My first inclination was to let this facile bit of propaganda slide, figuring it couldn't really influence anyone. Then I read this reaction to George Bush's victory-in-Iraq speech in The Wall Street Journal:
Or as military analyst Andrew Krepinevich put it to us yesterday, whether Iraq was a "war of choice" or a "war of necessity" at the beginning, it certainly is the latter now. Our adversaries the world over—from North Korea to Syria's Bashar Assad to Iran's mullahs—are watching to see if America has the will to win in Iraq.
Well, fuck, that's kinda the whole ball of wax now isn't it? For Iraq to be a "victory" it must put the United States in a better strategic place than it was in at invasion -1. Yet we are still not talking about that. Unless the Bush Administration really wants to argue that the sole rationale for the Iraq war was to demonstrate to the various Middle East actors that the U.S. has the will to fight an open-ended, pointless war in order to demonstrate the U.S. was the will to fight an open-ended, pointless war in the Middle East. Stand back, people, we're crazy nuts.
Hell, maybe that is the entire strategic rationale, which would be one of the many breaks with the all-purpose Vietnam analogy that the current red jersey-blue jersey breakdown does not capture. On some level, fighting an ugly war of attrition in the jungles of Vietnam made clear to the Soviets that war-by-proxy would be opposed, not to mention it kept the U.S. focused on technological advances as the key to trump, and ultimately exhaust, Soviet worker-drone numerical advantages. Makes a ton of sense as long as you are not being drafted into the operation at the pointy end.
Yet the only way the Iraq adventure makes sense is if it somehow deters bad outcomes for the region and the terrorism it spawns. OK. Is Iran now more or less likely to pursue a nuclear future? Do the Saudis—and Muslims as a whole—like us more now that our bases are in Iraq and not in the Kingdom? Are we really killing more terrorists than we are creating?
Three years and countless Bush administration speeches and spins on, we still know next to nothing about what really constitutes victory in the current conflict. The proof? Iraq in 2015 is a functioning Jeffersonian democracy with several large U.S. military instillations. And Iran is a nuclear power with medium-range missiles. Is President Rice doing cartwheels? Me neither.
Iraq is at best a pretext, a stepping-stone, an object-lesson in progress. Victory is not an option.