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November 16, 2005

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but success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more

well that's simply not true.

I think stupidity and incompetence trumps will any day of the week.

The triumph of the "will to prevail"? Brr. Somehow that phrase does not inspire confidence.

but success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more

well that's simply not true.

Indeed, but it's a fine example of the sort of hubris that got us into this mess.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't the "non-theocratic" part already been given up for dead?

You're not cheerleading hard enough!!! *zzzzzzzzzzzzzap*

Excellent post, Charles.

For those who criticize: The question is not what has gone wrong before (much has). The question is not what we should do in a perfect world (this isn't one). The question is not whether it was right to oppose the Iraq war (reasonably minds can disagree).

The sole question is what goal we must have today.

There is only one answer: Our goal must be victory.

"our will" -- dear allah you are all such a bunch of raving ramboesque egomaniacs.

success will be achieved by the IRAQIS' will, not ours.

Cleek got there first but this is incredible:"...but success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more.".

Why not just wish for a pony too!

It doesn't work that way von.

It seems the only way we can win in Iraq is if we spend even more money, time, and lives. And Americans simply don't want to do that.

It's pretty simple. This is just a cost benefit analysis. To win we must do X. If Americans are unwiling to do X then we can't win. Period.


All this talk about "we must win" is the kind of meaningless blather that got us in this mess to begin with.

Every losing side in every battle has a some point said that winning was the only option. And they were all wrong.


Leaving Iraq ahead of time (in effect, losing) is very much an option. Unless Bush can convince Americans that the cost of winning is worth it, somethin he has failed to do up to now, we will leave.

This is what the pro-war or pro-stay-the-course side needs to acknowledge.

terrorists and Sunni paramilitary squads

Interesting taxonomy of Enemies. Are Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Army "terrorists" or are they (at this moment) on the side of the Shining City on the Hill?

Charles wrote that "victory" means rebuilding Iraq, trying to defeat terrorists and Sunni paramilitary squads and trying to usher in a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

Does Tacitus's manifesto even define his terms so clearly? That site strikes me as incredibly vague in specifics, for a groupblog launched with such a high profile. Is it really just an anti-anti-war site?

What if "winning" (helping to establish a stable Iraqi democracy) = "losing" (e.g. they vote for a repressive theocratic regime a la Iran).

Have we "won" or "lost?"

And as TS Eliot asked: "Would it have been worth it, after all?"

I stare at statements of "will" in gape-mouthed astonishment. Mr. Trevino is allegedly a well-connected, erudite political actor. So he must know that wars are not won with "will" alone. If they were, then Generalplan Ost would still be in operation and Hitler would have died in his sleep still ruling most of Europe.

Wars are won by allocating sufficient resources and applying them effectively. That means bullets, gasoline, food, uniforms, tanks ... and soldiers. If supplies of these are insufficient to the task at hand, you lose the battle no matter what level of will you can muster (cf. Battle of Berlin). Similarly, money is the sinews of war; you can't expect to win a war on the cheap.

The current call for timetables and plans is just a reflection of America's impatience with the unseriousness of this Administration. "Stay the course!!!" isn't a plan. It's the criminal avoidance of a plan.

People who claim to be serious about this war should demand that the Congress immediately impose a war tax to pay for it. That is the starting point for serious debate. Not some mewling cry for bucking up the national "will."

Why not just wish for a pony too!

The will to pony?

There is only one answer: Our goal must be victory.

For real? Here I thought our goal should be sweet, delicious candy.

Of course, to address your point in equal seriousness but less flippancy, we're back to the whole point about goals being well-defined and attainable. It's all very well to say that one's goal is, for example, to marry a supermodel; it's quite another to, well, accomplish that, or even go about that in a meaningful way. Thus far, I don't see anyone putting forth evidence for the fact that we can achieve "victory" in Iraq -- provided one defines it in a non-trivial fashion -- beyond the classic "We're America, we can't possibly lose!" or worse, "We're America, the only thing we need is willpower!"* That's not only not how "victory" works, it's a dangerous, dangerous delusion that will get people killed for little or no gain towards our ostensible goals.

All of which leads to the crux: the language being employed here betrays thinking that is, dare I say, pre-9/11. "The will to prevail", "our goal must be victory"... these are phrases more suited to Manichean geopolitics, to military conflicts against aggressive nation-states, to, well, sports teams.** Like "the War on Terror", they imply paradigms and exigencies that simply do not apply to the present conflict; Al Qaeda has no army, there is no easily-defined end-condition like the fall of Berlin or the surrender of Hirohito, "victory" is a nebulous, ill-defined and quite possibly impossible condition, and so forth. And to repeat something I've ranted about previously: also like "the War on Terror", this isn't merely a poor choice of words by people who are otherwise clear on the essentials; the words are poor precisely because the thinking on the subject is sloppy, unclear, based on premises that are false, or based on reasoning that is at best slipshod and at worse (as for instance I believe holds within the Bush Administration) culpable.

Pinker remarked that "If the eyes are the windows into the soul, then language is the window into the mind." No offense to von or Charles, but when phrases like "success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more" and "There is only one answer: Our goal must be victory." get thrown around, I really, really don't like what I see.

* Historical examples are well and good, but I'm unconvinced they're germane. Yes, we rebuilt Germany and Japan into something like our own image -- hello the hubris -- but the scenarios were simply too different for me to accept the nation-building analogies.

** I've noted, as have many others, the disturbing usage of sports metaphors and paradigms when war supporters are describing the conflict, a sort of idiot's retranslation of metaphors back into their original language shorn of all context. See, for instance, the old translator's saw on "Out of sight, out of mind."

The "will to prevail" is surely a necessary condition, but hardly a sufficient one.

But the real trouble with the "will to prevail" is that it tells us nothing about what we must do. It may evoke an image of resolve and determination, but unless these are matched by practical action it is nothing but a feel-good phrase, a substitute for hard work.

If you really have the will to win it means you are prepared to sacrifice towards that goal, to take the steps needed. Having a will to win at, say, football, means you practice a lot, study your opponent, work out intelligent strategies, etc. It doesn't mean you stride boldly out onto the field and pound your chest and yell.

One sacrifice that a will to win implies is the sacrifice of self-delusion. It requires a realistic assessment of the situation and its requirements. Yet we have an Administration that is mired in self-delusion - on financial requirements, troop requirements, the difficulty of the task, and other things. Perhaps the first step toward some sort of victory is to get leaders who have a real will to achieve it.

