A decade after the invasion, did we win the war in Iraq?

Think you’ve won? Wait until all the returns are in. …

A challenge facing historians of the Iraq war, which began 10 years ago this month, will be to gauge what senior members of George W. Bush’s inner circle were actually trying to accomplish. The justifications offered for the invasion were all over the place, including supposed weapons of mass destruction, claims that Saddam Hussein had collaborated with al-Qaeda and visions of democracy throughout the Arab world. Eventually, only this last — Bush’s Freedom Agenda — remained. Yet, as the war dragged on, expectations of transforming the Middle East gave way to more modest definitions of success. When it came to advancing the cause of liberty, the Bush administration set out to build a cathedral. In the end, the Obama administration declared itself content with a shaky two-car garage. …

The importance attributed to the surge by devotees such as McCain distracts attention from matters of far greater significance. It’s the equivalent of using the Battle of New Orleans as a basis for evaluating the War of 1812. Of course, in contrast to Petraeus, Gen. Andrew Jacksondefeated his adversary. When the shooting stopped, it was the surviving Redcoats — not the surviving Americans — who packed up and left. Still, take your cues from Johnny Horton, and you might conclude that Jackson single-handedly redeemed an entire war. Take your cues from McCain, and you might conclude that, two centuries later, Petraeus did likewise.