What Victory Means

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan and author of the blog Informed Comment, and Michael Hirsh, senior editor and author of a weekly column on, talk about what victory means in Iraq and the significance of the troop withdrawal announcement.


Juan Cole and Michael Hirsh

Comments [45]

PJ from Westchester

To the Beach Boys tune:

Bomb, bomb, bomb
Bomb, bomb Iran.

Bomb, bomb, bomb
Bomb, bomb Iran.

Sep. 10 2008 03:50 PM
Ou Quan

victory for me is our government learned the lesson that Iraq war is disaster for the country, and avoid to start another war(the war against Iran which already got the approval from our congress, the new war may start any day). Now we see the same pre-war talk when government sold us the Iraq War. I want to see our candidates to raise the issue and stop the new war from happening. Because any war cost lives and money. When an unnecessary war started, there is no victory, only a different degree of casualties.

Sep. 10 2008 12:22 PM
T from Garden

The crisis of unemployment and poverty in America is staggering. Yet, the White House Unveils $1 Billion Georgia. Bush is switching our troops to Afghanistan, and if you want to know why "It's about the Oil, Stupid" People please wake-up and know that Obama will not win this race, he is too clean, to carry on the dirty relationship, that America started 60 years ago with Oil. They will either rob him, of his votes, or cheat. Nonethless, someone like McCain and Palin, are just the perfect pair to carry on this type of policy for America... Please watch "Michael T. Klare "Blood and Oil' or read. This is not some crackpot idea.America wake up!!!But then,only New Yorkers are reading this...or those that have access,

Sep. 10 2008 11:49 AM
Longstreet from NYC area

After the Dems blow this slam dunk election, will you please have some more shows about blue-state secession? Those were great shows in 2004. There are few things funnier than listening to than the ravings of the netroots fringe. Thanks in advance.

Sep. 10 2008 10:58 AM
PJ from Westchester

Victory is:
No terrorist attacks in the US.
Elimination of Sadam Hussein.
Stabilization of Iraq
Control of the Shiite militias
Improved economy of Iraq

By those standards we’re 90% of the way there.

Sep. 10 2008 10:52 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

@ #25 Marc good point! Is Victory different Mission Accomplished??? I'm confused.

Sep. 10 2008 10:39 AM
Annie Schussler from New Jersey

I'm more fascinated by the term "return" as in "return on success." Return?? That's business-speak. Return on Investment. Tax Return. Dividends, Profits, Futures. For the past several years they've been applying the business model to everything: Churches, Schools, War. I guess it's what we as Americans have come to respect above everything else: Business. Which makes me look at the wisdom and success, or return on success, of the pillars of the business world, like our banks and other lending institutions...

Sep. 10 2008 10:36 AM
Paula Heisen from Manhattan

Everything depends on how you ask a question. If Obama is asked how to define victory in Iraq, and then goes on to explain why that concept isn't an appropriate one, how is it that he has not answered the question? Isn't rephrasing the question sometimes the only way to answer it? How can there be "victory" when the goal of this war started out as a lie, and then continually shape-shifted over the last 5 years? I am sick of the media trying to fit complex situations into sound bites. It does a disservice to us all. I am hearing it more and more on WNYC, and it is very distressing.

Sep. 10 2008 10:34 AM
Dan Kaplan from Chelsea

victory is a moving target. once it was just to remove Saddam and his chemical and biological weapons. Then it was to eliminate the terrorist threat it posed, then it was to establish a free society. Now we simply want a self-ruled country, with relative peace, so we can slip out the back door, and later blame the puppet gov't we established, for whatever it's future mistakes (or demise) may be. This certainly won't be a country of religious freedom, freedom for women, nor a bastion of integrated democracy in the Middle East.

Sep. 10 2008 10:33 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I agree with rick #8 and the truth in a couple of posts: victory is meaningless. Starting the war in the first place is akin to driving a car of a cliff, now it's done, can't be undone - how do you get "victory" from that?

I wish that Obama could figure out how to say this in a way that won't hurt him politically, because I believe that is what he really thinks.

Sep. 10 2008 10:32 AM
Marc Joseph Berg from East Village, NYC

Victory cannot be defined because there were never any clear objectives to begin with.

No notion of some sort of victory in Iraq is a red herring that the Republicans are attempting to sell, right there alongside their whole platform of fear.

Anyway, wasn't victory already achieved back when "Mission Accomplished" was declared on that aircraft carrier?

