Victory in Iraq is What You Want it To Be


From the Columbia Journalism Review, another of what I think is an interesting example of the "normalization" of Iraq, that I suggested back in October might mean that the war and any discontent over it will be a much smaller issue come this November than most suspected back in those halcyon days of yesteryear when it was to be a Hillary-Rudy sure-thing.

Excerpt, from their embedded reporter Paul McLeary:

Being out here, the one thing that is most striking is how cut off you feel from the political fight over Iraq back home. While pundits, politicians, blogs, and op-ed pages argue endlessly about the relative success of the "surge" and whether to pull the troops out, to the soldiers out here, the situation is vastly more complex.

There is no clear definition of victory in a fight like this. This isn't to say that we're winning—or losing—just that we're at a crucial juncture where things could quickly swing back toward chaos, or ahead toward increased security and stability. The choice at this point really does lie with the Iraqi people, and their government, or whatever branches of their government are actually functioning. Meanwhile, there is a great story to be told—at Camp Courage and throughout Iraq—of the efforts of American soldiers at a crossroads, who are serving simultaneously as fighters, diplomats, civil servants, and tribal consiglieri, while trying to build trust between Sunni and Shia sheiks, the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi police, local Nahia and Qada councils (think city councils) and the Concerned Local Citizens movement, any of whom might be working at cross-purposes with each other at any given time. It's a down-and-dirty study in the application of counterinsurgency doctrine.

With no "clear definition of victory," the easier it will be to make anything look like victory, as long as it isn't clearly as bad as it was one or two years before.