""The will to prevail", "our goal must be victory"... these are phrases more suited to Manichean geopolitics, to military conflicts against aggressive nation-states, to, well, sports teams."

You forgot comic book superheroes. Seriously, Charles and von's words seem to me to be precisely something a comic book writer in my youth would use as an internal monologue. It's escaping the hard issues of how to accomplish the goal, and pretending that if one wants the goal enough, everything else is merely roadbumps.

MyDD has some recent poll results. Fifty-three percent of those polled think the US should withdraw within 12 months, or sooner. Thirty-eight percent think we should stay until the Iraqis can handle their own defense. I thihnk the number of people willing to stay would go up if the "victory" was defined in a way that made victory seem possible.

"..we are where we are"

Yes, this would be true.

And, yes, a sizable war tax, steeply progressive. NOW.

Further, until Josh Trevino calls for a war tax surcharge (at least to fund the government's response to the violent opposition to his beloved Draft), his lovely words, written with his Dagny Taggert chin jutting into the howling wind of the "deeply depraved" war opposition and his eyes misting over at every new plot of hallowed ground, are those of a bit player in a child's school play, waving his plastic sword at the little girl playing the evil Witch.

Unless, of course, his opposition to all new taxes is merely a way of using the War as another way of forcing the bankruptcy of Medicare.

Then I would understand.

But he is sincere. And that is the most important thing.

THE TRIUMPH OF THE TRIUMPHANT VICTORIOUS WILL OF VICTORY!

As long as a people has the strength for a revolution, for a change in worldview and a reordering of its life, it remains capable of making history. If it loses the will and the strength for national renewal, it sinks into the mists of history and perishes.

It established values that will bring unity and greatness over the centuries. It has set goals that will bind the will of generations. It has established laws that will bind the most distant future to the worldview decision of the present.

Historic and worldview battles always are about the victory of an idea that seeks to become absolute, that takes upon itself the transformation of the world. If a victorious revolution has won freedom of action, it cannot be distracted or stopped by complaints about intolerance.

From:
The Victory of Faith
H. Mehringer, "Sieg des Glaubens. Zum 30. Januar," Der Schulungsbrief, (January 1939), pp. 2-4

http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/schul01.htm

"This site must and will be the online rallying-point for all Americans and Iraqis from all political persuasions who understand that the war in Iraq must be won." (From the site.)

I must believe that Josh Trevino must stop using the "must" key on his keyboard so frequently. He must! (Myself, I kinda wonder about announcing a goal that is, practically speaking, impossible.) (Although if successful, you could get quite good ad rates.)

....wars are not won with "will" alone.

Guerrilla wars and insurgencies generally are.

Let's qualify: will is hardly the sole criterion for victory, but it is its sine qua non.

Just to be pedantic, will is the sine qua non of every voluntary action.

frex, each of the commenters needed to muster the will to respond to the post.

and now for something completely different: Tacitus, best of luck. quite seriously; for once i'm not being sarcastic.

i wish you all the best in finding a way to bring reasonable peace and tranquility to that troubled country.

(that is what you mean by victory, isn't it?)

Lovely, by the bye, how a reference to political will immediately conjures up barking references to German nationalism and fascist claptrap.

'Cause, you know, that's a thoroughly apt metaphor for the American effort in Iraq. And America itself. Right?

You keep on with that, guys.

Let's qualify: will is hardly the sole criterion for victory, but it is its sine qua non.

That's true in a trivial sense: people who don't have the will to keep fighting generally stop, and if they haven't won yet when they stop, that means they don't win. But what examples do you have in mind of guerrilla wars or insurgencies in which the guerrillas or insurgents were beaten by a force that was willing to keep bleeding longer than they were? I'd buy the idea that guerrillas and insurgents win by convincing the other side that the cost is too high to continue the fight, but that doesn't mean that the answer is for the other side to always be willing to continue the fight regardless of whether the benefits justify the costs.

Francis: yep.

If I thought withdrawal would achieve that, I'd be for it.

....guerrilla wars or insurgencies in which the guerrillas or insurgents were beaten by a force that was willing to keep bleeding longer than they were?

The American Indian wars, the Boer War, the Phillippine Insurrection, the Lebanese Civil War, and the Vietnam War, off the top of my head. (The last surprises people, but we did in fact eliminate the insurgency in the south -- once the Viet Cong were destroyed, the war post-1969 was carried on by NVA regulars.) I would argue that the Algerian War is also an instructive example: the FLN "survived" as a political entity in exile, but the French succeeded in driving it from the field, and by the time they capitulated (which was not due to FLN pressure, mind you) there were far more Muslims in the field for France than for the rebellion.

There is only one answer: Our goal must be victory.

Yeah, but from Katzman's screed, and his glowing citation of Wretchard's "Mordor," one wonders: against whom?

Interpreting Charles' post charitably, I take it to mean: will is not enough; you also need e.g. materiel, soldiers, etc. But since we have those, will will turn out to be the sticking point.

I don't really agree with this. I think that there are several reasons why we risk losing in Iraq (= having the country dissolve into civil war or become a failed state.) (And leaving aside for now the fact that that was always a serious possibility, Iraq being the country it is. I'm focussing on our contributions.)

The most important is the unbelievable recklessness and ineptitude with which the war has been prosecuted, the unwillingness to rethink assumptions even when they were obviously wrong, and the virtual absence, even now, of anything resembling a strategy.

This is, in my view, also the most important reason why people are losing their will to fight the war. I do not think that the American people lack the will to accept casualties, commit to a fight, etc. What they do lack, understandably in my view, is the will to accept casualties when they suspect that there is no good reason why they are being asked to do so. (And 'a good reason' here means not 'a good reason to fight this war', but 'a good reason to fight it in more or less the way it's currently being fought'.) And they are not willing to commit to a war that even the administration is unwilling to take seriously enough to plan or ask for sacrifices for.

I did not want to go to war with Iraq in the first place, but as I have said before, I think that now that we are there, losing would be a disaster, and that we have to do what we can to avoid it. I have said what I think we might still be able to do. But I cannot imagine why I should support the President in this, since (imho) he has made the crucial and astounding mistakes that got us into the war, got us into the mess we're in now, and destroyed people's confidence in his ability to lead us to anything remotely resembling success.

Nor can I see the point of these endless exhortations to will that overlook two crucial points: first, is it still possible to win? and second, what does the President have to do to deserve our commitment?

