Surrender Easiest Way to Lose War

Ralph Peters explains “HOW TO LOSE A WAR” in his latest NY Post op-ed:

QUIT. It’s that simple. There are plenty of more complex ways to lose a war, but none as reliable as just giving up.

Increasingly, quitting looks like the new American Way of War. No matter how great your team, you can’t win the game if you walk off the field at half-time. That’s precisely what the Democratic Party wants America to do in Iraq. Forget the fact that we’ve made remarkable progress under daunting conditions: The Dems are looking to throw the game just to embarrass the Bush administration.

Forget about the consequences. Disregard the immediate encouragement to the terrorists and insurgents to keep killing every American soldier they can. Ignore what would happen in Iraq — and the region — if we bail out. And don’t mention how a U.S. surrender would turn al Qaeda into an Islamic superpower, the champ who knocked out Uncle Sam in the third round.


While we’re at it, let’s just print up recruiting posters for the terrorists, informing the youth of the Middle East that Americans are cowards who can be attacked with impunity.

Some of the piece is over-the-top in its analysis of the domestic politics of the debate. But he’s right about this much: Pulling out of Iraq under the present circumstances would be devastating in our battle against the jihadists.

Update: Andrew Sullivan adds,

It’s not just that we have no interest in seeing Iraq degenerate into a brutal civil and possibly regional war. By removing Saddam, we created this vacuum. We own it. We have a moral responsibility to see this through.

Quite right.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Middle East, , , , , , , ,
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. odograph says:

    First a comment, and then a blurb. I watched an interview with Nathaniel C. Fick, author of “One Bullet Away : The Making of a Marine Officer” on TV yesterday. He made the case that “get out” or “stay the course” presented a false dilemma. He said the third option (“fix it”) was not presented.

    I was actually in a frame of mind six months or so ago, asking propoents of the war – if they can fix it, do so!

    It was good TV, but it didn’t really give us a solid political path. Mr. Fix quoted someone else’s comment that “stay the course” was like, after your sailboat gets battered by a storm, you just decide to “stay the course” and see where you end up. It does not include (from his analysis of what is really going on in Iraq) course corrections.

    So anyway, the three real choices are fix it, get out, or stay the course (and suffer a worsening situation).

    On that, my blurb from a day or two ago:

    I’ve noticed a contradiction. Iraq is a big mess of good and bad news. Supporters of President Bush often tell us that we ignore the good news. Unarguably we have removed Saddam, set up a government, trained troops, organized an election … why then do these same supporters (and President Bush himself) say that if we leave now, the terrorists win?

    There are a lot of ways in which I think the President’s plans don’t work … but currently the most amazing is the way he denies himself his own accomplishments, in order to define progress so far … as failure.

    Hint: Mr. President, if you define the operations now are “mopping up” then we’ve “won.”

  2. odograph says:

    That was kind of a ramble, but to summarize, I want to say that the last six months or a year convinced me that we can’t “fix it,” so we have to get out.

    I’ll stay open minded, and will flip back to support “fix it” if I think we can make it work … but geez, this President, this Congress, this polarized nation?

  3. LJD says:

    No surprise that you still don’t get it. So here’s a hint that your short attention span won’t pick up on: You can’t “Fix” something of this magnitude in a short time period. The U.S. cannot even “Fix” it FOR the Iraqis, we can only set them up for success, or failure. Your path seems to be the latter.

    All of the schools we’ve opened, the hospitals upgraded, the infrastructure rebuilt, the womoen who’ve taken jobs and run for office, will be undone if we leave prematurely. If left unsecured, the extremists will TAKE the country for their warped (religious) purposes, at the expense of all those who would live peacefully and FREE. Democrats seem o.k. with that.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    Hmm…yes indeed…it will not be easy to clean up any of Bush’s messes, this one included…

  5. odograph says:

    Maybe I don’t get it, and maybe you can explain it to me. Let’s start with this question:

    The American-in-Iraq problem is very much like the Israeli-in-Palestine problem. Why is one problem considered solvable, and one not?

    Explain to me how “keep fighting” Americans are different than “keep fighting” Israelis? If an insurgency is “winnable” with just time and resources, why haven’t the Israelis won?

  6. James Joyner says:

    Odo: In what sense have the Israelis not won? They’ve maintained their independence and relative prosperity for almost six decades whereas their enemies have stagnated–and would be in even worse shape were it not for the historical accident of sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves.

  7. odograph says:

    In the sense that the President tells us this is a “war on Terror”

    If you accept the Israeli solution, you accept generations of suicide bombers

  8. odograph says:

    Second question:

    Counter-insurgency experts say that the average insurgency is defeated in 10 years. Can we maintain a 10 occupation without a draft, and will the American people accpet a draft for that purpose?

  9. odograph says:

    P.S. I understand about half of the studied insurgencies were actually defeated, and half won. The experts I listened to differed on whether Iraq could satsifythe political conditions for success.

