What Mission Have We Accomplished?

What is our mission in Iraq?

It's a question that Congressman John Murtha asked, and a question troops have been asking for quite a while. We all deserve an answer from President Bush.

Is the mission to be victorious?

"Victory" is not a mission, it is an end state.

Defeating the insurgents?

There is no finite number of insurgents to kill, so that is a mission with an unattainable goal.

Is it "fighting terrorism?"

Terrorism is not an enemy, it's a tactic.

Establishing a democratic Iraq?

When can we declare Iraq democratic? After one election? Five? Ten? The creation of a democracy is not a militarily achievable mission. Nation building can only be successful when diplomatic, economic and political components are combined with the military to create a multi-pronged strategy.

Almost everyone in the country supports the troops, from their fight to get adequate body armor to their right to have health care after they return home. Congressman Murtha has been second to none in these fights. His deep understanding of and respect for the troops led him to challenge the President and his cronies who say we need to "complete" our mission.

If the military mission of the war was to remove Saddam Hussein from power, then Murtha is right, the mission has been accomplished. If that was not it, the President owes the world a well-articulated strategy with reachable goals defined by metrics.

For example, a proper mission would be to militarily train 500,000 Iraqis so they can secure their own country. If military leaders say that will take two years, it would be entirely proper to set a timeline of two years. The White House implies that spelling out such a plan would constitute defeatism and provide aid to the enemy.

I fail to see how that is so. If anything, it lays out what victory looks like, and how we get there. The only aid and comfort it gives is to the Iraqi citizens who, polling shows, desperately want to run their own state of affairs without American involvement.

More than likely, the Administration's protests of any change of course represent what those on Wall Street call "falling in love with a bad stock." Inexperienced investors do it all the time. They find a stock they believe in and make a big bet on it (invading Iraq will be quick and easy).

But then the stock begins to go down, and expectations (troops will be showered with flower petals) aren't met (troops are showered with bullets instead). A good investor quickly admits he was wrong, adjusts his strategy and redeploys his assets. The bad investor sticks with the bad choice. He is so in love with the stock he refuses to admit his mistake and convinces himself that the stock will go back up. In the end, he just loses more money when a change in strategy would have been better for his overall financial security.

There are no good choices for the President to make, only a few that are less bad. It is past time that he opens his eyes, does a cost-benefit analysis and rethinks his "stay the course strategy" -- which is already, as General Anthony Zinni warned more than a year ago, "leading us over Niagara Falls."

The President must redeploy his investment in a stock that has the potential to salvage his portfolio -- a well-defined change of course in Iraq that salvages the most that he can. If he cannot do that, or refuses to do that, then Congressman Murtha is right; Bush must stop wasting the lives of our troops.

It would be far better to leave Iraq, and allow chaos to ensue, than to ask our servicemembers to make the ultimate sacrifice for an unrealistic mission with no real goals and no real end.


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