Then again, perhaps I should not comment, since I am unlikely ever to be one of the "men of good faith" to whom Tacitus' manifesto was addressed.

More than will we need a coldly calculated analysis of what is really happening on the ground, which means listening to the people who made the unpardonable error of being right about the difficulties of occupation before the first shot was fired. It means accepting that the people currently running the show have made grave errors and either they must completely restructure their worldview or they must be replaced. If neither of these things happen then the patriotic thing to do is to push for withdrawal, with all the negative consequences that implies. The alternative is to watch the US sink further into the swamp, losing lives and credibility.

Victory is preferrable, but you go to war with the politicians you have, not the politicians you might like to have. As long as we're stuck with the neocons, declaring victory and retreating is less harmful in the long term than trying to do the same self-defeating things over and over again.

OK, now take the next step. How do those examples compare to the situation in Iraq? How did the application of superior will lead to the desired political end state (I don't seem to recall our "victory" over the Viet Cong as having led to a peaceful and prosperous South Vietnam)? What were the costs, and were they worth it? Just saying "we can keep bleeding indefinitely if we have the will to do so, and as long as we're willing to keep bleeding we can't be defeated" isn't quite the "Eureka!" moment for some of us that it seems to be for you.

And as to allusions to the unsavory history of political rhetoric based on the purported power of the superior will: it's not enough just to sneer. When you start dismissing disagreement as mere weakness of will, you're placing yourself in some ugly company, and it takes more than "we're not like that" to explain why that history isn't relevant. That doesn't mean people are asserting that you're broadly comparable to Hitler, but only that you need to consider whether you're engaging in the same sort of delusional thinking that ended badly for Germany and Italy in WWII.

Von, I like you, but this:
For those who criticize: The question is not what has gone wrong before (much has). The question is not what we should do in a perfect world (this isn't one). The question is not whether it was right to oppose the Iraq war (reasonably minds can disagree).

The sole question is what goal we must have today.

There is only one answer: Our goal must be victory

is silly.

In a perfect world, of course, victory could be defined by specific criteria (what is victory? Winning. How does one win? Through victory. But what does victory entail? Winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis. How do we do that? Through victory.) Victory is, once defined, achievable. Furthermore, even "given" will, and given that victory is both defineable and achievable, there needs to be at least some meaningful chance that the subset of substantially possible strategies employed by the Bush administration can lead to victory.

I don't know what "victory" is, and neither does the Bush administration. It cannot be defined without referencing puppies and imaginary numbers. It is thus unachievable. Even if it were achievable, this administration lacks the desire to actually implement any strategy that would accomplish victory. Will has nothing to do with it, not in a perfect world, but BECAUSE THE WORLD IS NOT PERFECT.

IN THIS UNPERFECT WORLD, the question of what goal must we have today is going to be answered by how much money and lives (not to mention the significant national security risk we undertake by tying up our national security resources) we are willing to throw away before we give up.

(Disclaimer: I was against going into the war. Once we went into the war, up until midsummer 2004, I was against leaving because the result would be catastrophic. Though the result STILL WOULD be catastrophic, it has come to my realization that the catastrophy is inevitable, and the size and scope of it, along with the difficulty of managing it, increases substantially the longer we remain. Better the smaller catastrophy now than the greater one later).

I read the Trevino Manifesto at the new site -- it is his typical garbage. Frankly, he cares less about winning, and more about preventing Republicans for being accountable for the losses that have already occurred on their watch. Completely missing from his Manifesto for "No End But Victory" is any discussion or recommendation on what must be done to achieve victory other than cheerleading the current failed leadership.

As if the will to win somehow matters more than competence and a basic plan for winning, and that left wingers are somehow causing the failures that have occurred to date. Sorry -- your dear leader gets 100% of the blame for failure to date, and expect more failure so long as you continue to back him.

My first suggestion for addressing the Iraq war mess -- insist on the prompt resignation of the Bush administration (yes -- Bush admits error and leaves) since they obviously get an F for their efforts, and we'll pick new leaders after a debate amongst them about what they would do and who we think has the best plan.

I am sure this plan would top anything Trevino proposes, and has no chance of being supported. No -- its more important to demonize the war critics than get it right. Which by the way (as Hagel said to great effect recently) was the Viet Nam pattern and had a lot to do with causing failure in that instance.

By the way -- which politician was reponsible for what Trevino describes as the cut and run Viet Nam strategy, which we should allegedly not repeat in Iraq? That would be Nixon (I can hear it now -- "but he was forced into it by those lefties").

It's not reasonable to expect Bush to resign. It might just be within reason to hope that he would fire the neocons and replace them with regular common sense conservatives. If, in addition, he was to appoint a group of nonpartisan experts to formulate a reality based strategy for victory that would be a best case plausible scenario.

dmbeaster: I read the Trevino Manifesto at the new site -- it is his typical garbage. Frankly, he cares less about winning, and more about preventing Republicans for being accountable for the losses that have already occurred on their watch.

You can say a lot of things about Trevino, but I think here you are quite wrong. He sincerely cares about winning. Whether his prescriptions will lead to his desired end is an entirely different question, but I think he means what he says here.

"'There is only one answer: Our goal must be victory' is silly."

Yeah, but who can always stifle their Inner Patton?

Lovely, by the bye, how a reference to political will immediately conjures up barking references to German nationalism and fascist claptrap.

No -- the point (which you get put pretend not to) is that empty cheerleading rhetoric about "will" has no meaning, as evidenced by the fact that anyone can and has given the same message (including odious Nazis). Or for that matter, any football coach during a half time rah rah speech to inspire the team. Would you feel better if someone instead used as an example the half-time speech for the 1-9 team down three touchdowns?

Its just hot air, and while nice and inspiring as icing on top of something substantive, it is vacuous when detached from real policy discussion. And your new site seems more interested in cheerleading than policy.

"Which by the way (as Hagel said to great effect recently)"

Yes. (I may have another post on this in the future.)

Tac,

as others point out all voluntary actions require will so simply saying we need the will to win isn't saying much.


But if what you mean to say is that we must be willing to outbleed and outlast the insurgents then I think you need to address the reality that Americans simply have no appetite for that. As Rumsfeld could have said you go to war with the public you have, not the one you want.

All this talk of will is meaningless until you explain how to convince Americans that their cost-benefit analysis is wrong.

And your new site seems more interested in cheerleading than policy.

