Come on, all you diehard Bushbots out there. Give me some answers for these questions. Does victory mean toppling Saddam? Done. Does victory mean ensuring Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass destruction? Done. Does it mean a stable and Western style democracy in Iraq? Good luck with that. Does it just mean a stable but perhaps not democratic Iraq? Good luck with that as well. Does it mean modernizing and westernizing all of the Middle East? Does it mean stamping out all vestiges of "Shari'a-observant Islam" or more crudely put, wiping out "Islamofascism." Most War on Terror supporters I have talked to cannot give a coherent answer. Instead they resort to talking points and boiler-plate accompanied by foot-stomping and eye-rolling.
"I would rather fight them over there than fight them over here." "If we leave Iraq unfinished they will follow us home." This latter jewel has been repeatedly spouted by Senator McCain, who aspires to the highest office in the land. Work that out for me, Senator McCain. If they could come over here then, why can't they come over here now? In fact, it might be even easier since we are distracted with the War.
The more sweeping the goal, such as stamping out Shari'a Islam, obviously the more time, treasure and lives it will cost to achieve. Some uber-hawks who have attempted to define victory say we must eliminate the motivation and the capability of the "enemy" to resist. (See here and here for two admirable attempts at specificity.) I admit this is at least a strategy and an aim, although a rather vague one, but it is only slightly less sweeping and unattainable than Frum and Perle's silly little notion that we should have as a war aim the end of evil. Sorry, guys, but since the Fall we have evil ever with us.
These sweeping definitions of victory are a prescription for "perpetual war for perpetual peace." The war they envision would cost untold amounts of money and lives, ours and theirs. It would last perhaps generations. The American people do not support the current limited war in Iraq. How do the hawks and uber-hawks propose to sell their grand strategy? The War has already cost the GOP the House and Senate. If this thing is still draggin on in '08, the Republicans risk a crushing defeat. Once stalwart Republicans are getting cold feet and mass defections on the War are likely if the surge fails. Politically this strategy is untenable unless they are planning for a coup. (And this is coming from someone who is no political pragamatist, but I readily admit when I am jousting at windmills with little chance of success. These guys are serious.)
Also, the military, especially the army, is being stretched to the breaking point. Top generals are now conceding this. Do the hawks plan a draft to support their grand war aims?
And even if we pursued the War on Terror with gusto, it is not clear that would necessarily make us safer. The now much discussed concept of blowback, thanks to presidential candidate Ron Paul, is a real phenomenon no matter how much the oblivious War supporters insist Muslims hate us only because we liberated women and produce dirty movies.
Talking points and the ritualistic demonization of Muslims does not a war aim make. It is incumbent upon the hawks to very specifically define the war aims as they see them. What countries should we attack and/or invade? Syria? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Should Pakistan be allowed to keep its nukes? Etc. Let's put this on the table for all to see. I think many have been deliberately vague and have relied on talking points because they know if they were honest about their aims the public would not buy it. So better to get us entangled and then scream "cutting-and-running" when anyone suggests it is time to bring the boys home. You cannot win a war without public support-or explaining the reaons for fighting a war that could last for twenty or thirty years with simplistic "We gotta kill alla them durn terrist Muslims" responses. Thanks to this administration's inept handling of Iraq, the people now have little stomach for wars against Iran, Syria, or even North Korea, no matter how justifiable they might be. We could have had a Grand Strategy for dealing with Islamofascism the way we dealt with Communism, but Bush decided on the quick and easy route of invasion, demonization and vague proclamations. That's not a strategy; that's expediency. And expediency in the name of securing a legacy for yourself isn't the way to win a war.