an occupation/propping up of semi-puppet government as a "war." I hate the way he sits there and argues on McCain's terms about whether the surge "worked.;

Who cares?? Even if it had worked, even if we had been "greeted as liberators," even if not one American soldier had died, WE INVADED A FOREIGN COUNTRY FOR NO REASON. A country that was not engaged in aggression against us or anyone else. THAT IS MORALLY WRONG. We tried to impose our way of government and life on another country with guns and bombs. Our standing in the world has been gravely damaged, maybe irreparably. And rightly so.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:12 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am voting for Obama. But this is what pisses me off about him:

He calls himself a Christian. He relentlessly draws attention to his Christianity (he first rose to fame on the back of the moronic statement that "we worship an awesome God in the blue states.") I don't consider anyone who supports the death penalty a Christian, but that is a different discussion.

What pisses me off for all his supposed morality and high-mindedness, he completely neglects it when it matters, on the issues. His only problem with Iraq seems to be that it's taking too long, and that it took away bombs that could have been dropped on Afghani children. I realize that, as Obama himself has said, a true Christian president would probably have to dismantle the Dept. of Defense, and I'm not in favor of that. But he seems to have no interest in his own supposed morality, until it's time to make a speech.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:20 PM on September 28, 2008


this is a strange situation we slaughtered a lot of people into, but i think in the vilest sense of all it should be called a victory.

the government did in fact take out the guy they wanted deposed and managed to collapse a nation state. i don't think it's impossible to defend a proposition that iraq no longer exists. if anything, what we are witnessing is a rather profound ritual aimed at invoking a phoenix. if something continues in that geo-location that is referred to as 'iraq' i'm not sure how much relation it will bear to that which we previously understood to be 'iraq.'

maybe we shouldn't be trying to understand this in the terms of how the u.s. rebuilt (configured or constructed might be more apropos here) japan or germany after it obliterated those principalities. this is not like anything we have in our history books is it?

it is not vietnam. it is not cambodia. it is not the cold war. it is not a damn thing we can use history, our history, to comprehend. when people, philosophers, were running around proclaiming the death of history this is what they were mumbling about.

personally i think we should offer an apology, use those secret nuetron bombs on new york and LA and offer it to those chaps. that way we seperate the warring factions from each, soothe blood lust and the desire for revenge and everybody on all sides gets a really good idea of how incalculable this horror truly is.

or maybe everybody who didn't get out there and protest and write letters and make phone calls and generally froth at the mouth as this shit went down beginning a day after 9-11 can be sent to motherfucking "it-sure-as fuck-used-to-be-iraq" and get in line and just get strung up 'til the folks over there are satisfied. i will personally buy anyone who needs a ticket one.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:22 PM on September 28, 2008


They've been turning a corner since they fucking got there. A diagram of this shit would look like a spiral.

A DEATH SPIRAL

sorry
posted by synaesthetichaze at 12:34 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering something now that I've wondered before, and seen brought up a few times with mixed reaction. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

Iraq, like other Middle Eastern countries, has borders that were drawn up by foreign occupations (in Iraq's case, the British). This has proved incredibly contentious for Iraq especially, where Sunnis, Shias and Kurds - who for centuries had lived in separate tribal areas - were placed suddenly under one common administration (althought T. E. Lawrence had another vision for the region as a whole, it was of course never realized). This has been a pretty recent situation for them, and even under Saddam's firm hand was never fully settled. When Iraq was plunged into anarchy, these ethnic groups naturally verged away from each other and continue to do so.

My question is: should Iraq divide into three separate administrative entities? Here, I'm talking about everything from three separate countries to three semi-autonomous regions to three provinces under one central command, worked out under neutral moderation between representatives of the three ethnic groups. The advantage I see to this would be providing the different ethnic groups with something closer to what they've traditionally accepted to be how they would govern themselves, possibly reducing violence. The disadvantage I see to this would be a Yugoslavia-style power grab and possibly increased violence.

Thoughts?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:47 PM on September 28, 2008


His only problem with Iraq seems to be that it's taking too long, and that it took away bombs that could have been dropped on Afghani children.

