Gates Says U.S. Not Winning War in Iraq

Robert Gates is getting enthusiastic praise for saying the U.S. in not winning the war in Iraq in his confirmation hearings for Defense Secretary.

“Mr. Gates, do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?” Mr. Levin asked.

“No, sir,” Mr. Gates replied, going on to agree with the senator that a political settlement is needed to end the blood-letting, and that the United States needed to convey “a sense of urgency” to the Iraqis about reaching an accord.

Mr. Levin said Mr. Gates’s remarks amounted to a “necessary, refreshing breath of reality.”

Senator McCain pursued the point about victory being elusive. “We are not winning the war in Iraq, is that correct?” the senator asked.

“That is my view, yes, senator,” Mr. Gates replied.

“And therefore the status quo is not acceptable?” Mr. McCain pressed.

“That is correct, sir,” Mr. Gates said.

He added that the United States is not losing the war, either.

This would seem a blinding flash of the obvious. I guess any admission that one’s side is not 100% successful amounts to political courage in D.C. these days.

No word yet on Gates’ views as to whether the sky is blue, water is wet, and other vexing questions of our time.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    This would seem a blinding flash of the obvious. I guess any admission that one’s side is not 100% successful amounts to political courage in D.C. these days.

    Well, it is pretty significant when the guy who hired him said that we’re “absolutely winning” the war about six weeks ago.

    He is unequivocally contradicting the President who, according to your logic, James, must lack a “blinding flash of the obvious.”

  2. James Joyner says:

    Triumph: I’d say it’s pretty obvious that we’re not “winning” in the sense that, if you’re playing a football game and down two TDs, you’re not winning. The head coach will nonetheless convince his team that they’re right in the game and have a good shot at winning.

    Bush is in a similar situation. Saying we’re not winning is not the same as saying we’re losing–let alone that we can not win–but it would be perceived as the same thing coming from him.

  3. I hadn’t realized that we were still trying to win since I haven’t witnessed anything more than just treading water for quite some time now. But anyway, listening to the excerpts on NPR, the Senate and Dr. Gates should be embarrassed by the dog and pony show they put on today.

  4. Bithead says:

    What you’ve failed to recognize, Charles, is that the enemy has been treading water, as well. It sounds like we’re playing semantic games, but we’re really not, when we suggest that the way a terror war is won is by not losing.

    You see, al-Qaida really doesn’t have to win. And they have no chance of doing so, and never did. a terror war by definition is a war of attrition. You simply keep up with what you’re doing without getting caught long enough that the other side finally gets annoyed enough to pull up stakes and go home.

    Thus, it is our victory or defeat decided by those who wish to do exactly that; pull up stakes and go home, and not by our enemy

  5. I’m not exactly sure what I’ve failed to recognize. Alas, the longer the stalemate goes on the harder it is to sustain the will to continue amongst our instant gratification, thirty second attention span populace. In a war like this, if you aren’t winning, you are losing.

    As other have suggested, I second the motion that we should withdraw most of our troops from Iraq, via Syria and Iran. Watch the Iraqi insurgency whither on the vine once it is starved of weapons, intelligence and bodies.

  6. anjin-san says:


    So you position is that James Baker & John Warner are cut & run, America hating terrorist symps?