The role of victory

A surprising thing seems to have happened in the recent two military engagements of our side against the Islamic radicals – the Israel/Hezb’allah War and the Iraq War.  Neither Israel nor ourselves defined our objective in our respective wars as “victory.”  Rather than victory we both seem to have opted for attempting to secure the good opinion of our enemies.  This, after all, was the gravamen of the war coverage of the Israelis – that they were doing things that their enemies did not approve of and ipso facto they were in the wrong.
In our own case, to the extent we have/had a political strategy in Iraq, it has been for our forces to provide an interval for the Iraqi forces to take over and then they would finish the war with an Iraqi solution.  Whether this was ever a valid idea, it has failed.  So we need a new strategy, and that strategy must include victory.
What would victory look like in Iraq?  Unfortunately, over the very near term, it will not have an Iraqi face.  The Iraqi government is not capable of controlling the violence in the country.  It has not been able to overcome its sectarian basis, so we have an essentially Shia government that is not willing to promote the well-being of the Sunni part of the country, not to mention being under the thumb of Shia militias.
Our interest in Iraq, however, goes beyond the well-being of Iraq.  We are there to promote the well-being of America.  Our strategy must now focus on this objective and, as in any war, apply sufficient force in a sufficiently ruthless way to secure our objective.  That is what victory means.  Victory does not result from the good opinion of the enemy but from its surrender.
Israel is reaping the bitter harvest of its failed war against Hezb’allah in dramatically reduced prestige which may even bring the sustainability of the state into question.  It certainly is resulting in the disintegration of the Lebanon polity.
The person who must set our strategy in Iraq to rights is president Bush.  This has, in the truest sense, been his war.  It was his strategy to start it.  Whatever the merits of WMD’s, it was always apparent that our grand strategy was to blunt the momentum of Islamic radicalism by midwifing a successful modern democratic Islamic state in the Middle East.  That goal is as valid now as it was in 2003, if appearing more difficult to achieve.  That, presumably, is why Bush pushed forward with the Iraq War amidst all the pessimistic advice he received at the time.  The pessimists might be right that Iraq would be a tough nut to crack, but that did not solve the problem of how to neutralize Islamic radicalism.  And it still doesn’t.
We have not, ultimately, been as serious about this war as we need to be.  That has been manifest in, among other things, the debate on interrogation of terrorists.  Yes, it is not an illegitimate question as to how far we are prepared to go in interrogation, but the question in Congress was framed in the context of how we feel about it rather than what will most contribute to victory.  What, after all, was the morality of the fire-bombing of Japanese cities?  It was undertaken and sustained as a measure necessary to victory.  Victory is not cheap, not least for the moral sensibilities of the victor.  That is how we won World War II against two adversaries – Germany and Japan – who each thought their hole card against us was their superior ruthlessness.  They were mistaken. 
We must rise to that challenge again – determining what victory will take and then doing it – or we will find ourselves under siege in our own homes within the foreseeable future.
A surprising thing seems to have happened in the recent two military engagements of our side against the Islamic radicals – the Israel/Hezb’allah War and the Iraq War.  Neither Israel nor ourselves defined our objective in our respective wars as “victory.”  Rather than victory we both seem to have opted for attempting to secure the good opinion of our enemies.  This, after all, was the gravamen of the war coverage of the Israelis – that they were doing things that their enemies did not approve of and ipso facto they were in the wrong.
In our own case, to the extent we have/had a political strategy in Iraq, it has been for our forces to provide an interval for the Iraqi forces to take over and then they would finish the war with an Iraqi solution.  Whether this was ever a valid idea, it has failed.  So we need a new strategy, and that strategy must include victory.
What would victory look like in Iraq?  Unfortunately, over the very near term, it will not have an Iraqi face.  The Iraqi government is not capable of controlling the violence in the country.  It has not been able to overcome its sectarian basis, so we have an essentially Shia government that is not willing to promote the well-being of the Sunni part of the country, not to mention being under the thumb of Shia militias.
Our interest in Iraq, however, goes beyond the well-being of Iraq.  We are there to promote the well-being of America.  Our strategy must now focus on this objective and, as in any war, apply sufficient force in a sufficiently ruthless way to secure our objective.  That is what victory means.  Victory does not result from the good opinion of the enemy but from its surrender.
Israel is reaping the bitter harvest of its failed war against Hezb’allah in dramatically reduced prestige which may even bring the sustainability of the state into question.  It certainly is resulting in the disintegration of the Lebanon polity.
The person who must set our strategy in Iraq to rights is president Bush.  This has, in the truest sense, been his war.  It was his strategy to start it.  Whatever the merits of WMD’s, it was always apparent that our grand strategy was to blunt the momentum of Islamic radicalism by midwifing a successful modern democratic Islamic state in the Middle East.  That goal is as valid now as it was in 2003, if appearing more difficult to achieve.  That, presumably, is why Bush pushed forward with the Iraq War amidst all the pessimistic advice he received at the time.  The pessimists might be right that Iraq would be a tough nut to crack, but that did not solve the problem of how to neutralize Islamic radicalism.  And it still doesn’t.
We have not, ultimately, been as serious about this war as we need to be.  That has been manifest in, among other things, the debate on interrogation of terrorists.  Yes, it is not an illegitimate question as to how far we are prepared to go in interrogation, but the question in Congress was framed in the context of how we feel about it rather than what will most contribute to victory.  What, after all, was the morality of the fire-bombing of Japanese cities?  It was undertaken and sustained as a measure necessary to victory.  Victory is not cheap, not least for the moral sensibilities of the victor.  That is how we won World War II against two adversaries – Germany and Japan – who each thought their hole card against us was their superior ruthlessness.  They were mistaken. 
We must rise to that challenge again – determining what victory will take and then doing it – or we will find ourselves under siege in our own homes within the foreseeable future.