Does Trevino have the legs for that? Unlikely, I should think.

Belgravia Dispatch

For those who get tired of bashing Tacitus and want a perspective on the war not wholly opposite to Tac's but omitting much of the partisanship I recommend Greg Djerejian.

The will to act foolish!

Aren't there some smart people, both military and civilian, in both the U.S. and Iraq, who feel the American military presence is what is predominantly fuelling the insurgency?

And, like, what's the plan, Stan?

From A Farewell to Arms(1932)

[Gino] "Have you ever noticed the difference [food] makes in the way you think?"

"Yes," I said. "It can't win a war but it can lose one."

"We won't talk about losing. There is enough talk about losing. What has been done this summer cannot have been done in vain."

I did not say anything. I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene besides the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rives, the numbers of regiments and the dates. Gino was a patriot, so he said things that separated us sometimes, but he was also a fine boy and I understood his being a patriot. He was born one. He left with Peduzzi in the car to go back to Gorizia.

You can say a lot of things about Trevino, but I think here you are quite wrong. [Frankly, he cares less about winning, and more about preventing Republicans for being accountable for the losses that have already occurred on their watch.]

Yeah -- he clearly cares about winning, so my emphasis is off, but anyone who really cares about winning must be a massive critic of the current leadership. Trevino cares way too much about bashing lefty critics at the expense of a logical discussion about what has gone wrong, and will say all sorts of odious things for that purpose.

Case in point -- who is it that he says has to be countered (per Charles link above)? The anti-war, cut-and-run crowd, which fears not defeat, nor dishonor, nor an Iraq under the terrorist heel.... It's this sort of childish demonizing rhetoric, detached from any real assesssment of why things are going wrong, that demonstrates his priorities. It's about bashing war critics rather than promoting "victory."

Plus its funny to now see that "Iraq is becoming like Viet Nam" is now a convenient rightie talking point if the issue is "cut and run." But of course, it isn't if we are talking about why Iraq policy has been a failure to date.

The talk of will doesn't imply Nazis to so so much as it implies that victory is primarily a military matter, which is not the case. Hearts and minds and nation-building are at least as important as military might. For example, if we are going to have a victory in Iraq, meaning the successful establishment of a free, peaceful government, we and the Iraqis will have to deal effectively with situations like the torture done to Sunni prisoners in a Interior Department bunker. By "deal with" I don't mean coverup, minimize, ignore or rationalize away. There cannot be a victory if the government we help create is torturing people. Unfortunately this administration isn't in a very good position to tell the Iraqi government that they must not use torture. It is over issues like this that we court failure.

Bob, Belgravia might be less partisan, but its all either obvious or trife.

The blog makes great heyday of the likelihood of Shias massacring Sunnis and Sunnis fighting in a civil war if we withdraw. Well, guess what. The likelihood of that isn't going to change, and us putting the Shias in all sorts of powerful position is just going to make the catastrophe worse. If "winning" means "no civil war", then the problem is Bush has failed to outline a scenario where that even happens, much less one in which our actions prevent this from happening. Unless you propose simply a permanent presence, in which our country will go bankrupt while we are unable to deal with even worse humanitarian crisies (Sudan, Rwanda).

Given the lack of concrete specifics at Endless War...I mean No End But Victory, and given Josh Trevino's history as a "speechwriter for the George W. Bush Administration" (so he knows of what he speaks!), I fear that dmbeaster may be quite right: this is just another attempt to demonize the loyal opposition.

I think we should also insist that our "victory" in Iraq not come at the cost of a larger loss - IOW that we not pay too high a price for our victory. For example, several years ago the United States government could have expressed outrage at the revelations that Shiite members of the Iraqi government have been torturing Sunni Iraqis and have been taken seriously. What's more, we would have had the moral conviction and the moral authority to do something about it. Now, we don't, and may not for a long time to come. To me, that's a significant loss and it has to be balanced against any "victory" we might have.

I feel like I'm trying to express something profound and important and not doing it very well, but I hope that it's coming across. If someone else can say it better, please do.

We can't win if we don't want to fight anymore, that's for sure. But if the proponents of this thing want people to get behind it, they're going to have to offer something more than 'the beatings will continue until morale improves.'

The Admin has had its way with everything about this war. Whatever opposition there has been has had no effect up to now, and won't have any more for at least six months. You've had all the 'will' you needed -- and where are you? Is victory just around the corner? Have maybe the various corners been oversold?

You want people to support the thing? Stop treating them like children, traitors, or both. The leadership should start acting like grown-ups, and give up petulance. Admit prior errors. Reach across and see what the other guy wants.

The current position of war proponents in the internal US debate is 'submit now, or we all die.' I guess it's better than 'submit now, anyone who doesn't is traitor scum' but don't you think 'hey we need to work together to get this thing right' would maybe be a little more productive?

If you want allies, act like it.

We are not now the people who defeated the Native Americans, and we will never be those people again.

I am going to take my crack at an interpretation, and after that an analysis, of Tacitus' position and see what falls out...

The debate here has largely been turning upon the 'will' comment. Okay; let's look into this. Now, it would clearly be the act of a fool to assume that will alone is the ONLY thing we need for victory, correct? And Tacitus, whatever his other faults, clearly isn't a fool, though like all of us he might be foolISH at times. So I'm going to assume that Tacitus believes the following as givens...

1) That, in addition to the will to prevail (succeed, triumph, insert your synonym of choice here) one also needs the resources (in this context men and equipment) and the ability to marshall them (via COMPETENT policy executed through equally 'managerial' personnel) in the execution.

2) That this country and our assorted allies (yes, yes, insert your own 'what allies we have left' snark here) have more than enough resources and competent people to marshall them to prevail in Iraq specifically and the larger worldwide effort against Islamofascism and terrorism.

Number 2 leads into...

3) Since we have the resources and the men to use them, therefor, all we need is the last leg of the tripod, the will to follow through.

In the absence of him telling me I'm wrong, I'm going to go with this interpretation of Tacitus' words, because I am a charitable man.

Now, for what it's worth, I think he's absolutly right. We DO have the resources to achieve victory in Iraq, victory being defined as an open, democratic society with the institutions to preserve and protect progressive values. And this country is brimming with people who are probably smart enough to pull it off.

But let's talk about this pesky will thing, eh?

