Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Applebaum on "Winning"

For those who disagree with Howard Dean and think we can win the "war", Anne Applebaum has a good column, It's Not Whether You 'Win' or 'Lose' . . . in today's Post:
"But what if all of this vocabulary -- winning, losing, victory, defeat -- is simply misplaced? There are, after all, wars that are not actually won or lost. There are wars that achieve some of their goals, that result only in partial solutions and that leave much business unfinished. There are wars that do not end with helicopters evacuating Americans from the embassy roof but that do not produce a victorious march into Berlin, either. There are wars that end ambivalently -- wars, for example, such as the one we fought in Korea."
She points out that war results in both bad and good, using Korea as a parallel. I'd quibble some.
I put "war" in quotes, because it's not clear that we're in a war, or at least what war we're fighting. Apparently the Pentagon isn't sure who we're fighting in Iraq--is it Rummy's "bitter-enders", or "foreign terrorists", the Sunnis, or anyone who uses terror to advance their cause? Is Iraq the "whole war", or just a front in a bigger war? Was the British Army in a "war" with IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland from 1968 on? Did they "win" it? I don't think so. They didn't lose and the parties (at least most of them) finally got exhausted enough at the violence that they were willing to negotiate. It's sort of like a parent-child conflict--neither one wins but time changes the terms. So too in Iraq. Whether the parties will exhaust themselves and work out their future better and faster if we stay than if we go is anyone's guess, and that's about all it is--a guess.

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