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THE USUAL SUSPECTS ‌ A Fighting Chance

We can still win the war in Iraq

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President Bush has announced he's going to try a new strategy in Iraq. Apparently his old strategy, the "Chaos In Baghdad, Job Security For My Pals In Washington" plan, is finally being abandoned.

Well, Mr. President, the closest I've ever gotten to understanding military strategy was figuring out whether or not my pieces in Irkutsk could attack Kamchatka during a high-stakes game of Risk back in college. Nevertheless, I'd like to be so bold as to offer you my new strategy in Iraq, one we have yet to try.

It's called "winning."

I will pause here to accommodate the howls of "We're doomed! Get out now! All is lost! Bush Lied, People Died!" from the usual suspects.

I know, I know: it's insanity to use the word "win" and "Iraq" in the same sentence. Victory is absolutely impossible. The most powerful military of the most powerful nation with the most productive and ingenious people in the world can't possibly win the battle for one city against a few gangs of Islamist thugs.

Right.

The statement "America cannot win in Iraq" is as dumb as the statement "America cannot lose in Iraq." Any war can be lost. The Union nearly lost to the Confederacy despite the North's overwhelming manpower, firepower, and economic power. Why? Because the North's will to fight was in question. Appeasers were willing to accept the cost of defeat despite the fact that as long as they kept fighting, a Union victory was inevitable.

An American victory is possible in Iraq. What is required is commitment. The argument that America is straining beneath the impossible burden of this war is nonsense.

Obviously, every loss of an American soldier is tragic, but as a nation we have yet to take this war seriously. We've deployed less than one-third of one percent of our population in Iraq thus far, and we've spent less than 5 percent of a single year's GDP on the entire war effort.

So why do so many people, particularly in the media, get so eye-poppingly angry over the idea that America might try fighting in Iraq like we were actually serious about winning?

Because, sadly, for the Cindy Sheehan wing of the American Left, it's always and forever about the Bush. The whole point of the Iraq issue is for George W. Bush to lose. Something. Anything — just lose, dammit!

For a disturbing number of Democrats (and readers of this paper) Iraq is a proxy battle over what they see as the true outrage of the 21st century — not 9/11/01, but November 2000.

When you're more angry about butterfly ballots in Florida than battlefield casualties in Fallujah, your priorities are suspect.

There are plenty of rational people who doubt that General Petraeus and his updated model for fighting the insurgency will work. And there are many more people who have simply abandoned the idea that the Middle East can ever be anything other than what it is right now: a backwater of tribal violence, irrational prejudice and Islam-inspired stupidity.

These critics might be right. But that's not the same as saying "anyone who thinks we can win in Iraq has been huffing glue."

Plenty of good, smart people believe we can win this war, but we won't because we lack the testicular fortitude. As a nation, we cannot bear the ugly cost of that victory: Lots of dead people.

I don't say this flippantly. It is simply the truth.

We should have killed more Iraqis in 2003 and 2004. More insurgents, more militia members, and (unfortunately and despite our best efforts) more innocent civilians.

Had we fought a harder, tougher, more brutal war then, there would be less violence now. More Iraqis would be alive today, and they would have more hope for the future.

But we didn't do it. We let the thugs and militias and murderers rise up, while we let honorable values other than victory prevail. Our reluctance to kill then is getting hundreds of Iraqis killed now.

Sherman marched to the sea, cruelly and unapologetically burning cities along the way, because he wanted to destroy the will to fight. As he did, the fighting slowed and eventually stopped. His "brutality" saved lives, brought peace, and preserved a nation.

Do we hate killing enough to kill in order to stop it? Do we love peace enough to fight a harsh, even brutal, war to preserve it?

If we have a president who will let our military fight that war, and if we are a people who are willing to support them, then yes — we can win.

We can still lose, too. But if we do, it won't be because we didn't have a fighting chance.

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