Filed under Politics, as wars are politically-driven, this entry is inspired by a chart over at swivel.com from June 6, the anniversary of Battle of Normandy in 1944. Who won that battle? Well, the Allies did, of course. But the chart shows the number of casualties of that invasion by country, and quite a different story is told there. The U.S. had 29k casualties, Germany had 23k, the U.K. had 11k, and Canada had 5k. The allies had twice as many as Germany. Hooray! We won? Russia has a similar history of "victorious" outcomes when invaded by foreigners, but these Russian triumphs come at the expense of many millions of their own citizens' lives.
What I'm trying to convey is the fact that victory is determined by achievement of a desired outcome. The Allies gained a beachhead, which was their objective, and were victorious by that standard. If their objective had been to sustain fewer casualties than their opponent, they would have suffered a loss; but that was not the standard measured against. In Iraq, what is the objective, the standard to measure victory or loss against? It's looking like this will end in victory for both sides - the vaunted "win-win" outcome whose virtues are universally extolled by success and motivation gurus throughout the land. The U.S.-led forces will be victorious by their standard, which is probably something along the lines of "achieving democracy in Iraq and securing oil interests for the West." The insurgents will be victorious by their standards on the day the U.S. declares victory and withdraws; the insurgents have a much simpler measure, and that is simply "the cessation of U.S. military offensives in Iraq." Yet the U.S. could also have been victorious 6 weeks after the war began, when the statue of Saddam was joyously and spontaneously (?) toppled by a joint effort of Iraqi citizens and U.S. soldiers. At that time, the measurable objective was far simpler, i.e. remove Saddam from any semblance of power or ability to develop, access, and use weapons of mass destruction, than it is today.
We will not know the true outcome of this war until the U.S.-led forces withdraw and leave Iraq to sink or swim on its own, and even then, the success can only be measured on a long-term stability basis. By this measure, Britain's method of withdrawal from Palestine in the earlier part of the last century must be deemed a policy failure, though it may have appeared successful at the time it transpired; similarly, the success or failure of President Bush's Iraq policy will only be known in retrospect, decades from now. And so it is with most wars.