Victory in Iraq

With the release of the Iraq Study Group’s report & recommendations, there has been renewed talk about the prospects for victory in Iraq. I was curious what, exactly, “victory in Iraq” looked like, so I Googled “Iraq Victory.”
The White House has available at its website a document titled “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” – download the pdf here.

From the “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq”:

“Our mission in Iraq is clear. We’re hunting down the terrorists. We’re helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We’re advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren.”
-President George W. Bush, June 28, 2003

“VICTORY IN IRAQ DEFINED
As the central front in the global war on terror, success in Iraq is an essential element in the long war against the ideology that breeds international terrorism. Unlike past wars, however, victory in Iraq will not come in the form of an enemy’s surrender, or be signaled by a single particular event – there will be no Battleship Missouri, no Appomattox. The ultimate victory will be achieved in stages, and we expect: …
In the longer term:
• An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency.
• An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.
• An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.”

So. Victory in Iraq will finally (and only) be achieved when Iraq has become a ‘modern’ country with a developed, industrialized economy. If that’s the goal, our country’s involvement in Iraq (and Afghanistan, where the goals are or ought to be largely the same) is going to last a long time. Would we say that Cuba, or Nicaragua, or Colombia – countries which the US has sought (and continues to seek) to make “peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure” – actually are? Cuba is still Communist, despite a half-century of efforts to democratize it. Colombia is still run as much by drug cartels and Marxist guerillas as by its government: decades of a war on drugs haven’t done much good, and have perhaps (probably) made matters worse.
Unless the above criteria are radically altered, victory is a long way off. And to leave now, to exit gracefully or otherwise, would be to leave the country in worse shape than we found it, ripe for takeover by a dictator worse than the one we ousted. Whether our involvement in Iraq should continue in the same manner, I don’t know; but it must continue in some form, because the mess we’ve created isn’t cleaned up yet. It may never be, I suppose, but we set ourselves the task, and must labour at it until it’s complete.

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