10/09/2006 02:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

If the Only Choice Is Victory

It's against America's national religion to lose. Therefore, Pres. Bush's doctrine that winning in Iraq is the only acceptable outcome has served him well. In Bob Woodward's book, 'State of Denial,' we learn that the president was bolstered in this view by multiple visits from Henry Kissinger, who has stated publicly that the only outcome we can live with is victory.

With nearly 2 out of 5 Americans approving of Bush's job performance, it must be that this message still plays well to some. Males in particular (the sector of the population that re-elected Bush) learn early on that losing can't be admitted as a possibility. Nobody sits on the bench during a baseball or football game that's turned into a rout and says to the coach, "Looks like it's all over." Woodward's book reveals that in November, 2003 the president was told that the Iraqi insurgency was mounting 1,000 attacks a month. His reaction was to march down to the situation room in the White House, where the National Security Council was discussing this news, and give a locker room pep talk: i.e., there is no insurgency, we aren't going to talk about anything but winning, and everybody here has signed on for nothing less.

So if winning is the only option, it makes sense to pursue it the only way it can be achieved.

1. Get everybody on the team. Stop demonizing the Democrats and those who criticize current policy. Come to a consensus on what America as a whole wants, not just neo-cons in the Republican Party.
2. Protect the Iraqi people by any means possible. If this means reinstating the draft and putting more soldiers in as peacekeepers, do that.
3. Admit to the world that we were wrong and ask every country to bring peace to Iraq.
4. Stop selling arms to anyone in the Middle East.
5. Establish relations with Iran and coax them as an ally to stop fueling the insurgency.
6. Allow all the religious leaders in Iraq to meet with our Secretary of State to give input.
7. Divide Iraq along sectarian lines if that's what the Iraqis themselves want.
8. Use Iraqi oil money to improve the lot of the ordinary Iraqi citizen.
9. Spend whatever it takes to bring water, electricity, and sanitation back to pre-war levels and above.
10. Make Pakistan bring law and order to its tribal areas where al-Qaida hides, trains new recruits, and constantly promulgates war.

These are obvious steps, known to many diplomats, soldiers, and foreign policy experts. They could be followed tomorrow, except for the state of denial in the war machinery run by the White House and Defense Department. As it stands, the rhetoric of victory is hollow and current policy is hopeless. Finding a way to win in Iraq is, in fact, what we should be doing. Defeat at the hands of al-Qaida would be a disaster. The trick is to base victory on good will and realistic expectations, not right-wing fantasies.