Now, it seems obvious to me, an admitted layman, that what we need to succeed in Iraq are the following things;

Enough men to secure the ENTIRE COUNTRY AND ITS BORDERS, all the time (that's 24/7/365), until we can train an entire, fully-functioning, Iraqi army corps and police force (by which I mean a civil, non-military peacekeeping authority.)

To give the country a modern infrastructure. It HAD this under Saddam, you know; electrical grids, mine-free, paved roads, functioning sewage system, state-of-the-art oil extraction industry, all that good stuff. If a two-bit asshat like Saddam can build that stuff, we should be able to do so; and the process needs to be open, and audited and reviewed FIERCELY; none of this no-bid contract, nine billion dollars being handed out off the back of trucks shit.

And to establish a functioning Iraqi government and the institutions therein through a long, deliberative, open, process, that treats these subjects with the dignity and gravity they deserve, over an extended tiemframe of leisurely debate and construction. You don't RUSH something like that, it takes however long it takes.

Now, we clealry have the ABILITY to do all this. But do we have the will?

And you know what? I say, with all respect to Tacitus, and to Charles Bird, and to Johann Hari and Andrew Sullivan and all the other bloggers and Senators and Congressmen and everyone else whose calls for the freedom of the Iraqi people have been loud and laudable...

No, sir. No, we do not.

And you know why? To get the men we'd need to fully secure the country, WE'D NEED A DRAFT. And above and beyond THAT, we'd need to seriously overhaul how we train these new draftees, as fighting an insurgency and securing towns in a foreign country that additionally has a foreign CULTURE is a lot different than being trained to fight a well-defined enemy on the field of battle, which is, in fact, how we train our soldiers.

To rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure, we'd need to pour billions and billions (that's billion with a 'B') more dollars, both in cash and in materiel, into the country, neccessitating certain fiscal sacrifices here at home. And making the process open and uncorrupt would not be in the best interests of many companies and industries that, let us be frank, have a LOT of influence on our government.

And promulgating an extensive, drawn-out, COMPLETELY OPEN Iraqi government building process (no back-room deals, none of this flying our hand-picked hatchet men to Baghdad to twist arms behdin closed doors at the last minute) risks them coming up with something we, or at least the administration, find 'unacceptable.'

The current administration has proven, categorically, time and time again, that it simply doesn't have the will to manage this occupation. It cannot build infrastructure without corruption. It cannot manage its money correctly. It sends 24-year old CHILDREN whose only qualification is commitment to an extreme neo-liberal economic philosophy to try and rebuild a shattered nation. Obsidian Wings has documented its malfeasence extensively, and even if it hadn't, throw a rock; you'll hit another source that's done it as well or better. The Bush administration lacks the will, the DISCIPLINE, the basic ability to clean house, roll up its sleeves, and govern COMPETENTLY, to, as it were, nation-build. It actually doesn't seem interested in doing so, truth be told; it wants to rebuild Iraq using the absolute bare minimum of troops, and using a specific political and economic idealogy, and won't countenance anything else.

As for the military situation... disregarding the politicians for a moment, the COUNTRY won't accept a draft. I don't believe it will, not for one second. That makes it political suicide for the party that proposes it and tries to push it through.

So, to both Tacitus and Charles, after going through all this in my mind, both today and many times over the preceding months, I have to say; I don't think anyone WANTS us to lose in Iraq. But I'm not seeing a way to victory. We do, in fact, lack the will. And I, personally, blame our leaders for getting us into this mess in the first place, where there doesn't seem to be any good way out.

Wow, that was a long-ass post. The perils of wanting to form ones thoughs as complete as possible, I suppose. I hope I stayed at least reasonably on-topic. And that posts made in the hour I spent writing this didn't render it irrelevant. ^.^;;

Ted: I feel like I'm trying to express something profound and important and not doing it very well, but I hope that it's coming across. If someone else can say it better, please do.

I think you made your point just fine, and it's a point worth making.

CharleyCarp: We are not now the people who defeated the Native Americans, and we will never be those people again.

I did wonder about this example. I'm sure if we had the will to ethnically cleanse Iraq, we could do it. Then we could settle the place, defend the borders with our massive, technologically superior military, and declare victory. What is hard about the current conflict is that the war is more immediate and more transparent than it has ever been in the history of man. You can't talk about the will of the American People to do what has to be done without also talking about how the information age is making it more difficult than ever to pretend that war isn't among the worst horrors man can visit on man, and more difficult (though not impossible, as we saw just this week) to sweep atrocities, including our own, under the rug.

Aside from dropping snark about how "will" seems to be directly measured by how many websites you start up or post in, it's difficult to discuss this when "will" is defined as following the policy I think is right. (though "think" doesn't convey the level of certitude involved)

"Josh Trevino's history as a "speechwriter for the George W. Bush Administration""

He writes the lies the whole world sings...

Sing it!

dmbeaster: Would you feel better if someone instead used as an example the half-time speech for the 1-9 team down three touchdowns?

Anyone have the email of the Duke football coach? Let's see if the only thing standing between them and a victory over Virginia Tech (in Blacksburg, no less) is "the will to prevail".

To the topic: what CharleyCarp and Mercutio said. "The will to prevail" is actually secondary here; first, you need a (meaningful) plan to put your will behind. And bluntly, it's pretty damn obvious that what we actually need to do -- including, as repeatedly noting upthread, firing the incompetents (I'm looking at you, Bush Administration) who got us into this mess, and generally injecting accountability into the picture -- we're not willing to do. Absent calls for for real strategy, for real accountability, for real leadership, for real sacrifice, for real commitment, any "will to prevail" is so much hot air.

And yes, Tac, when exaltations of the "will to prevail" (I know it's not your phrase, so consider this a genre rather than a specific citation) are coupled with denunciations of the opposition as traitors -- does "He's not anti-war. He's just on the other side." sound familiar? -- it does indeed sound fascistic. I'm not saying that you're about to don jackboots and march around DC looking for a beer hall to putsch or anything, but I'd recommend you have a long hard think about why it is these refrains of yours have overtones of 1922 and 1933 and what this means about the direction these policies are headed.

I'm pretty certain you're a) not going to, and b) dismiss this with some sarcastic sneer (likely using the word "obsessive", which would just be sad in this context) but hey, I tried. And good luck with the project (like Francis, no sarcasm at all here); odious right-wing slander notwithstanding, pretty much everyone wants us to succeed to Iraq, myself most definitely included.

Jon H.: He writes the lies the whole world sings...

This is way out of bounds.

