Toad saw that he was trapped. They understood him,
they saw through him, they had got ahead of him.
His pleasant dream was shattered.
--The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
It's long past time for the President to be honest
with the American people:
Under what circumstances could our troops come home?
Under what scenario could this war end?
--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
George Bush is fond of reciting the litany: he -- or at least the people he has placed in harm's way -- will not leave Iraq until he has achieved victory. But the U.S. will never win an insurgency because we are on the wrong side of the equation.
The issues pertinent to winning an insurgency are different than those that allow a pro ball team achieve a winning season. They outstretch a balance sheet that leads a corporation to prosper. Insurgencies are not readily quantifiable, unlike classic wars or business ventures or ball clubs. All of the latter are guided by cost/benefit analysis. Not only, "Can we kill the enemy," but, "Can we afford to kill them?"
Even with "victory," a country may founder. The British empire won WWI and WWII, but the empire did not prosper. Wars must benefit the country or they should not be fought. Why fight and expend treasure for no beneficial return?
For this reason the concept of frivolous (elective/preemptive) war defies reason. The war in Iraq is this type of war. No nation enters a war with the idea of losing, but who precisely is winning, and what are they winning? What are we to achieve in Iraq?
The insurgents are not fighting for profit. They will not stop when the cost/benefit ratio becomes unfavorable to them, because that is not their motivator.
We will not win, because ultimately we cannot afford to win; we are on the business model. As with Bear Stearns, there will be an intervention and a bailout when things get too dire, even if stocks go at $2 a share. They, however, can not afford to lose. They are on the right side of the equation for winning this insurgency.
Five years and several lynchings later, Iraq is anything but stable or democratic. Democracy = instability in Iraq. Democracy will never equal stability in Iraq. Stability will only be achieved via harsh, suppressive measures, which are not hallmarks of democracy.
The pundits are fond of saying that Iraq is complex, but Iraq is simplicity itself. The complexity is introduced because the U.S. cannot define what we are are, what our goals are and what Iraq should be. And we are using our metrics, which may not be the same measurements used by the Iraqis.
Saddam Hussein was also a simple quantity: a dictator controlling the diverse and hostile population of a make-believe country. The U.S. threw him out and has proceeded to reprise Saddam's role by trying to force the Iraqi people into a compliance.
The U.S.'s problem is they lack Saddam's legitimacy, who was of and by Iraq. A bad man, but at least he was their bad man. We will never get a compliance because we are on the wrong side of things. The right side to achieve that goal is to be a harsh overlord, but that contradicts our claim that we are there to outlaw that sort of thing.
The U.S. is hypocritical and will not gain success because we lack unity and consistency. The U.S. doesn't know what it is anymore.
The Bush administration has compromised the nation's integrity. The image that comes to mind is that of a man sinking in quicksand, barking orders to everyone else, who may or may not also be sinking. The U.S. is forcing its world view on Iraq, without holding a clear definition of that view. Now, that is complex. More to the point, confused.
The U.S. mission is impossible to reconcile; we cannot prove them wrong because we cannot prove ourselves right. Be free the way we want you to be free, but that freedom is an ever-changing quantity. At home, those vaunted freedoms are ever receding and being redefined. What is it we seek to export? U.S. democracy ala 1989? 2006, post-Yoo?
There is a cosmic joke hidden somewhere in this phony war. The Iraqi people do not need America in their lives or future. They are independent due to their oil reserves. However, the U.S. does need the Iraqi oil.
Balance that equation.