Victory in Iraq
What does it mean to 'win' the war in Iraq? What, exactly, is and has been our mission? Initially, it was regime change. Saddam had defied the UN one too many times, and the WMD threat was but ONE of the reasons given for the necessity of his removal. We can debate about the WMDs day and night, but the general world consensus was that he DID have them and he HAD used them on his our countrymen. So, the initial mission was to remove him from power. THAT was the easy victory.
Next hurdle was providing time for a provisional government to be set up, a constitution crafted and ratified, and finally a freely elected government to be installed. Those victories took a little longer, but were also achieved.
Now, the goal is to provide security and training to help the new government as it gets up to speed and is able to support itself and provide adequate security for it's own people. Even here, we are winning. More and more brigades of Iraqi troops are being trained and now leading missions. More Iraqi police are trained and responding to insurgent (and other 'regular') threats in their jurisdictions. Given the time (and support and funding), we WILL win this battle too. After that? We will certainly still have SOME troops stationed in Iraq for the long term. But only because the Iraqi government allows it. Heck we still have troops stationed in Korea, Germany, and Japan for the same reasons...the strategic importance of the areas.
This war has certainly had it's problems, I'm not denying that. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, there were things that should have been done differently in regards to dismantling the old military force, and anticipating the influx of terrorists from Syria and Iran. A greater understanding of the political/religious differences in the Islamic factions by the ground troops would might have made parts of the mission easier too.
This is complicated by the opportunists in both the Sunni and Shia factions who sought to use the inevitable chaos of war to their own political advantage. So, yeah, it's been more difficult than initially anticipated. Add to that the fact that we are constantly adjusting to an entirely new type of urban guerrilla warfare as we go, and you have a war that is just unlike anything we've fought before.
Also, this hasn't been an entirely military endeavor. The diplomacy involved in helping the new government get off on the right foot has been absolutely critical. Getting bitter religious and political enemies to see the necessity of having to work together for the benefit of ALL Iraqis has been a major hurdle. Showing people who have lived for generations under corruption and torture that there IS a better way takes time, and there will be setbacks along the way.
So what will Victory in Iraq look like? It will look much the same as now, but with the IRAQI army and police fending off the terrorists. Heh...I imagine it will look much like Israel in that respect, a sovereign nation that has to fight off terrorists who want to destroy their government and way of life. Defeat in Iraq will only happen if we leave BEFORE the Iraqis can really fend for themselves and the terrorists succeed in overthrowing the government.