"This is way out of bounds."

No its not, he's just writing them by order of his political masters. They aren't *his* lies.

"And good luck with the project (like Francis, no sarcasm at all here); odious right-wing slander notwithstanding, pretty much everyone wants us to succeed to Iraq, myself most definitely included."

Indeed.

Lily says: "The talk of will doesn't imply Nazis to so so much as it implies that victory is primarily a military matter, which is not the case. Hearts and minds and nation-building are at least as important as military might."

This is entirely right, except for the one correction that hearts and minds and nation-building are what the Iraq mission is, as a necessity of a foundation for any further good to come from Iraq.

The military aspect of providing security in Iraq and hunting down enemy fighters is only important insofar as it supports the establishment of political stability and democracy in Iraq. (Although a cynic might argue that the latter can be done without if the former exists; that's probably true, but it's not what I'd call a "victory," exactly, myself.)

"Wow, that was a long-ass post."

But worth it, and important. IIRC, Tacitus has called for a draft(encountering strong opposition from his friends and allies), and the expenditure of greater resources, which would come from budget cuts. Tacitus might also agree with much in your comment, and express deep sorrow at some sort of decline in American's willingness to sacrifice. Tacitus is not the most fervent Bush supporter, but is a good Republican and conservative. He may perhaps via the new site hope to provide in a small way, the national leadership Bush has not.
...
I would speculate or philosophize that Tacistus and his allies are reaping what they have sown. Conservativism and libertarianism are unlikely to foster the unity and national will to great projects and sacrifices. The period of America's greatest power & prestige was not coincidentally the age of liberal ascendency.
Well, recently. I have long arguments about this, involving Sparta & Athens, Teddy Roosevelt's connected progressivism and imperialism, etc. Not today.

I am a liberal and Democrat(converted from casual libertarianism after 9/11) because I believe in a strong defense; and I favor a strong defense approaching militarism and imperialism because I believe it is the only means to sustain a liberal society.

"Conservativism and libertarianism are unlikely to foster the unity and national will to great projects and sacrifices."

That's national greatness conservatism, Bob! You can't diss them here in the war room!

Oops, sorry. L'il Merkin Muffley moment.

Mr. Trevino's condescending answer is insulting enough that it must be countered:

Lovely, by the bye, how a reference to political will immediately conjures up barking references to German nationalism and fascist claptrap.

'Cause, you know, that's a thoroughly apt metaphor for the American effort in Iraq. And America itself. Right?

Here's a bit of advice for Mr. Trevino: if you don't like being compared to the Nazis, then stop writing like Goebbels. You reference the abstract "will," but you don't say anything specific about how to achieve the "victory." You do, however, identify the Enemy Within:

The anti-war, cut-and-run crowd, which fears not defeat, nor dishonor, nor an Iraq under the terrorist heel, is well-organized. Its online haunts are well-known enough...

This is the Dolchstosslegende. You don't like being compared to the Nazis? Too damned bad. You choose to demonize Americans as cowards and traitors, because they think this war has been fatally mis-managed. That demonization was your choice.

...I favor a strong defense approaching militarism and imperialism because I believe it is the only means to sustain a liberal society.

Ack! A liberal society sustained at a cost to other societies. Or perhaps you meant "imperialism" in a way that I'm unfamiliar with.

stickler writes: "Too damned bad. You choose to demonize Americans as cowards and traitors, because they think this war has been fatally mis-managed."

Not just mis-managed, but mis-conceived.

The people who lacked will were the administration hawks; they had only the will for a small war, so they prepared for a small war, but that was not what they got.

(Before anyone says "But this is a small war, historically speaking", the point is, they planned for an even smaller war.)

That's the failure of will that doomed this war. It was Bush's lack of will, Rumsfeld's lack of will, Cheney's lack of will, Feith's lack of will, Wolfowitz's lack of will, etc, etc, etc, etc.

If America lacks will now, we're just following our leaders' examples.

This is the Dolchstosslegende.

Not yet; it's only the Dolchstosslegende when we get blamed for the defeat of an otherwise invincible State. Though a number of people on the right have done this (Dave Neiwert was tracking the evolution of the American Dolchstosslegende for a while, don't recall any examples off-hand), I haven't seen Tac perpetrate that obscenity.

Demonization, however? Yeah, it's that in spades.

Not yet; it's only the Dolchstosslegende when we get blamed for the defeat of an otherwise invincible State.

It's Dolchstosslegende foreplay.

A Fallujah update, by the way.

"Mr. Trevino's condescending answer is insulting enough that it must be countered"

Have you no glove? Or second?

I'd like to return to the commitment to victory. Let's be economists for a second and assume that the will exists. What would be really nice would be a little three-part series:

1. Here's where we are (data, not anecdotes, on iraqi polity, economy and military).
2. Here's where we're going (the conditions under which US troops will leave Iraq).
3. Here's the general parameters of the plan to get from 1 to 2 (continue grinding out troop training and wait for the outcome of the elections; do something radically different ...)

for all we talk about iraq, we (ok, I) have relatively little information on how things are over there. What is the crime rate? Production of electricity? Delivery of potable water? Provision of sewer services?

How many cities have effective local govt? Who provides those services and will they step down following elections? Are schools open and attended by both boys and girls?

Is there an economy? What is the unemployment rate? What can be done about unemployment -- like providing job training?

The daily casualty count is exhausting and the "good" news, like the capture of another Al Qaeda in Iraq lieutenant, doesn't have much force to it and the body count news ("another 50 insurgents killed") is meaningless when we don't know how many insurgents there are, whether we're killing them faster than we're making them and whether the pentagon numbers have any crediblity.

USAID's website is so cheerful it's hard to take seriously. I'd prefer a more honest approach which recognizes the setbacks that have been suffered.

once again, best of luck on achieving victory.

OT: Gary's link to the Fallujah story gives me an idea.

It seems like it could be a good thing if we could provide friendly Iraqis a means to mark IEDs they see installed, without identifying themselves as narcs.

Like, maybe, dayglow-orange paintballs.

Basically, if a friendly spots some Iraqis planting an IED in the neighborhood, the friendly could (if within range) hide behind a curtain indoors and shoot a few dayglow paintballs at the IED.

Even if the IED isn't in range of the paintball gun, they could make a warning splatter that would be better than nothing.

It would be difficult for insurgents to identify the source of the tip, making it safer to provide the information.