Sep. 10 2008 10:31 AM
A Dude from NYC

"reconciliation" is not a word in the American political landscape. The only way America knows how to cope, heal or learn is by invasive, degrading means.

Sep. 10 2008 10:30 AM
maria from westport, ct

Victory in Iraq = no Iran supporting violence in Iraq. What happen to Iran in this equation? Deal my Adminsitration to show success to influnce election?

Sep. 10 2008 10:29 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Brian, clearly you are unable or unwilling to hide your disdain for Senator Obama, but this is not a WIN/LOSE situation. We did not enter this situation with clean hands so to speak.

Sep. 10 2008 10:29 AM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

Bush and Cheney's victory is that massive amounts of cash have been transferred from the Treausury to the private sector and that mercenaries are now necessary to war-fighting. The military has been stretched and nearly destroyed - s0 who you gonna call?

Sep. 10 2008 10:27 AM
Marco from Manhattan

America gets into trouble because its leaders are too provincial. President Bush never had the curiosity to travel. Obama had never been to continental Europe until his recent trip. Palin has only recently gotten a passport (80% don't have passports). The FBI has only a handful of Arabic speakers. No wonder America gets into trouble abroad.

Sep. 10 2008 10:27 AM
Larry Bernstein from Northern NJ

Cesear was victorius after all Gaul was didvided into three parts. Victory in Iraq will occur when all Iraq is divided into three parts for each sect.

Sep. 10 2008 10:25 AM
Alex from brooklyn

I left an important one out.

Victory might mean Iraq as a stable democracy that makes democracy appear attractive to people throughout the region without democracy.

(If this is democracy, it certainly make democracy look less appealing to the rest of the region.)

Sep. 10 2008 10:25 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Better in Iraq and getting better and victory for the US in the same sentence is ABSURD!

There can be no victory! Bring all of the troops home, NOW!

Sep. 10 2008 10:23 AM
Alex Guerrero from Jersey City, NJ

Under the circumstances, true victory would seem to consist of complete restoration of the infrastructure, with a thriving economy and prosperity for all citizens. Wait a minute! Are we talking about Iraq or the US? Maybe we can achieve both expeditiously! Yeah, OK!!!

Sep. 10 2008 10:23 AM
Phyllis Stone from Somerset, NJ

The definition of victory, in Iraq specifically, is highly driven by why the US went into Iraq in the frist place and whether there may have been an alternative. If someone could define that for me, I could personally could have a definition of victory. As it stands, numerous lives have been lost, too many families have been shattered, people's homes have been ruined, the US has been shamed to the point that traveling abroad is embarassing for our citizens, countries hate us, corruption has set in there in Iraq, and the US is out of billions of dollars that could have been better invested. I don't call that victorius. If we could claim victory, it would mean that we could pull out altogether.

Sep. 10 2008 10:23 AM
Leo in NYC from Soho

mostly agree with Juan Cole, but I just have to point out that he dismisses the danger of "national liberation movements" too quickly. In 1992 the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were national liberation movements.

Sep. 10 2008 10:22 AM
L. Miller from New York

This discussion of victory is COMPLETELY the wrong way to frame the issue. You're falling victim to the current administration's way of thinking. I'm very disappointed in you today Mr. Lehrer. Obama was essentially saying - there is no victory - that doesn't mean we lose, it means victory is the absolutley wrong way to think about it.

Sep. 10 2008 10:21 AM

Victory would seem to imply that Iraq was better off than they were before our invasion. Better off for Iraqis and/or the US. Before the war, Iraq was a stable largely secular country. They were a counter to Iranian power regionally. They were contained by sanctions. They had ZERO radical Islamist connections.
Victory would be an improvement on that. As such, victory is impossible at this point.

Sep. 10 2008 10:21 AM
Christopher Deignan from Middle Village, Queens

You don't eliminate terrorist groups, you make them irrelevant. I'd love to know if anyone in the current administration or indeed any politican has spoken at any length to the British and Irish governments about how the IRA was "defeated".

Sep. 10 2008 10:21 AM
jean Brown from New jersey

Victory in Iraq means getting all our troops out and leaving the Iraquis to define their own democracy instead of the one that US has tried to stuff down their throats.

Sep. 10 2008 10:20 AM
Chuck from Brooklyn


Can you hide you love for McCain?

Just endorse him already.

