No End But Victory. OK, What’s Victory?

Just got an email from my Representative in Congress, Jane Harman:

Subject: Needed: A strategy for an exit from Iraq

Here’s the email I just sent her office in response:

Dear Rep. Harman:

I just received your email titled “Needed: A strategy for an exit from Iraq.”

I’m disappointed that you’d choose to frame this serious issue in such a thoughtless way. The very phrasing of the question suggests your priority: bring the troops home safely. Sadly, the only way to keep our troops safe is not to use them, and to withdraw from the conflicts spanning the globe – conflicts which have already touched our shores, and which risk not only our security but that of our allies as well.

Here’s an alternative phrasing which meets the same goal – Subject: Defining victory in Iraq. How do we know we’ve won?

There’s a very legitimate set of discussions to have around this issue, and one which I’ve publicly criticized the Administration for not leading. You have the opportunity to lead where they have failed – but not if your leadership is focused entirely on how to get out quickly with minimal loss of life and face.

Instead, if we have some concrete goals, we can have the simplest exit strategy of all: victory.

13 thoughts on “No End But Victory. OK, What’s Victory?”

  1. AL, yes, yes, yes, yes yes!

    The problem with what Murtha just did is that now we _cant_ start drawing down forces in a smart way anytime soon without looking like we were driven away. That is terrible. By next we we should be able to start drawing down troops as certain conditions on the ground are met (elections and IA unit capability). That is now problematic. If we start pulling troops any time soon it will look like nothing but defeat, _when its almost time to pull them in victory_. This would be like loading up the 3rd Army to sail back to America just before crossing the bridge at Remagen. Madness.

  2. Democrats are gaining a “cut and run” reputation. By investing in defeat for US forces in Iraq, they stake their political futures on making sure the US is defeated.

  3. Folks,

    The definition of “victory” is everything. If you mean smashing the enemy’s large armored formations (ala blitzkrieg), we won a long time ago, as Bush said in the “Mission Accomplished” speech.

    But if we are in a “modern war”, ala “Trinquier”:http://cgsc.leavenworth.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/trinquier/trinquier.asp and “current applications”:http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/04spring/tomes.htm of his thought, then “victory” is measured on a completely different set of dimensions, and will require the kind of two-branched structure Trinquier describes in his book.

    Trinquier lays out a very clear definition of victory: political legitimacy in the eyes of the population. It used to be that the population would just accept whoever had large organized army units in the field, and knocking out those formations made all recognize you as legitimate. Just like taking the king in chess, when everyone agrees on the rules of chess.

    But the West got so good at winning chess that everyone else quit playing it – starting with the Algerians. Now we have to win legitimacy in different ways, like perhaps security, social service, religious piety, and so on. I’m not sure of the means, but the end is what Trinquier said: legitimacy and loyalty. Perhaps the “US Victory”
    will have to be won via surrogates, i.e. an indigenous Iraqi government (because of the religous issues).

    It is worth noting that Barnett has recently resurrected Trinquier’s notions, calling them something like the big guns and the sys admins.

    Anyone care to venture a plan for “legitimacy and loyalty”?

  4. “Anyone care to venture a plan for “legitimacy and loyalty”?”

    Im less interested in the latter than in the former. One of the mistakes anti-Bushites make is in assuming an independent and democratic Iraq needs to be actively pro-US. They could hate our guts but still be a decisive success. Democratic nations like Indonesia that prove Islam is compatible with progress and self-determination are 1000 times more valuable than friendly despots like the Saudis in the long run. The people of Democratic nations have something to lose.

    Im far from letting Bush off the hook for our current woes. Months ago he should have presented us with metrics that will indicate victory (and hence drawdown). Its not too late but now any such plan will be heralded as turning tail, when that is not the case. But here is my plan:

    -establish a time table for withdrawal based not on dates but on events. We should plan to withdraw a token force after the next election as a show of good faith to the Iraqis that we will not remain indefinately. Other events lead to more withdrawal, from cities and from the nation as a whole. IA units rated to certain levels and numbers is another indicator.

    -Transfer the bulk of keeping Sunni towns in line to the IA. Increasingly US forces should be securing the border against foriegners and hunting Al Qaeda. That boosts the governments standing while putting pressure on those trying to destroy it. It also removes a major inflamatory from the Sunni’s faces.

    By the end of 05 we should be down to perhaps 100,000 troops in Iraq and a number more in Kuwait- and dropping. The Iraq government will be stronger than ever and independent. They grow as we leave. Our SF and other mobile forces will likely remain for years hunting AQ, but the major military presence can be scheduled to leave based on Iraqi progress within the next few years. Victory is an independent Iraq, stable throughout, with minimal US forces in country.

  5. MB,
    Get some rest! But after that …

    In terms of Trinquier’s dual civil/military structure, and the 6 interactions between friendly civil, friendly military, opposing civil, and opposing military, how would it work? Your post focuses only on the levels-vs-time of US military. I do agree with your suggestion that the changes in levels should be driven by events, not dates. But what events? Produced how? And how to make sure the obvious counter-actions of our opponents will not work?

    In military jargon, what “defeat mechanism” will destroy the legitimacy of and loyalty to the opponents, while building the legitimacy of and loyalty to our allies? Again, in terms of the 6 interactions.

  6. I think the American public is willing to tolerate another 7 to 9 months, and another 500-700 US casualties on this.

    That is how much of a runway we have, to win this war. If we don’t win by then, we have a problem, politically.

  7. “I think the American public is willing to tolerate another 7 to 9 months, and another 500-700 US casualties on this.

    That is how much of a runway we have, to win this war. If we don’t win by then, we have a problem, politically.”

    I think thats how long we have at current force levels. If we pull out say 20,000 troops in spring of 2006, as Rice and others are hinting at, that could change the dynamic in many ways.

    1. It would relieve the whole army recruitment/retention issue, as the frequency of rotation to Iraq declines.

    2. It would tangible confirmation that the admin really does beleive the Iraqi army is making progress.

    3. It would be a signal (albeit an incomplete one) to all that we dont intend to stay forever.

  8. “They trust each other even less than they trust us.”

    We will have 80-100,000 American troops in Iraq for decades.

    The American troops will not be fighting or policing, however (that will be done — and much more effectively — by Iraqis).

    They will be there to underscore two critical points.

    1. No attacks permitted ON Iraq.
    2. No coups permitted IN Iraq.

    America has moved Iraq from the Islamic Fascist camp into the liberal democracy camp — and it’s going to stay there.

  9. My definition of victory:

    When an all-volunteer Iraqi army, provoked by too much terrorist guff, marches into Tehran to settle the matter of Iranian nuclear ambitions once and for all.

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