Despite all the rhetoric and resolutions emanating from Washington, two fundamental facts about the war in Iraq won't change. The killing will continue, but not all of it has to.Iraqis will continue to die in large numbers regardless of what the United States does. The troop surge will shift the violence to other locations or cause the combatants to go underground for a time, but will do nothing to resolve the reasons for the fighting. The ignorance, arrogance and incompetence of the American architects of the invasion and its aftermath have created the perfect storm of factors that made the current civil war possible and inevitable for years to come. The deepening of the sectarian divide, the struggle over who gets to steal the oil revenue and the proxy fight for influence being waged by other countries in the region all ensure that peace will not break out soon.
The war is lost
The politicians in Washington, whether they support the war or oppose it, do not want to end it at all costs, however. Those who pass legislation calling for a fixed timetable for withdrawing American troops do so secure in the knowledge that it will never be enacted. They would not pass a bill that would actually take effect because they are not about to remove the Iraqi albatross from around President Bush's neck and hang it around their own.
Those political leaders who say they support the war know it is lost, but cannot admit it. Their constituents cannot accept the idea of defeat. What has been won, how or why does not matter. In the Vince Lombardi school of international relations, winning is the only thing. So, for them, there is no accepting any outcome called defeat even though invading Iraq has not made us safer and debilitates us more every day. Instead they have to stay the course hoping something they can call victory will miraculously appear.
And so the conflict continues, but it doesn't have to, at least for the Americans. While Iraqis will fight and die for some time to come, the Americans can withdraw now.
Chaos in the region
At one point not so long ago, the war was sold to the voters with the claim that creating a democracy in Iraq would be easy and would spread across the region. Now the excuse for having to stay is that the chaos in Iraq will engulf the region. Both these variations of the domino theory are wrong, and the damage we are doing to our national security by staying is far greater than we would do by getting out.
To make our exit all we really need to do is select a date to celebrate our victory in Iraq. Opponents of the war will not have to worry about assuming responsibility for the war or any impact on the verdict of history. President Bush is sure that historians 50 years from now will look back on him as a visionary leader. With $500 billion squandered already and more than that yet to be spent repairing the damage to our armed forces, the true cost of Mr. Bush's trillion-dollar disaster will escape no historian.
Those politicians who profess to support the war should also be content with a declaration of victory. By asserting that we won there would be time for many voters to have forgotten the war by the next election. The declaration can't unfortunately come immediately, however, since the recent surge can't be expected to show results for a few more months. By saying we won then, no more terrorists would be emboldened and no one would doubt American resolve.
Where's the good news?
Some might question whether proclaiming victory should not be driven by the situation on the ground. That has never affected administration policy or pronouncements in the past, so why should it matter now? Besides the announcement is the perfect response to all those who complain that the good news from Iraq is not being reported.
To make it even more patriotic and above questioning, the date for V-I Day could be set for the Fourth of July. So let's support our troops and our politicians by bringing the former home this summer and letting the latter find a way out as well.
Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Peru, is dean of the International Center at the University of Florida.
© 2007 Miami Herald Media Company.