The war in Iraq cannot be won.
That’s right, go and get your rotten eggs and start throwing them at me. If you want to know why the war cannot be won, however, keep reading.
This nation needs to address a fundamental concept that up to now has gotten remarkably little attention.
To win anything — an argument, a fight, a war — you need a goal. The American adventure in Iraq has no goal. The U.S. has been there for years and no one knows why. This is, in essence, why the war cannot be won.
If the goal was to knock out weapons of mass destruction, U.N. inspectors’ reports that there were no such weapons were correct all along. This could be chalked up as a win, but the U.S. came out looking foolish in the international community and its credibility is almost gone.
If the goal was regime change, that’s been accomplished. A new U.S.-leaning government has been installed and the old dictator (and old U.S. ally) Saddam Hussein has been killed. Democracy hasn’t exactly blossomed in Iraq, and plenty of dictators still run amok, but Hussein is off the list.
If the goal was to stop terrorism, the U.S. failed because Hussein’s regime had ideological differences with terrorists that made cooperation highly unlikely. Most Western nations knew this all along, leaving U.S. intelligence with egg on its face.
If the goal was to secure Iraq’s oil reserves, the U.S. has as much access to them now as any other country. During the embargo years, Hussein only dealt with France and Russia, so that’s a gain.
If the goal was to undermine American credibility abroad and cast doubt on the intelligence and benevolence of the U.S. government at home, that too has been achieved with resounding success.
Vice President Dick Cheney said that leaving Iraq now would leave the U.S. threatened and exposed. The United States must be weak indeed if a crippled people half a world away with no direct interest in engaging us can pose a significant yet undefined threat.
Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War that politicians and generals must have clearly defined roles if a conflict is to be successful.
The first step, according to Tzu, is for the political process to exhaust all its options — coercion, diplomacy, threats or some mixture of the three.
When all those options have failed, then it’s time to call in the military. The generals are given parameters — instructions that define their powers, resources and victory conditions. Then the politicians must step back and allow the military to execute as it sees fit. At the end of the campaign, the military should hand the spoils of war or the remnants of defeat back to the politicians, Tzu instructed.
The U.S. had no clear victory conditions going into Iraq, had no plan for the peace and hasn’t let the military hand over control to the policing powers of a legitimate government.
It is maddening that American troops in harm’s way in Iraq either have no idea why they are there or labor under a false idea.
In the Revolutionary War, American colonists wanted self-determination and the British government wanted to maintain control.
In the Civil War, the North wanted to maintain the Union and the South wanted to secede.
These conflicts were fought with a purpose, for a goal. You could ask a soldier on either side what he bled for and he could answer.
It is not a soldier’s role to question his or her orders, but it is a responsibility of the government asking young men and women to die to make those soldiers aware of the cause for which they are dying.
That hasn’t happened in Iraq. Our troops have been faithful to their country and deserve better than to be unappreciated, uninformed and taken for granted.
Jason Olivero has received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Florida and is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering.