We are losing the war in Iraq for the same reason we lost the war in Vietnam: we are fighting one war, while the insurgents fight another. In both campaigns, we understood neither our enemy nor our friends. In both campaigns, American lives and treasure were thrown into a fight we could not win. So, in both campaigns, we didn’t.
The actions of the Iraqi Army in Ramadi—fleeing at the first sign of trouble—are uncomfortably familiar. Again, our allies fail. Again, our allies ensure American lives in more than a decade of active war were lost in vain. Again, we leave holding a handful of ashes.
In asymmetric war, the insurgent wins by not losing, while the United States loses by not winning. The insurgent, using murder and control of the night, employs terror, persuasion, and religious zealotry as the means to a larger end: unifying his people, imposing his will, collecting tax to fund his cause. Americans make promises, inject hundreds of billions into leaky government coffers, drop bombs, sacrifice men. The Americans want to leave. The insurgent is staying until he dies or wins. This makes him unstoppable.
ISIS does not have to defeat the Iraqis. ISIS, just as al-Qaeda and the Taliban maneuvering right now on the other side of Iran, has only to wait out the Americans. They know the airstrikes will end. They know we will not put Americans back on the ground.
We now know what happened in Iraq in the long run. It is clear to Carter, Dempsey, and every American general, and every soldier and Marine and intelligence analyst and diplomat. The bad guys are winning. We cannot know when they have won. But we will know when we have lost.
Like the Vietnamese, we abandoned to the NVA, we now abandon the Iraqi's to ISIS.
We as a country have much to be proud of.