I think Obama has been pretty clear about what he feels about civilian casualties of war. My understanding is that he prefers strategic and intelligent military action, as opposed to the shotgun approach the current administration favors.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:49 PM on September 28, 2008


When will McCain discover that he is the thing he most hates? - Sufurrus

What makes you think McCain hates following the lead of the military? - tklor


What I was referring to was how much McCain resembles Ahamedinejad in his bellicose rhetoric about "winning" (i.e., "wiping them off the map")

I have heard many, many of the "Vietnam-War-could-have-been-won-if-we-only-listened-to Lemay" crowd (i.e., nuked the whole country to ashes). I believe McCain is squarely living in that delusion.

In fact, I fear McCain more than Ahmadinejad!
posted by Surfurrus at 12:58 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ahmadinejad ... (I hate it when I spell in Palinese!)
posted by Surfurrus at 1:01 PM on September 28, 2008


I fear McCain more than Ahmadinejad!

All thinking people should.

And Victory in Iraq <> Withdrawal. Ever. It's what Postroad said (even if sarcastically - but then, that's when I agree with Posty most often).

And drjimmy, you have apparently mis-identified American Christians as peace-loving people. Obama has not. He is not naive.
posted by wendell at 1:10 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


marisa stole the precious thing, if all those groups could be convinced to cede properties of land to one another and coordinate a mass redistribution of populations across the territory how does that play out for farming and the distribution of mineral rights.

i haven't been allowed to administer a nation-state yet, but i suspect that's what would be on my mind if i got my hands on one all of a sudden. also, these folks seem pretty fucked up over the shit that's been done to them with the u.s.'s actions just being the latest in a long lineage of trauma inducing scenarios/vignettes. if they are going door to door and popping each other off over political, social and or religious disputes and proclamations how can they be expected to share water, oil, crops and right of passage with each other. it's sort of like what would happen if seattle was on the border of detroit.

actually, i want to approach your idea with some sense of propriety, but i fear that it's too large for me to comprehend within its details. i apologize. but as i stated earlier this enterprise is too fucking big to be wrapped up in any way we are going to figure out any time soon.

a little hell on earth anyone?
posted by artof.mulata at 1:17 PM on September 28, 2008


Thoughts?

I strongly suspect that a division into three states is the only way Iraq can avoid a full scale civil war at this point. I also suspect that if such a division is attempted, that the Shiite state will try to join Iran, or Iran will try to annex the Shiite state. I further suspect that the Sunnis and the Shiites will want to go to war with each other anyway, and there's a good chance whoever wins will try and conquer the Kurds for the hell of it. 'Cause there's nothing theocracies enjoy so much as imposing their regime on others.
posted by Caduceus at 1:20 PM on September 28, 2008


And drjimmy, you have apparently mis-identified American Christians as peace-loving people. Obama has not. He is not naive.

When only a minority of Americans support this war, and an even smaller minority believe we're engaged in holy war, and those "Christians" represent a minority of American Christians as a whole?

I agree the bloodthristy crusader sect exists. I just don't think they represent American Christianity by a long shot.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:21 PM on September 28, 2008


I also suspect that if such a division is attempted, that the Shiite state will try to join Iran, or Iran will try to annex the Shiite state.

Yeah, that occured to me as well. I'm far from an expert on the Middle East, but perhaps someone else here can shed some light on the differences between Iraqi Shias and Iranian Shias, in terms of how such an assimilation would play out.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:24 PM on September 28, 2008


I agree the bloodthristy crusader sect exists. I just don't think they represent American Christianity by a long shot.

I believe Obama is trying very hard to be the anti-Iraq War candidate without being Carter, who was also outwardly Christian. So far, Republicans haven't been able to pin the "weak" or "peacenik" label on him successfully, even though they have a candidate with an idealized military background running against a lawyer. I also believe he favors a police action type of approach in Afghanistan, along with real nation building efforts. I'm not sure how much we can really accomplish there, and Obama's hawkish remarks about Pakistan may prove to be problematic later, but this at least is the realist path, if not exactly the ideal way.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:46 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Remember Osama bin Laden? Don't feel bad, no one else does, either.
posted by tommasz at 3:15 PM on September 28, 2008


Remember Osama bin Laden?

