Pre-emptive defeat

In today’s Washington Post, Steve Simon and Ray Takeyh assure us that “we’ve lost” in Iraq, and offer their prescription for a “well-managed defeat” that will “preserve U.S. power and position.” The prescription has three elements: (1) “return to realism,” (2) make concessions to Iran in exchange for its agreement to “confine its nuclear program” and to “butt out of the Israeli-Arab arena”, and (inevitably) (3) encourage Israelis and Palenstinians (as if) to “take risks for peace.”
This prescription is feckless and self-contradictory. It is profoundly unrealistic to believe that Iran voluntarily will limit its nuclear power and accept bystander status when it comes to Israel. And it is obscene to urge Israel to take more risks for peace, the most recent such risk having just produced a Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.
Simon and Takeyh fare no better at the descriptive level. We haven’t lost in Iraq unless our enemies have won, which manifestly they have not done. Our major enemy, al Qaeda, seems to be losing in crucial Anbar province. The radical Shia militias control some neighborhoods, but apparently fewer than before the troop surge which is still in progress. In any case, control of some neighborhoods is not the same thing as victory. Similarly, Iran may be influential in certain parts of Iraq, but it’s hardly in control.
There is only one way the U.S. can lose in Iraq, and that is to give up. This probably explains why commentators like Simon and Takeyh, and politicians like Harry Reid, are so eager to sell the notion that Iraq is already lost. They would like Americans to believe that their defeatist policies are merely ratifying a defeat rather than creating one. That way they can avoid responsibility when their prescription — making more concessions to Iran and asking Israel to take risks — fails to alleviate the consequences of the defeat giving up in Iraq would produce.
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