Harry Reid: The War is Lost, But It Can Be Won

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has issued this rather contradictory position on the Iraq War,

The war in Iraq “is lost” and a US troop surge is failing to bring peace to the country, the leader of the Democratic majority in the US Congress, Harry Reid, said Thursday.
“I believe … that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week,” Reid told journalists.

Reid said he had delivered the same message to US President George W. Bush on Wednesday, when the US president met with senior lawmakers to discuss how to end a standoff over an emergency war funding bill.

“I know I was the odd guy out at the White House, but I told him at least what he needed to hear … I believe the war at this stage can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically.”

I’m no expert in military matters, but it seems rather odd to be suggesting that the war is both lost, but that it can be won. Also, from my naive perspective it seems silly to think one can win a war diplomatically and economically. I can see the political angle if one were to look at propaganda and clever use of the media to manipulate the political support for a war in the opponents country.

UPDATE (James Joyner): Here’s the video of Reid’s remarks via YouTube:

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, , , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    Maybe you shouldnt blame Harry for that though. He is using the term “war” in that manner used by the Bush administration – as in “war on terror” – an effort that has never been soley conceived of as purely military.

    In fact “cold war”, as a term for the highly tense, contentious and competitive peace that existed between the US and USSR was a forerunner of this metaphorical use of the term.

    The “war” to establish Jefforsonian democracy in Iraq, as a means of transforming the middle east into a slightly exoctic version of Iowa, has been lost. But the real “war”, to defeat the Islamic extremists, is an effort that clearly needs to be waged on political, economic, diplomatic grounds, along with the intellegent, focused, and occasionaly application of force.

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    So you are saying that initially Reid was discussing one facet of the “War”–the Iraq War, but that later he was discussing the “War” in general? If that is the case I’ll blame Reid for not being able to articulate an understandable viewpoint.

  3. Hal says:

    Maybe he was, I don’t know, saying the same thing that much of the left and the saner right has been saying which is that the millitary aspect of this war is lost and the only way it can be won is through diplomatic channels. Certainly, someone in the public eye have their missteps and flops – well, everyone but you, of course, Steve. But certainly this interpretation would be consistent with all the rest of the quotes from Reid up until this one.

    Taking isolated quotes out of context with the message a person has been consistently delivering is a pretty cheap shot – but that’s just me.

  4. Tlaloc says:

    I’m no expert in military matters, but it seems rather odd to be suggesting that the war is both lost, but that it can be won.

    This really doesn’t seem that hard. He’s saying we can still accomplish our goals just not militarily. He specifically says “I believe the war at this stage can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically.”

    It can be won any way except using the one technique the administration insists on using- military might.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Steve,

    Unless you are a politician it would be hard to understand how to say two different things at the same time.

    Reid is merely stirring things up to get a better compromise or at least look good before the congress grants funds for the war effort.

    It is somewhat monumental for someone of his stature to declare defeat, wait no, it’s happened before. Anyway, he should know better, it does embolden those who wish us ill and hurts the morale of our fighting forces.

    I hate to call names but what a chump.

  6. markg8 says:

    It all depends on how you define winning. If you define it as Iraqis dancing in the streets of Baghdad after their “victory” over the occupiers as the last remnants of the bedraggled American army fight their way back to Kuwait in worn out humvees on January 20, 2009 then Bush has a winning strategy.

    In reality Bush has no clue what to do in Iraq. All he knows is he has to run out the clock on his administration without leaving Iraq so Republicans will blame the next preseident, a Democrat for losing his war. There’s no chance the rest of the country will go along with that. They don’t buy the “defeatocrat” slur now and they sure as hell aren’t going to buy it later.

  7. Tlaloc says:

    Also, from my naive perspective it seems silly to think one can win a war diplomatically and economically.

    Which is why you guys should really stop thinking of it, and calling it, a “war.” It isn’t and it never has been. Neither legally nor practically.

    It is about perception and control of it, which means it is about psychological warfare which, despite the name, has little to nothing in common with military war.

  8. shipmate says:

    “I know I was the odd guy out at the White House…”

    He’s always the odd guy.

  9. The Sandbox says:

    Harry Reid: “This War is Lost”…

    But don’t question their patriotism:The war in Iraq is lost and a US troop surge is failing to bring peace to the country, the leader of the Democratic majority in the US Congress, Harry Reid, said Thursday. I believe ……

  10. Len says:

    I’m no expert in military matters, but it seems rather odd to be suggesting that the war is both lost, but that it can be won.

    Which likely explains why Harry Reid is Senate Majority Leader and you are not.

    😉

  11. […] Comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam left Bush visibly angered at the White House. Was Harry Reid saying the war is lost? Or what can still be won? “I know I was the odd guy out at the White House, but I told him at least what he needed to hear … I believe the war at this stage can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically.” […]

  12. anjin-san says:

    Its not that complicated, except perhaps for someone who is dense enough to think that Bush has a plan, a strategy, or a clue about Iraq.

    We did not defeat the Soviet Union and cause its downfall by fighting, though we were involved in an asymmetrical struggle with them for decades. Ultimately, we won with economic power, and because when people, including the Soviet people looked at us and looked at them, they generally wanted to be like us.

  13. David L says:

    This would be like Dirty Harry saying California is lost because of chronic gang warfara in downtown Los Angelos. LA is not California, and Baghdad is not Iraq.

    Dirty Harry isn’t trying to dupe the drive-by media. He issuing a talking point.

  14. anjin-san says:

    From TPM:

    The war in Iraq isn’t over yet, but — surge or no surge — the United States has already lost. That’s the grim consensus of a panel of experts assembled by Rolling Stone to assess the future of Iraq. “Even if we had a million men to go in, it’s too late now,” says retired four-star Gen. Tony McPeak, who served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. “Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again.”

  15. Hal says:

    Given the way this is being flaked around the right half of the blogosphere, I say they should keep it up. I want the right’s crystal clear stamp of approval on the Forever War.

    2008 is coming around the corner…

  16. “… the grim consensus of a panel of experts assembled by Rolling Stone…”

    I like that phrase so much I think I’m going to have it tattooed on my ass.

  17. RJN says:

    This war was lost the day it was launched. It was never “winable”, whatever you want “win” to mean.

    These are the end times, folks; we are there to give Iraq a whack, and then, after, we will leave and some other power will move in. There is oil under that sand, but it wont be our oil.