Of course, Rumsfeld responded:
"This war has been consistently and grossly mismanaged," Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), a Massachusetts Democrat, told Rumsfeld. "And we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire."
"Our troops are dying. And there really is no end in sight. And the American people, I believe, deserve leadership worthy of the sacrifices that our fighting forces have made, and they deserve the real facts. And I regret to say that I don't believe that you have provided either."
"Well, that is quite a statement. First let me say that there isn't a person at this table who agrees with you that we're in a quagmire and that there's no end in sight."Like most Senate hearings, nothing was decided although the Democrats did get their attack against the administration into the headlines (which was probably their goal). Evidently there is enough public angst about Iraq that the President has scheduled a prime-time address to put forth his position. However, most skeptics don't believe Bush so the question remains: is the insurgency on its last legs or is Iraq a "quagmire" and are we doomed to failure?
"The suggestion by you that people -- me or others -- are painting a rosy picture is false. The fact is from the beginning of this we have recognized that this is a tough business, that it is difficult, that it is dangerous, and that it is not predictable."
Here's the short version: we have already won in Iraq. The Sunni-based insurgency is for all practical purposes dead, and while numbers of foreign jihadists are still able to blow up things and kill people they are unable to affect the political outcome in Iraq. Those who cannot see this are stupid: those who refuse to see this need to remove their ideological blinders and stop being obstinate.
Now, for the long version: why do I say the "insurgency" is over for all practical purposes? And, why do I keep putting the term "insurgency" into quotes?
I use the term "insurgency" advisedly because although it is in common usage to describe the armed struggle against the Coalition and Iraqi government, what is happening doesn't reflect a true insurgency (popular uprising). The native Iraqis who are fighting are mostly Ba'athist remnents, the hangover from the Saddam era; the few additional Iraqis are mostly useful idiots, ignorant people who have been easily swayed by a combination of dishonest proganda and money to fight for "Iraqi sovereignity," and criminal gangs who use violence as a means of increasing their influence and income (kidnapping, extortion, murder for hire). The Ba'athists are fighting to maintain their stranglehold on power, to restore a Ba'athist Iraq and to either restore Saddam or replace him with one of his underlings, and these people represent a very small number of Iraqis who mostly realize that it just ain't gonna happen.
In reality, most of the violence perpetrated in the "insurgency" is caused by foreign jihadists who have flocked to Iraq to attack the hated Great Satan for ideological reasons. These are the people who become suicide bombers, whose attacks kill scores of Iraqi women and children, who hole up in cities like Samarrah and Fallujah, who seek martyrdom and fight to the bitter end instead of surrendering when they have no chance of victory. Led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, the jihadists vow to continue to attack the Coalition and Iraqi government forces until they achieve their goal of establishing an Islamist theocracy in Iraq. So, it is more proper to refer to the jihadists in Iraq as invaders instead of insurgents.
Now, back to the first question: are we winning?
Clearly the evidence shows that we are. The Ba'athist remnents have lost all popular support, as well as support from the heads of the Sunni clans, and realize they've lost. They're negotiating with the Iraqi government and the Coalition to obtain some sort of amnesty where they can join the political process, and it is in Iraq's (and our) best interest to come up with a way to re-integrate most of the low-level 'foot soldiers' back into society. Those who will not accept the new Iraq will eventually be killed, and we'll find a way to let the rest of them 'save face' and that will largely end the Iraqi involvement in the violence.
By the way, one of the reasons we are negotiating with the Iraqi insurgents is because we want to split them from the jihadists and leave the latter isolated. This is happening: recent reports suggest increasing armed conflict ("red-on-red") between "insurgent" groups (HT: Winds of Change). The brutal attacks against Iraqi civilians seem to be behind the fighting.
Are we winning against the jihadists? Yes, definitely. Again, the jihadists can launch small-scale attacks against civilian targets, but they cannot successfully do so against Coalition forces. We continue to arrest and kill large numbers of them, however more keep coming in primarily via Syria. This is good, in a way, because it concentrates the truly wacky Arabs from throughout the Middle East in an area (western Iraq) where we can get at them (and kill them). The jihadists cannot change the course of modern Iraq unless we abandon the country -- the course suggested by Democrats such as Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. The jihadists cannot win, but we can lose if we abdicate the battlefield in a reprise of Vietnam.
What many people don't understand about Iraq is, if we're winning then why are they still fighting? Glad you asked, Grasshopper. Just as WWII was decided (won, but not finished) before the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion of Okinawa, Iraq has also been decided. The insurgency is beaten but not yet defeated (they have yet to accept the fact that they've lost, just as it took the firebombing of Tokyo followed by TWO atom bombs before Imperial Japan -- with no Navy or Air Force remaining -- accepted the fact that they couldn't win the war, they could only decide how many more Japanese were killed. Desperate enemies with their backs against the wall invariably resort to desperate tactics, and that is why the violence directed against civilians has increased dramatically. Note that the kamikazes as an organized effort did not begin until 1944 after we had destroyed the Imperial Japanese Navy, and Hitler didn't put the Hitler Youth and old men into the Wehrmacht until Germany was invaded. If you disagree with this assessment then you simply do not understand war, maybe because you have ideological blinders on, or maybe because you're just stupid.
So, if we are winning (or have already won) then how do we get out of Iraq? Well, we establish criteria that are goal-based instead of time-based. We need to continue the effort to get the Iraqi Army and security forces self-sufficient. Once the Iraqis themselves can handle the jihadists and the Ba'athists and the criminals (and they were able to handle the Iranians and the criminals under Saddam) then we won't be needed. Unfortunately for the "insurgents" the Iraqis will not be nearly as pleasant captors as we are, and Iraqi-controlled Abu Graib prison will certainly see more than humiliation used as an interrogation technique. And, we need to maintain a military presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future, just as we kept bases in Europe and Japan after WWII. The fetid fever swamp that is the Middle East is still breeding militant jihadists like mosquitos. It isn't completely drained.
Therefore, I'm sure that President Bush will pretty much say what I have written; we are winning, the fighting is not yet over, and we need to stay the course and not cut and run because a free Iraq is crucial to our national security ("draining the swamp"). He will not say this (even though it's true): the struggle will be over by 2007 and we will be largely out of Iraq by then.
P.S. Good analysis also at Captain's Quarters and the Belgravia Dispatch.