Yes, 2012, which is not one but two U.S. elections away. To pay off, "the surge" requires a lot of "sustain." This leads to a crucial point: A truly grievous American strategic weakness (which the surge does not address) is our own political cycle. Al-Qaida's jihadists plotted a multigenerational war. That means we must fight a multi-administration war, which entails bridging the whipsaw of the U.S. political cycle.
The Bush administration has not prepared the nation for that -- at least, not in any focused manner. And that omission constitutes negligence. Bush critics who advocate withdrawal are even more negligent, however, for withdrawal without ensuring Iraqi stability is a self-inflicted defeat leading to extremely dire consequences. The current war in Iraq, which began in the late summer of 2003, is a war against Iraqi democracy. It is waged by the remnants of Saddam's regime (secular fascists) and al-Qaida (theological fascists).
Retreat feeds our totalitarian enemies' megalomania, which ultimately leads to more mass murder and most costly wars. The Iraqi people themselves provide an example of democratic vision and magnificent perseverance. The February 2006 attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra brought Iraq to the precipice of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's strategic sectarian war -- but even that failed to produce the apocalyptic schism al-Qaida desired. The Iraqis understand the value of an open, productive political system.
Every war is a series of mistakes -- bloody, expensive mistakes. France's Georges Clemenceau provided a more elegant rendering of the terrible hell of it: War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory. . Ultimately, winning any war -- but especially this intricate, multidimensional war -- demands perseverance and creative adaptation. War winners understand this real-world problem.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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