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Red, White, and Skewed

Winning in Iraq, but terms of victory still unclear

Ross Wasserstrom

Issue date: 9/4/09 Section: Opinion
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A statue of Saddam Hussein is toppled in Baghdad in 2003. Deciding what defines victory in Iraq has been more difficult.
Media Credit: Wathiq Khuzaie
A statue of Saddam Hussein is toppled in Baghdad in 2003. Deciding what defines victory in Iraq has been more difficult.
[Click to enlarge]
As you're probably aware, the U.S. has been at war in Iraq since 2003. We are fighting a war of ideas and philosophy as much as a war of bullets and bombs, which is fairly normal for a U.S.-led, undeclared, full scale invasion of a sovereign country with which we have a poor trading relationship. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the war in Iraq is distinct from all other wars fought by the U.S. in our 233-year history.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 is still today extremely controversial, which is probably what this particular war has most in common with our other conflicts, but the most important question remains to be answered even six years after this chapter in American history began: how do we win, and how will we know? Everyone remembers George Bush's catastrophic "mission accomplished" press conference, at which time the U.S. had dismantled Saddam Hussein's Baath Party government and defeated the Iraqi army, but how far have we come toward winning this particular war?

All other major wars in U.S. history have been started with very clear aims: the War of Independence, World Wars I & II, the Vietnam War (among others) had clear goals. The goal, of course, was to defeat the enemy. The Germans (twice), the British, or the Vietnamese/Chinese/Russian Communists were always on the other side as a driving force; a discernable foe from whose clutches victory could be snatched.

In Iraq, however, that sovereign "adversary," Saddam and his army, had been defeated and dismantled within six weeks, but the war was still on. The U.S. and its allies were still killing and being killed, while the Iraqi people were (mysteriously) not waving American flags and welcoming us to their country.

The Iraqi people understood then, I believe, what is just dawning on us: that victory in Iraq has no face. Not that we can't still "win" and accomplish our goals, but that there will be no dramatic moments of the triumphant U.S. president shaming the losing leaders; no Treaty of Versailles moment with the cameras running. Worse yet, however, is that U.S. "victory" might look pretty much the same as before the invasion.
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In This Issue

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  • A conversation with Major Jason Winterle
  • Budgeting 101 for college students
  • Can you name this place?
  • Case holds first annual Campus Security Fair
  • Case Western prepares to serve community
  • Have you heard about ACM?
  • Nursing "freshmen stimulus" provides support for incoming students, provokes unease
  • USG Briefs

Sports

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  • Gameday
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  • Women's soccer takes two at JCU

Fun Page

  • Crossword Solution
  • Maze Solution
  • Sudoku Solutions

Opinion

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  • Learning to be responsible
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Letters to the Editor
  • State your case photos: What would you do with an Inamori Ethics Prize?

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Soccer

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Spartan Spotlight

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