By directly marking the IED with paint the message would be immediately available to local troops at risk, without the delays of passing a tip by phone through channels (or the risk of a tip being intercepted by compromised Iraqi personnel).

Perhaps the paintballs could use some kind of marker wavelength that would be invisible to the naked eye, but visible through some kind of equipment. That'd make it harder for insurgents to respond by marking everything with dayglo, or marking a pile of junk next to the real IED.

Just a thought, anyhow.

Or they could give the secret signal, a la Team America

Jon H - alternatively a phone number with guaranteed anonymity. I gather that cell phone use is pretty widespread in the areas where the worst violence is taking place. Nobody wants an IED to go off in their neighborhood unless they are supporting the insurgents.

"Or they could give the secret signal, a la Team America"

That kinda assumes they're around when the troops happen come by.

I'm guessing they don't want to be hanging around in the vicinity of an IED if they can avoid it; at least not without some good walls in the vicinity.

There are worse things in the world than losing a war. One of them, sometimes, is continuing the war (see Vietnam). Sometimes, losing can be a blessing over the long run (see Germany 1939 versus 2005 or even the US in 1960 versus 1976). Victory is usually better, but only if it can be acheived by reasonable means. Don't want victory so bad that you're willing to make any sacrifice to get it--including sacrifice of the values that make the US a country worth fighting for.

Friendly Iraqis pointing paintball guns out of their windows along roads frequented by U.S. troops?

I'll give you credit for thinking outside the box, but I suspect participation would drop off dramatically once these Iraqis start getting shot by U.S. troops who take them for snipers.

togolosh writes: "Jon H - alternatively a phone number with guaranteed anonymity."

That would provide anonymity, but it adds bureaucracy which could prevent the message from being received by endangered troops in time. And there's language issues, and the difficulty in expressing the IED's position.

Better if the soldier in the truck can see a marked IED on the road ahead.

"Friendly Iraqis pointing paintball guns out of their windows along roads frequented by U.S. troops?"

Hm. Perhaps a less gun-shaped paintball gun would help.

Seems solvable, however.

Interpreting Charles' post charitably, I take it to mean: will is not enough; you also need e.g. materiel, soldiers, etc. But since we have those, will will turn out to be the sticking point.

That's not what I meant, Hil. We need to improve on our strategy and tactics, and I believe the clear-and-hold strategy, similar to the CAP program in Vietnam, is a workable one. But since this is a gritty terrorist-guerilla war, we'll continue to make mistakes and fall into snafus as we go. That's where the will part must come in. Not just will, sustained will. The president needs to be fully involved in communicating this and, until last week, he hasn't. Bush also needs to start talking about interim goals and milestones (something he really hasn't done), not just the ultimate end goal. And at the risk of being a broken record, he also needs to regularly and consistently communicate that victory is defined by a substantive quelling of the terrorists and Sunni groups, and by the establishment of a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic. At this bumbling stage of his presidency, he really doesn't have any other choice.

" Not just will, sustained will."


Will may help win wars, but will also helps people drink themselves to death.

You're not going to get public's will unless we know what it is we're being asked to apply it to.

And that's going to be difficult at this point, since we don't trust the Bush administration to come clean. Indeed, the Bush administration is deeply averse to coming clean on anything.

Clear and hold will require a significant increase in manpower, unless you are going to leave the "hold" part to Iraqi forces, who clearly aren't ready for primetime now, or in the immediate future. If that. And a true CAP, even if effective, will probably mean a rise in the casualty rate, as it's counterpart in Vietnam experienced.

More soldiers. More casualties.

And, really, for what end?

Jon H: i'll join in giving you credit for out-of-the-box thinking, but i suspect that your friendly iraqi would have a dramatically reduced lifespan. Does he really have much of a chance of tipping off the americans on a regular basis without getting caught?

Collaborators can receive some of the harshest punishment.

Indeed, the Bush administration is deeply averse to coming clean on anything.

Though they did come clean and admit to using white phosphorous as a weapon in Falluja.


Also, the clearing part of clear-and-hold probably means more people in detention being tortured.

CB:

The Pres needs to convince people that he can accomplish the victory you are talking about. This has two parts, that it can be done, and that it can be done by his administration. You may believe both, but there are plenty who disbelieve one or both of these propositions.

Calling such people traitors, or a drag on the war effort, or whatever, might play well with the base. It would certainly appeal to many of the first commenters at Mr. Trevino's new site. It's not going to convince anyone of the two propositions, though. That would take the hard work of governance -- and would have to start with some realistic talk from the President.

Does the President have the will to win, if doing so requires compromise with domestic opposition? If so, I haven't seen any evidence of it.

Francis writes: "Collaborators can receive some of the harshest punishment."

Yes, I know, that's why I suggested paintball or some other projectile-based marking system, as opposed to, say, a spray can or post-it notes.

This would make it a lot easier to assist without exposing one's identity. Shoot the paint pellets, near-silently, from a position of concealment. Could be from your bedroom, could be from a passing car, could be from behind a fence.

If the markings are not easily visible to the unaided eye, so much the better. The insurgents won't even know their IED has been marked.

Even if the insurgents have someone watching the planted IED, it would be difficult to see the paintball in flight, and would be difficult to trace its path back to the source.

It wouldn't be risk-free, but the insurgents would have a harder time pinning it down.

By comparison, going to the security forces carries the risk that you're dealing with an insurgent mole.

CCarp writes: "Does the President have the will to win, if doing so requires compromise with domestic opposition?

What, you mean his Dad?

;^)

Ugh: the Pentagon came clean(er)... they still have some straight-shooting military types, aka dead-enders there. If it was up to the WH, Scotty would repeat "I have already answered that" until entropy claims him.

Clear and hold will require a significant increase in manpower, unless you are going to leave the "hold" part to Iraqi forces, who clearly aren't ready for primetime now, or in the immediate future. If that. And a true CAP, even if effective, will probably mean a rise in the casualty rate, as it's counterpart in Vietnam experienced.

More soldiers. More casualties.

And, really, for what end?>

How daft are you???

The end, you ask? But -- the end is victory!

Don't you know how to read?

People like you are the problem -- you simply lack the will. Scratch that, not just the will -- sustained will.

Tut tut.

"The end, you ask? But -- the end is victory!"

And with victory, the tote bag!

