Are We Winning The War?
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8
This question's been asked a lot lately: in last week's Time cover story, and in various national polls. The perception among the left side of chattering classes, and a good portion of the American public, is that the War of Terror is not militarily "winnable". I've blogged on this before, and my thoughts haven't really changed -- the only way we can lose the war is if we as a country lose the political will to fight.
The war is eminently winnable "militarily"; it's the political will that's lacking, and what probably does make the war unwinnable -- absent another attack on the U.S. that forces our leadership to take the actions necessary to "win" the war. The Time article that talks about how "unwinnable" the war is mentions that we lost four killed in the recent assault on Tall'Afar. I hate to sound callous, but those are well within the realm of militarily sustainable losses. What's keeping us from winning the war is our self-imposed restrictions on the use of force in areas with civilian populations. Now, don't get me wrong -- these are a good thing, and I support them. It ties one hand behind our back, especially when fighting an enemy who has no such restrictions. (If you don't believe me, do this thought experiment: Imagine that a media blackout is put in place in Iraq, and no information will ever come out of there about what happens during a specified period of time. Who do you think will end up in a better position militarily when the reporters go back in?) Still, there are some lines in warfare I'd rather not cross; many of the strategies necessary for success, against an Arab opponent with an Arab mindset, are most likely considered war crimes.
The reason the war may not be winnable politically is that there is a substantial portion of the country that doesn't want us to do what we need to in order to win. My good friend Rob says that the anti-war protesters aren't "against the troops" (except maybe the guy with the "Victory to the Iraqi Resistance" poster in the sixth picture down at this site). Here's my response: The nature of this war is that our enemies can't hope to win unless they end our political will to fight. Any evidence that they are doing so does embolden them and help their recruiting -- people will tend to want to fight for the side they think will win. Therefore, those who demonstrate against the war, which is well within their rights, should recognize that they are providing indirect support for the enemy. They may feel that they aren't really pulling a page from the anti-war dogma of the past that you can only properly oppose the U.S. by actively supporting our enemy, but that is the result of their actions. All I'm asking is that they admit that the net effect of what they're doing. They may have decided that the harm being done to the country by continuing the war is worse than the harm that may befall us by pulling out, and that's their right, and I'll accept that as long as they're honest about what they're doing.
Can we win the war? Yes, we can, in the long run. It's my belief that we're in the middle of "a time of war" that Ecclesiastes mentions; no liberals wanting to create a "Department of Peace" can change that. This war with militant Islam will go on for decades. Hopefully, we'll learn from the mistakes we made in Iraq, and do it better on the next battlefield.