How would we define "victory" in Iraq?
President Bush claims that we're on the road to "victory" in Iraq. I wonder how we would define an American military victory in that chaotic land. A "victory" requires a "winner" and a "loser." We have so many different Iraqi enemies that it would be hard to figure out who is the primary loser.
Can you picture Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric who leads the Shiite militia, the Mehdi Army, sitting down with Lt. Gen. David Patreaus, the U.S. commander, to surrender? Or the leader of the Sunni insurgents or the head of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia acknowledging defeat at a formal surrender ceremony?
The President and his war-hawk supporters are in fantasy-land when they treat Iraq as a conventional war in which one side surrenders to the other. We are engaged in guerrilla warfare. And it is unlike other guerrilla conflicts in which insurgents fight against an established central government. In Iraq, two different wars are waging.
In one, Shiite forces are battling Sunni forces in what is essentially a civil war. In the other war, Sunni insurgents and radical Shiite factions like the Mehdi Army are fighting the U.S. And all the while, anti-American elements are infiltrating the Iraq government's official army and police units to aid the Shiite guerrillas.
Meantime, the Maliki-headed central Iraqi government, which we installed and for whom we are shedding American lives to protect, plays footsie with Iran, the country Bush fears would take over Iraq if U.S. forces withdrew.
President Bush recently boasted that we have won the allegiance of a handful of Sunni tribal sheiks willing to help fight both the Sunni insurgents and Al-Qeada in Mesopotamia, the homegrown terrorist group inspired, but not necessarily linked to Osama Bin-Laden's original Afghan-based terror organization.
Within days, our new "allies" were assassinated. Other Sunni tribal sheiks are highly unlikely to cooperate with us. Those same Sunni insurgents are now systematically killing loyal commanders of Iraqi police and military units.
In their recent testimony before Congressional committees, both Lt. Gen. Patreaus and Ryan Crocker, our ambassador to Baghdad, appeared reluctant to agree with President Bush's absurd argument that our involvement in Iraq has made the U.S. more secure.
In fact, the invasion and the subsequent bloody occupation of Iraq have made us more vulnerable to terrorism. Agitated by what they see as the suffering of their fellow Muslims, Islamic extremists are pouring into Iraq from other Muslim countries, eager to kill American "infidels." Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the primary training ground for Islamic terrorists.
Just as important, many defense experts worry that American military capabilities have been so weakened by our involvement in Iraq that we are ill-prepared to contend with new threats to national security.
This is the situation that President Bush will bequeath to his successor in the White House. As the next President wrestles with Iraq, Bush expects to be on the lecture circuit, as he told the author of a new Bush biography, to "replenish the old coffers." He envies how Bill Clinton has cashed in on his Presidency.