CharleyCarp:

OK, now I'm curious. I can't believe you would find Tac's post more convincing if he reached out (or whatever). I find it hard to believe that you wouldn't reject out of hand an argument which had as its thesis, "All it takes is will." I may well be projecting my own epistemic system on you, but the thesis is pretty much all I need to read before classing it with claims about the moon being in the 13th house and the like.

I think we're talking about two very different worldviews which are not translatable, and I think you're on my side (of the worldviews). Assuming I'm right about your own worldview, isn't it disingenous to ask Tac to reach out; you aren't likely to accept the sort of argument he can make anyway. (The reverse is true, as well, obviously.)

I took a look at the site and noticed that windsofchange.net is a contributor. I stopped reading that site when the consensus among the contributors emerged that the nazis were leftists. At that degree of detachment from reality meaningful engagement is impossible. I think there is a real opportunity for good ideas to percolate from the blogosphere into policy, but the starting point has to be a willingness to reject dearly held beliefs. If the imperative to smear political enemies ranks higher than the desire to formulate solutions to difficult problems the enterprise is doomed.

Jesus told a parable with the punch line (I paraphase) "Be faithful with the little things, and you'll be rewarded with bigger ones." What I, at least, would need to see from the Bush administration is some good stewardship at home. Say, an independent audit of all money promised in State of the Union speeches to determine how much was asked for in budgets, how much budgeted, how it's been spent, and what results there are to show for it. Or a review of all agency heads appointed this administration, focusing on the question "Why are you qualified for this job?", with comparisons to similar positions in civilian life. Or anything of the sort - wholly within the executive's power, so there's no question of being undercut by sinister wimpy outsiders, run openly and honestly, leading to an outcome that promotes liberty and opportunity.

Then maybe we can start to talk about trusting them with anything else.

Another "Fallujah one year later" story, in Time, by Christopher Allbritton (of Back to Iraq.

From Fallujah One Year Later, the Iraq Catch-22 perfectly encapsulated:

At a recent meeting, city council members pleaded with Lieut. Colonel Bill Mullen to let Fallujah police itself. But Mullen refused and demanded that council members stop turning a blind eye to insurgent activities. "If the security situation does not improve," Mullen said, "guess what? We're not going anywhere."

Tim, I agree that will is a sine qua non. I do not necessarily agree that "nothing more" is required, and I especially do not agree that conflating domestic sceptics (or opponents) with the enemy is moving the ball down the field in the right direction in any sense. CB had a most not long ago about the media theatre of the war, and I have to say how much impressed I was by the comments to the Xpost on RedState: the obsession on the part of so many with defeating the near enemy, with so little apparent interest in the far enemy.

As if the near enemy -- Cindy Sheehan, the NYT, you, me, whoever -- had any real impact on anything.

All that said, I think we are winning. In some senses, anyway. I had an interesting chat this evening with a guy from Human Rights Watch, who has been running down stories from the "Prison of Darkness" aka the "Salt Pit." (A CIA black site near the Kabul airport). I had a declassified story to tell him. Anyway, he's spent a lot of time in Afghanistan recently, and over the years going back well before 9/11, and told me how tired ordinary Afghanis are of the mujahadeen, and how little interest they have in the insurgency there. In contrast to Iraq, where he finds widespread sympathy. (He told me that US troops aren't all that popular in Af, but NATO troops are very popular.)

So, not won yet in Iraq, but we're getting closer to a government that will feel secure enough to tell us to leave. That's victory, so far as I'm concerned. With us gone, the various paramilitaries will face off, and reach some kind of equilibrium, but all will reject the AQ/Zarqawi types. They are useful now to any number of interests, but with us out, their utility drops away, and the draw of Fighting the Crusader drops away.

So what is required of us other than will to acheive this victory? Actually not all that much. We should refrain from doing anything stupid. We should not destroy cities, or kill innocents (accidentally or by design). We should arm and train the Iraqi army. After the elections, we should start drawing down, and change our role on joint missions to more supervision and less actually doing stuff. Even this is hard and dangerous for our fine men and women, but we should make sure they, and everyone else understands, that victory here will and must be an Iraqi victory won by Iraqis.

I realize that avoiding humiliation/gloating/triumphalism requires great will power. What I wonder is whether our conservative friends have the will to actually win this thing.

Sorry Charles, looks like most of the objectively pro-Islamofacist posters here want tinkerbell to die.

Only you can save her. You will just have to clap louder yourself.

Since VN has been invoked again, I climb back up on my high historian's horse to comment:

Tacitus, enumerating guerrilla wars won by the will to hold course: the Vietnam War, off the top of my head. (The last surprises people, but we did in fact eliminate the insurgency in the south -- once the Viet Cong were destroyed, the war post-1969 was carried on by NVA regulars.)

This is indeed the view of Harry Summers, and has become a "meme" of the right, but it ain't necessarily so. See in particular Peter Brush, "Reassessing the Viet Cong Rule after Tet" and various articles of Ngo Vinh Long, of which the most accessible is probably "The Tet Offensive and Its Aftermath" in Marc Jason Gilbert and William Head (eds.), The Tet Offensive (Praeger, 1996).

What Brush and Long contend, based on both American and Vietnamese sources, is that whereas the NLF ("VC") did indeed suffer heavy losses during Tet (1968), they began to recover almost immediately thereafter, and remained a potent and numerous force in the provinces right up to the end of the war. It is true that the direct involvement of NVA forces in the south was much greater after that date, and they took the initiative in most of the offenses of the last six years of the war (esp. 1972 and 1975), but the NLF was still very much in existence, restored in number, and an active player in the war, not "destroyed" in any meaningful sense.

It is reasonable to assume that without the incursion of NVA forces the Saigon regime (and thus the US) would not have lost the war when it did. But that, as I have previously tried to explain, is not by any means the same as arguing that it/we would have won the war. If we were content to keep US troops in substantial numbers in South Vietnam - there were half a million there in 1969 - we could undoubtedly still be there. They couldn't drive us out by force. But the losses of Tet did not turn around the war for the "hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese, as almost every study at the province or village level reveals. (E.g., Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An, Berkeley, 1972) The insurgency continued, and it is misleading to suggest that we had "destroyed" it by 1969.

I leave it to others to draw parallels to Iraq today, as they see fit.

Does anyone really give a shit about Iraq?

Seriously man we got our lives to lead right here at home. What is the worst that can happen if we pull out of Iraq right away. Nothing of any real consequence to us.

In three years no one will car any more about Iraq except for right wing toadies who don't have a freakin life.

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