I've said it before. clammyc has said it. thereisnospoon has said it repeatedly (all separate links). And in light of Senator Reid's recent comments about the Iraq "war" being lost, it's high time someone said it again: THERE IS NO WAR TO LOSE IN IRAQ.
I would have thought that our elected officials would have understood this by now. I don't know why it's so hard to understand that we are not at war with Iraq. We are occupying Iraq and receiving heavy resistance from a variety of insurgent groups with different motivations--many of whom hate each other as well.
That makes a big difference.
We already won the war in Iraq. WHAT WE'RE FAILING MISERABLY AT IS THE OCCUPATION.
To many, it may seem like a minor difference in terminology, but this distinction makes a huge difference when it comes to framing and popular support--and proper use of this frame might just help us not only get our troops home faster, but also increase our election chances in 2008. Here's why.
As you can read in any one of the diaries I linked to above, in a war there are only two outcomes: you win, or you lose. In an occupation, there are also only two outcomes, but they are different: annexation or withdrawal. The only question for an occupying power is what level of losses that power is willing to accept in order to get whatever benefits they're receiving from occupying the country in the first place.
Now, the main reason that the majority of the American public supports withdrawing the troops is because more than four years and over 3,300 sacrificed soldiers later, the people are beginning to realize that this is not, in fact, a "war" where two opposing armies try to outslug and outmaneuver each other like a boxing match and in the end, only one will remain standing. This is not Gettysburg, nor the Ardennes forest. It is, instead, a slow and constant bleeding of money and lives, with no forseeable end in sight--because that's what all occupations are: it's just a question of whether you're getting a good enough return on the investment.
The American public is quickly realizing that the the investment is not worth it, no matter how much the Administration tries to tell them it is. And one of the main ways the Administration and its allies try to convince the American people to keep going is by continuing the idea that this is a war--because wars either end in victory or defeat, and the American people don't like to lose.
The truth is, we're occupying Iraq. And an occupation is a totally different thing from a war. Wars are won or lost based on the troops that fight and the generals that command. Occupations, however, succeed or fail on the basis of much more than military strength: their success is based on large part on the competence of the administration doing the occupying.
So, when Senator Reid says that "the war is lost", what he's implying is that our troops were not good enough for the task--and even if the only reason for that is that the Administration put them in an impossible position, it still doesn't matter. And the reason it doesn't matter is that he's playing into the Administration's meme about the occupation of Iraq still being part of a war that can be won or lost.
This won't make me all that popular around certain parts, but when Senator Reid says that the "war is lost", he sounds like a defeatist. And anyone who supports those comments sounds like a defeatist by extension, no matter how much those comments may be defended in light of the recent uptick in violence.
Instead, what needs to be repeated--over and over again--is that the occupation has failed and is not worth continuing. Americans like to win wars, but they don't like to be seen as occupiers. Not only that, but saying that the occupation has failed puts the blame of the failure squarely where it belongs:
On the Administration, rather than the troops it put into harm's way.