I think Matthew has a very good point here, both on substance and on the politics of how to describe the war. Clearly, we did defeat Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army in 2003 and clearly we did install an elected government. We won the war, it is just that winning this war was no benefit to the United States.
For the politics of the issue, clearly it is better to be able to say the United States was not defeated. I have no interest in presenting this country as defeated, nor do others on the left. Furthermore, to describe the war, in its entirety, as a loss is unduly pessimistic and unnecessarily discouraging and demoralizing to the rest of the electorate. Clearly the performance of our armed forces was superlative during the invasion. Furthermore, at this point, if we withdraw, we will do so by choice, we have not been forced to. All together it is wrong to say that the United States lost this war.
Additionally, this just points up the utter failure of the Bush Administration leadership. As Matthew says, this was a victory, but a hollow victory. But given that, what level of incompetence does it take to launch a war of choice where victory is just a less bad outcome than defeat. Given the absence of any possible good outcome from the conservative policies, the ineptitude of those who would pursue those policies is staggering.
This ties in too with a point that was being made just after the elections regarding the use of force resolution, but of which I have not heard much for awhile. The point being that we invaded Iraq to
- eliminate WMDs
- remove Saddam
- install a democratic government
Given that the first was never relevant that the other two have been completed, the use of force resolution no longer applies and we can come home. That was the gist, in any case. We accomplished everyting we set out to do and the situation sucks. That is lousy leadership.