What is Victory in Iraq?
By Mark S. Beatty
February 25, 2007
This question seems to be a recurring theme in the national debate.
Few of those criticizing involvement in Iraq actually define
what victory would consist of, much less articulating a coherent
way to get there. I suggest this is answered by simple saying
"Victory = Ax - By + Cz +/- ". This leaves the more
complex question, however, of what are the elements of victory
(x,y,z) and how relatively important are they (A,B,C).
The most discussed element of victory (x) was preventing Saddam
from passing weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. Historically
we might say this was weighted at anywhere from 40% to 80% of
the reason why many supported the 2002 war into Iraq. We all
remember the testimony by Colin Powell showing pictures of the
Iraqi storage facilities for WMD's. In hindsight it might be
reassuring that we confirmed Saddam had few such weapons, but
today (x) is far less persuasive and has been the subject of
much of the ongoing Democratic Party rhetoric. If (x) is the
extent of victory, then, having confirmed Saddam had few if any
WMDs, we can pack up and bring all our soldiers home.
A second variable (y) is that few US resources, whether lives
or tax dollars, are lost. The interaction between this and variable
(x) might explain why there is such disagreement over Iraq. Someone
who valued "having a clear exit plan" at 60% and removing
a bio-chemical terrorist threat at 40% would have voted against
invading Iraq in 2002. Someone who is willing to sacrifice 10,000
US military personal to fight the terrorist on their homeland
is obviously opposed to someone like Cindy Sheehan who is not
willing that even one US soldier should die to free Iraq. For
Sheehanites victory is immediate withdrawal. Unfortunately, the
conversation between people holding these opposing positions
often dissolves into hyperbole and name calling, and by my observations
it is the Cindy Sheehans doing most of the name calling.
A third variable (z) is that Iraq does not become a training
ground for terrorists to export to the US. Originally this might
have been only weighted at 10%, but now it appears to be the
major goal of the Bush administration. An expanded version of
prevention is for Iraq to become strong enough to insure its
own security against terrorists acting inside Iraq, training
and exporting to the world. If this is a new rationale, however,
than the past losses of variable (y) are "sunk costs."
Business people usually do not consider sunk costs in making
future business decisions. For example, if a division of a corporation
lost $10 million in the past but has the probability of producing
$1 million in the future, the business will continue the division
because the past losses are there whether or not one continues
with the future program.
Likewise, military personnel losses and spent money are lost
and neither going forward in Iraq nor stopping will bring back
the approximately 3,400 that have died. If one values variable
(z) and is willing to sacrifice 1,000 US soldiers to achieve
it, then that person will support the ongoing effort in Iraq.
If a person is not willing to suffer one more American casualty,
then that person will demand an immediate withdrawal no matter
what the consequences after the US withdrawals.
Other variables exist according to the values of diverse members
of society. Some might be appalled by Saddam's mass executions
and therefore support the ongoing presence in Iraq for a humanitarian
purpose. Others might argue that the US involvement in Iraq is
necessary to stop or slow down Iran on its path towards expanding
their international terrorist efforts. Still others are allegedly
for the war because they make money out of it. Some might have
additional reasons not to stay in Iraq such as: the military
is ill-prepared; the military is needed elsewhere and cannot
do two things at the same time; the military cannot operate without
violating enemy combatants' civil rights; or the ever popular
"I hate Bush so I hate the war he supports."
The point I am making is that people have different "definitions"
of victory; and therefore, much of the discussion about "Victory
in Iraq" is useless. The "futility of the marketplace"
is the label used by Lord George Gordon Byron (1788 - 1824) to
describe this same phenomenon of people failing to communicate
because of different assumptions underlying their word meanings.
Any individual's definition of "Victory in Iraq" is
comprised of what they think is important (the xyz's) and how
relatively important it is (the ABC's). This leaves the door
open to thousands of different definitions of "Victory in
Iraq." Awareness of this semantic complexity is the pathway
to meaningful debate.
For example, if I argue for ongoing involvement in Iraq for the
humanitarian purposes such as ten million Kurds and Sunnis escaping
mass assassinations, then the Cindy Sheehans of the world are
in error when they call me a murderer on the basis of my willingness
to sacrifice an additional 2,000 US soldiers, airmen, sailors,
marines or coasties plus 36,000 "innocent" Iraqis every
year. Rather than name calling, the discussion should rather
be whether the 36,000 "innocent" Iraqis would be 3.6
million if we were not there. We should discuss the potential
value of giving one American life to save hundreds of thousands
of Iraqis, or we should discuss how many US citizens are protected
at home for every sacrifice in Iraq.
And rather than the Murthas and Kerrys calling our soldiers,
airmen, sailors, marines or coasties "murderers" and
"terrorists who break in children's bedrooms at night,"
we should consider whether they are motivated by love as was
Sergeant Alvin York. (The story allegedly goes that the great
WWI hero of the 82nd All American Division was asked his thoughts
as he single-handedly killed 28 enemy soldiers and captured 132
of the German machine gun battalion. York responded that he was
motivated by love for the people he was protecting.)
People are unique, their values are complex, and name calling
with hyperbole makes misunderstanding worse. If I argue to continue
efforts in Iraq it might not be because I am one of the "stupid
soldiers" Kerry speaks of, but because I put higher value
on prevention of international terrorism together with humanitarian
goals of using the military to protect the weak and vulnerable.
Received February 23, 2007 - Published February 25, 2006
About: Mark Beatty, MA, THM,
PHD, MBA, JD is a combat veteran of Desert Storm (1990) and Operation
Enduring Freedom (2001).
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
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