Yeah, he's a wedding poet, right?
posted by homunculus at 4:08 PM on September 28, 2008


Iraq was a victory for democracy because the Kurds now have solid autonomy plus considerable influence over souther Iraq, and the Shiites were allowed to kill off the Sunnis. So the majority won. Iraq's only problem is continued U.S. presence attracting psychopathic Sunni martyrs from Saudi Arabia et al.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:14 PM on September 28, 2008


Step 1: Redefine "victory."
Step 2: Estimate timeline to victory (in Friedman Units).
Step 3: Obtain funding, political concessions, new powers.
Step 4: Proceed to Step 1.
posted by adipocere at 6:31 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


My question is: should Iraq divide into three separate administrative entities?

As it said in the article this is pretty much what is happening on the ground. In the Iraqi constitution there is a provision to set up regional governing units larger and more powerful than provinces. The Kurds already have one and the Shiites are setting one up. The Sunni's don't have one legally, but the Awakening Council's are a de facto regionall government with their own American supplied military.

This was Joe Biden's idea from the beginning, though most people on the left or the right didn't think it was a good idea at the time. The major problem with it is that Iraq doesn't split nicely down ethnic lines in a lot of important places like Baghdad or Kirkuk and the fact that there are all these military organizations running around that the central goveremnt has no authority over.
posted by afu at 7:47 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


My question is: should Iraq divide into three separate administrative entities?

First floated by the Bush Administration in October 2002 when someone leaked to Stratfor.

Congress Wants to Split Iraq in Three Pieces, But Who Asked Them?

posted by mlis at 8:03 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007, graphic evidence of ethnic cleansing that preceded a drop in violence, according to a report published on Friday."

It appears that the decrease in violence was not caused by the surge. Although this may be reality, I can't imagine that the Obama camp would even try to communicate such a "subtle" idea in this political climate, which is sad.
posted by 517 at 10:49 PM on September 28, 2008


Link that might stay around longer.
posted by 517 at 10:51 PM on September 28, 2008


I thought we had had a victory long ago. There was a President, an aircraft carrier and a banner, or something. Anyone remember that?
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:56 PM on September 28, 2008


Yes, that's right Effigy2k, and the build up for the evacuation has been going for a while, with bipartisan support.
posted by pompomtom at 11:20 PM on September 28, 2008


>My question is: should Iraq divide into three separate administrative entities?

It'd be nice, but, unlike what was Yugoslavia, there's the oil to consider.

Some regions have more of it than others.

In theory, of course, an arrangement could be made to divide the oil revenues and thereby compensate the oil-poor areas.

In practice, thus far, guns and power drills matter more than arrangements.

So it might be a good long-term option, but much, much more trust would have to develop between the different groups-- or a much more effective and force-monopolizing overseeing power would have to be in place-- before it would be really viable.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:48 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


The article is a good summary of the situation, and the end is excellent:
John McCain says that partly because of his persistent support of the surge, we are now winning the Iraq war. He defines victory as an Iraq that is a democratic ally. Yet he advocates continued US military support to an Iraqi government led by Shiite religious parties committed to the establishment of an Islamic republic. He takes a harder line on Iran than President Bush, but supports Iraqi factions that are Iran's closest allies in the Middle East. He praises the Awakening and but seems not to have realized that the Iraqi government is intent on crushing it. He has denounced the Obama-Biden plan for a decentralized state but has said nothing about how he would protect Iraq's Kurds, the only committed American allies in the country.

George W. Bush has put the United States on the side of undemocratic Iraqis who are Iran's allies. John McCain would continue the same approach. It is hard to understand how this can be called a success—or a path to victory.
And this is an important point about how we managed to achieve so little after expending so much money and military force: "Iraqis learned in the early days of the occupation that President Bush and his team were readily satisfied with promises, regardless of whether any actions followed."

My question is: should Iraq divide into three separate administrative entities?

This is a fun question for armchair strategists to bat around, but no Iraqi government is voluntarily going to give up its power over two-thirds of the country. Realistically, what's going to happen is that when the U.S. withdraws, the Shia-dominated government, with Iran's covert help, will crush the Sunnis and the Kurds, sparking long-running guerrilla resistance on the part of both, and Iraq will stagger on as a semi-functional state for the indefinite future.
posted by languagehat at 5:53 AM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]








Iraq, The New Yugoslavia?
posted by homunculus at 9:32 AM on October 1, 2008












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