The president this week, in renewing his threat to veto the emergency war supplemental that Democrats will send him soon, warned that, "We cannot legislate defeat in this vital war." But failure is not always defeat, and in Iraq they are not interchangeable. American forces are in no danger of defeat in Iraq, because the insurgents can't win in any traditional sense: Victory and defeat are variables in a military equation, and militarily, the insurgents do not measure up. To talk about victory and defeat in Iraq is to cling to the notion that Iraq is a military problem with a military solution. It is not.
The volatile politics of the Middle East are a continuous refutation that military successes or defeats are ever as conclusive as we might expect.