  10. LJD says:

    James answered the first question. The answer to it, as well as the second, depends on your perspective. The answer is, you do just what the President is doing (remember the plan that he doesn;t have?) You set up systems and trai nthe locals to deal with it themselves. When they are ready, and ask us to leave, we do so. There should definitely be oversight on our progress and adjustment to the implementation, I have never argued that. But crying “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” when going gets tough, and cutting and bailing when we pay to much attention to hippies setting up combat boots and carrying mock coffins, is not a productive solution.

  11. ken says:

    If left unsecured, the extremists will TAKE the country for their warped (religious) purposes, at the expense of all those who would live peacefully and FREE.

    Yeah, well freedom is not free pal. The Iraqis must earn their freedom. If our Iraqi guys don’t want to win more than the mullah’s guys want to win there is nothing we can do about it. We cannot force someone to want freedom enough to fight for it.

    As long as we have this conservative mentality running the war in Iraq it will never succeed. And failure means refugees. So since we will have to make room for a million or so refugees from Iraq some day it is a good idea to start giving some thought to how they will fit in. I think they will do best in Texas. What do you all think?

  12. odograph says:

    LJD, I know you are the guy who throws away every link ever given him, and gives none of is own, but please note I that I quoted my source.

    Nathaniel C. Fick was there, and shares an opinion with a contingent who were there, that we are off-course, and maintaining that heading.

    You go off on hippies, that means you aren’t getting it. You are fighting American political battles (conservative vs. liberal) with Iraq as just your excuse.

    None of this partisan BS fixes Iraq.

  13. anjin-san says:

    “you don’t get it” squak…. er uhm, “the MSM!” uuhhhh, “cut & run” duuuhhh “against the troops”.

    Does any of this tripe really make the right think that Bush was not pretty much full of it on the Iraq issue from day one?

    Before the war Bush told us about a million times it was all about WMD.

    Turns out there are no WMD. So Rove re-brands the war as an effort to convert Iraq into a democracy. Don’t mind there was hardly a whisper about this before it turned out there were, in fact, no WMD.

    There is indeed another sucker born every minute.

  14. Bithead says:

    If you accept the Israeli solution, you accept generations of suicide bombers

    YOu have an alternative, Odo? And if none of the partisan stuff fixes Iraq, why engage in it?

    Anything for a political advantage, as Peters says.

    Think about this, the left is demanding the US lose this war.

    It’s really that simple, that direct.

  15. Herb says:


    “There is indeed another sucker born every minute”

    You are absoloutly correct Anjin, and you proove it with every comment you make. Your lefty lberal, anti war, and sarcastic statements are the pride of your Democrat buddies that would cut and run at the smallist excuse giving the victory to you other buddies OBL and Zarqawi.
    Yes Anjin, you have proven PT Barnams statement.

  16. LJD says:

    Amen, Bithead and Thunderbird. The Democrats are asking for us to intentially throw the game. Then they can blame that on the administration also.

    Odo, the source you quoted simply said we need to fix it. His interpretation of the policy may also be skewed. Where did the President say that “Stay the course” did NOT include corrections? I have asked repeatedly how you would do that, but to date you offer no solutions. Instead we get moronic comments like Anjin San’s saying “He lied! Haliburton is making money! No WMD! Waaahhhhh!”

    I said I think Bush DOES have a plan, it is being implemented, and is working. Just not fast enough for the short attention spans in this country.

    BTW my “going off” on hippies relates to their totally distateful, unproductive, and stupid approach to opposing the war. Grow up and learn how to express yourselves intelligently, or STFU. (Anjin San perfect case in point)

  17. odograph says:

    I’m not sure if you guys forget that I’m a Republican, as you insist that this is a partisan battle … or maybe you just can’t deal with it.

    There have always been Republicans, from before the war, who thought going into Iraq was a bad idea. I think Brent Scowcroft was a famous example. Other famous Republicans like William F. Buckley Jr. have come to oppose this war and support a pullout. That’s just from memory.

    I swear, it’s like you guys just want to rant on Democrats, or hippies, or whatever, and this war is just your excuse.

    If you had solid ideas, you’d be engaging the conservatives who disagree with you a little more intelligently.

  18. odograph says:

    P.S. – I’ve said I do not see anyone with a plausible solution. Violence is increasing in Iraq, not decreasing.

    Throwing up your hands, as a couple of you have, and saying to me “so tell us how you’d fix it” is not a rational answer!

    Either you have a way to seriously turn it around, or you don’t.

  19. LJD says:

    “Violence is increasing in Iraq, not decreasing.”
    Um, no it isn’t. That’s a myth generated by those who would have us lose the war. As I said before, you can bend the numbers to say whatever you want. We always here on the news “it’s the bloodiest day since…” OF course, if the numbers don’t work out, you just change the date of “Since”.