Sep. 10 2008 10:20 AM
Harvey Berrnstein from Yonkers, NY

Isn't it funny that it is always better in Iraq and getting better; but never good enough to bring home our troops, stop funneling our money or take a chance on the Democrats. We have been on this phony knife edge for 5 years. Light at the end of the tunnel? November 2nd there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Sep. 10 2008 10:19 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

My definition of "victory" would be that of this misguided administration back when they lied and cajoled the country into an unnecessary war: Regime change and elimination of WMD. By their own definition, we "won" this war 4 years ago. All we've had since then has been inneptitude, thievery and death.

Sep. 10 2008 10:19 AM
Alex from brooklyn

Victory would mean leaving Iraq better than we found it. Is that possible?

Less a haven for terrorists than before? (Certainly not possible.)

Fewer weapons of mass destruction than before? (Fewer than zero?)

Less a danger to the United States? (Probably not.)

A stable modern cohesive state? (It's hard to imagine a cohesive state emerging.)

A modern liberal pluralist democracy? (It seems to be Balkinizing and becoming less tolerant, so not likely at all.)

Is victory possible? I don't think so.

Sep. 10 2008 10:19 AM
Dancing Laura from Montclair NJ

Victory needs to be that Iraq reaches a point where they can take care of themselves and their people, and not be mired in a mess that we have exacerbated.
If they want us out, why not have them pay to have our troops continue?
We are continuing to spend billions and not only are they in trouble, but so are we.

Sep. 10 2008 10:18 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

This withdrawal of American troops will do nothing to change the fundamental situation on the ground in Iraq. The US military is there to prop up the Iraqi government which the Bush Administration helped to put in place to protect their interests. Bush is only interested in trying to save his legacy as the most incompetent President this country has ever had by removing troops before he leaves office at the end of the year.

Sep. 10 2008 10:18 AM

I think the definition will elude us, but I am quite sure that whenever an Obama presidency chooses to withdraw it will be denounced as 'cut-and-run', or 'giving up Iraq to Al-Qaeda' by the right wing, whereas if a McCain administration leaves at the the same time it'll be hailed as a victory regardless.

Sep. 10 2008 10:17 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

This is another lame attempt by bush to try to distract. Fact is that we were involved in an unjust war there can be NO victory.

Sep. 10 2008 10:17 AM
Felix from Brooklyn

Success to this administration seems to be more cheaper oil. These wars will go down in history as the oil wars. Sucess to me is complete pull out of american troops and supplying iraq with investments to rebuild. Iraq will not collapse after americans leave, do not forget they had a seudo normal life before americans got there.

Sep. 10 2008 10:17 AM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

I’ve been confused about the use of the term “victory” for some time, and I welcome this discussion. It seems to me that military victory in Iraq is impossible. The only success that I can imagine is escaping from this conflict with no more casualties.

Sep. 10 2008 10:17 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

It is not for Senator Obama to declare what "victory" means to him Brian, when he is clearly stating, once again, in that clip you played, that he didn't think we should have been there in the first place!

Sep. 10 2008 10:16 AM

there is no "victory" in Iraq. this is the wrong question- there is only limiting damage.

Sep. 10 2008 10:16 AM
Peter from Flatbush, Brooklyn

Victory means ending American deaths in Iraq.
Troops Home Now!!!!

Sep. 10 2008 10:15 AM
Ryan from Manhattan

Haven't we already failed in Iraq by every standard laid out in 2003? Wouldn't any favorable outcome simply be "not catastrophe?"

Sep. 10 2008 10:15 AM
Marissa from Manhattan

I would define victory in Iraq by the quality of life of Iraqis - is it better there for them now, after this war, than it was before?

Sep. 10 2008 10:15 AM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

First we couldn't leave because it was too violent. Now we can't leave because it's not violent anymore.

Victory means stopping turning Bush's mess over the Iraqis as quickly as possible ... those poor people. We destroyed their country.

Sep. 10 2008 10:14 AM

So in other words the Surge hasn't really changed much of the fundamental problems that Iraq faces. Can someone please let McCain know this.

Sep. 10 2008 10:11 AM
norman from nyc

Could you ask Juan Cole what he thinks of that Los Angeles Times story which said that Venezuela's ties with Iran would help Hezbollah advance terrorism in the American hemisphere?

He's an expert on this.

Sep. 10 2008 10:09 AM
Lloyd from Manhattan

Steve Coll, the New Yorker profiler of Gen. Petraeus, says that Petraeus never uses the word "victory."

Sep. 10 2008 10:04 AM

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