In the days since the Democrats took control of Congress there has been increased criticism of the war in Iraq from prominent members of both parties. Sen. John McCain has called our current efforts “immoral”, saying we either must step up our commitment or pull out, and the legendarily calculating Henry Kissinger has suggested that the war is no longer winnable.
Of course the war still has its supporters inside and outside the Bush administration, and you still can hear daily attacks from the right accusing Democrats of undermining our efforts to win the war. Which got me thinking. Assuming we did decide to recommit our ourselves towards winning the war in Iraq, exactly what would that victory look like? Surely it wouldn’t look like this:
The United Nations said today that 3,709 Iraqi civilians were killed in October, the highest monthly toll since the March 2003 U.S. invasion and another sign of the severity of Iraq’s sectarian bloodbath.
The U.N. tally was more than three times higher than the total The Associated Press had tabulated for the month, and far more than the 2,866 U.S. service members who have died during all of the war.
The report on civilian casualties, handed out at a U.N. news conference in Baghdad, said the influence of militias was growing, and torture continued to be rampant, despite the government’s vow to address human rights abuses.
“Hundreds of bodies continued to appear in different areas of Baghdad handcuffed, blindfolded and bearing signs of torture and execution-style killing,” the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq report said. “Many witnesses reported that perpetrators wear militia attire and even police or army uniforms.”
Perhaps there was a path to victory way back in 2003, where we could have left a relatively pacified Iraq a better place than we found it, both for its own citizens and its neighbors in the region. Perhaps not.
But with violence growing by the day despite (or because of) our continued military presence, it’s hard to see us imposing a stable, democratic government by force. Assuming that’s what we’re shooting for.
So I’m just wondering… for those of you who think we should stay in Iraq until we win the war, could you please share your concept of what winning might look like? After all, how can we ask our military to devise and execute a strategy for achieving a victory we’ve failed to define?