from Iraq War Regrets in The National Review, a compendium of analysis.
The term for the main virtue of practical intelligence, prudence, comes from a contraction of the word for foresight, “providentia.” So it should cause no surprise that in prudence, we should think about Iraq using two clear-headed statements from the past.
The first is Colin Powell’s “If you break it, you own it” statement. Expanding on the idea in 2002, Powell said, “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems.” Such a statement is implied by basic principles of responsibility. Once the U.S. intervened in Iraq to the point of becoming for a time its de facto sovereign authority, it would be responsible for Iraq’s future course until it developed an independence and sovereignty that were free and clear of that intervention. But in reality, Iraq never did develop that sort of independence; it was merely asserted to have done so on political grounds and given certain interests.
The second statement is John McCain’s famous one that the U.S. might need to be a police force in Iraq for 100 years or more. In making the statement, McCain was rightly bearing in mind our responsibility to Iraq. He explained: “Both Senator Obama and Clinton want to set a date for withdrawal — that means chaos, that means genocide, that means undoing all the success we’ve achieved and al-Qaeda tells the world they defeated the United States of America.” We have seen chaos; we have seen genocide; and we have seen the undoing of everything that was achieved, exactly as McCain warned.
In order for a war to end you must fight as if it will never end. Our impatience is our biggest handicap. Perhaps it would be different if it was fought on our soil. On their soil our enemies have all the time in the world.
For a war to end you must fight as though it will never will.