This morning, thousands of San Diegans are discussing how the Chargers could have won yesterday. Two weeks in a row, the Chargers would have won if games were only two minutes shorter.
But the Chargers are 0-2. The “could have won” sentiment is very real but largely irrelevant.
This month’s Atlantic reports that the biggest proponents of staying the course in Iraq are those who think that we could have won in Vietnam. We could have won, I suppose. The Nazis could have won World War 2.
And had we won in Vietnam, what would have been different today? Would Asia have been saved from the dominoes of communism and instead be a hotbed of capitalist activity – even places like communist China?
Why did Americans lose interest in supporting a decades-long war in southeast Asia? Because sometimes it matters less what you could do than what you ought to do. Could we eventually “win” in Iraq? Could be. You could keep that job but lose your family life. You could buy that car but not afford a vacation for the next five years. The real question is whether this victory is worth pursuing at the cost of sustained deficit spending and loss of life. Would our foreign policy be better served by investing $100 billion a year in Iraq or into research on alternative energy?
It is worth remembering that Osama bin Laden never thought he could topple the American government directly; he did, however, think that he could get us to over-react in ways that would seriously weaken our country (driving deficit spending, for instance, that could strain our financial markets) like when an immune system turns on itself in an allergic reaction.
Could we win in Iraq during the next century, as McCain proposes? Perhaps, assuming that we have nothing better to do with our time, attention, and resources between now and 2100. And assuming that the focus on "winning" over there doesn't mean that we lose here at home.