    You also have to look at these statistics in light of what is occurring on the ground. i.e. Major operations, elections, etc.

    BTW, of the number of casualties, only 78% are combat-related. Of the wounded, most were RTD. So the increase inviolence is a fabrication of the MSM. Other myths include the number of minority deaths, deaths of “boys” under age 25, I could go on…

    Enlighten yourself:

    So back to the plan. I’ll type real slow so you can understand.
    1.) Train Iraqi police and military, gradually increasing their responsibilities until they can stand on their own two feet.
    2.) Gradually reduce the number of U.S. troops required in response to #1 above.
    3.) When the Iraqi authority asks the U.S. to depart, we do.
    4.) Stay the course doesn’t mean keep executing missions that don’t work. The troops on the ground, not the administration, adjust to developments the requirements dictated by the situation.
    Not staying the course means not finishing what we started. It means delivering Iraq to extremists, sacrificing the lives of innocent Iraqis that want to live in peace and with freedom, diminishing the sacrifices of our troops, and telling the world that the U.S. doesn’t have the balls to enforce what is just.

    P.S. I don’t care if you do call yourself a Republican. I am an Independent, although I tend to vote Republican becasue the candidates put forth by the Dems are out to lunch. Talk about flip-flopping. “Oh, I voted for it before I voted against it.” Who thought that crap would fly?

  20. odograph says:

    That trenline is clearly upward, at your link.

  21. LJD says:

    Why then, don’t we hear that every single month since last January, has resulted in FEWER casualites?

    Creative reporting and the story you’re trying to sell. Absolute bullshit, like what you’re peddling here.

    If you feel so strongly, leave the CA Communist party, go overseas and help your buddies expel the “infidel crusaders”.

  22. odograph says:

    Two things. First casualties does not equal violence. Depending on how we deploy, it might not even measure the number of insurgents.

    It certainly does not measure how much we are supported by the local leaders. Read this:

  23. odograph says:

    On levels and curves, look at this. It sure looks to me like the line gets steeper at the end:

  24. LJD says:

    Don;t oversell the story..
    “Sunni leaders have been pressing the Shiite-majority government to agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The statement recognized that goal, but did not lay down a specific time – reflecting instead the government’s stance that Iraqi security forces must be built up first.”
    So this really changes nothing. The Sunnis are pissed for being removed from power. The “insurgents” kill far more Iraqis than Americans, so I guess that makes them “terrorists”

    On your graph, it shows casualties over time. Unless there;s some way to reduce the number, it ALWAYS going to be an upward trend. Duh. Nice try though. If you look at the graph I provided, there have actually been fewer casualtied every month since January. There have been more months with a decrase in casualties than those with an increase.

  25. odograph says:

    On the first:

    CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Leaders of Iraq’s sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq’s opposition had a “legitimate right” of resistance.

    On the second, I said “the line gets steeper,” not merely that it goes up.

  26. LJD says:

    Let’s compare and contrast:

    Ken says “They also said they want to know when the occupation forces will get the hell out of their country.”

    The AP story (11/22/05) says:
    “Washington reiterated Tuesday that the United States would stay only as long as it takes to stabilize Iraq. “The coalition remains committed to helping the Iraqi people achieve stability and security as they rebuild their country. We will stay as long as it takes to achieve those goals and no longer.”

    “…calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces control the borders and the security situation” and end terror attacks

    “…did not lay down a specific time – reflecting instead the government’s stance that Iraqi security forces must be built up first.”

    So Ken says: “Meanwhile Iragi government leaders gave the green light to the insurgentcy by proclaiming that anyone who fights the US occupaction cannot be considered a terrorist and therefore, by implication, is not doing anything illegal.”

    Actually the AP said:
    The communique condemned terrorism but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if they don’t target innocent civilians or institutions that provide for the welfare of Iraqis.
    Though resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent resistance. Therefore, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing and kidnapping targeting Iraqi citizens and humanitarian, civil, government institutions, national resources and houses of worships,”

    So tell me what “insurgent” attacks only U.S. targets, and does not produce any civilian casualties? Is there any such “freedom fighter” in existence? These COWARDS are killing their own countrymen, wholesale, including women and children, and do not care. They are TERRORISTS by their own country’s definition!

    While ODO attempts to show solidarity among the IRaqis in their opposition to the U.S. actually what was said was:
    “Shiites had been strongly opposed to participation in the conference by Sunni Arab officials from the regime of Saddam Hussein or from pro-insurgency groups. That objection seemed to have been glossed over in the communique.”

    Selective reporting at the least. Blatant and intentional undermining of the truth is closer to reality.

    On the second, instead of estimating the slope of the curve on your graph, look at the actual numbers. Down six months in ten. Fewer casualties every month since January. The MSM (and your)story line is anti-war hype. Period.