Winning Badly in Iraq?

Josh Micah Marshall reports an interesting phenomenon: Hobnobbing with foreign-policy-astute folks at the American Progress conference yesterday, he was struck by the similarity in the fears being voiced by Democrats and neocons alike: that the Bush administration, in a bid to protect itself politically from the failure of its policies, might leave Iraq prematurely, leaving a worse situation behind (in terms of US interests) than what originally existed there.

In the previous item at Talking Points Memo, Marshall had linked to the following opinion piece from Monday’s Washington Post: Winning Badly. In it, columnist Richard Hart Sinnreich talks about the idea that in war, winning badly can be even worse than losing. Sinnreich speculates that by taking Iraqi submission for granted and pursuing a plan aimed at minimizing pain on both sides, the US may actually have gotten itself into “badly won” territory, in which the enemy remains unconvinced of his own defeat and as a result the war drags on and on.

I’ll grant that it’s not a foregone conclusion that Bush will be driven from office over his actions in Iraq. But despite betting lines that still show him a favorite for (re-)election, I think he’s going nowhere but down over the next year. The country will, in effect, have a referendum on the war, and the decision of the people will be that it was a mistake.

But President Dean will still have to deal with the mess. And it won’t be pretty.

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