Can America still win wars?

The record isn’t good. In fact, since Korea, in conflicts that have involved commitment of a reasonably large number of ground troops (which excludes actions from Kosovo on down to Panama and Grenada), the fact is that we’re America, and we’re 1-2-1. And the win was the puniest of the conflagrations, the Persian Gulf War. The big loss of course was Vietnam. I’m calling Afghanistan a draw—we did remove the Taliban, and we eventually got bin Laden, but at an awfully high cost over 13 long years that most Americans now think hasn’t been worth it.

And I’m calling Iraq a loss, which is perhaps uncharitable of me, but here’s the thinking. If the goal of the Iraq war was only to oust Saddam Hussein, well, we did that, so you could call Iraq a draw (never a win—it was too dishonorable an enterprise to start with ever to be labeled a victory, and besides the price has been way too high). But that was not the sole goal. The broader goal was to oust Saddam in order to build a beautiful democracy in the Middle East and thereby transform the region. We’ve transformed the region all right, but not in the manner promised. Loss.