What Does it Mean to Win?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Are we winning the war in Iraq? That was the question a cheeky reporter asked General Richard Myers after the latter told the press that the Iraqi insurgency is carrying out the same number of attacks—50 to 60 a day—as it was a year ago. Donald Rumsfeld decided to field the question, remarking:

The United States and the coalition forces, in my personal view, will not be the thing that will defeat the insurgency. So therefore, winning or losing is not the issue for ‘we,’ in my view, in the traditional, conventional context of using the word ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ in a war. The people that are going to defeat that insurgency are going to be the Iraqis.

What’s that? Shades of grey? Subtleties? Complexities? Who knew that Rumsfeld had it in him? Myers was quick to qualify this refreshingly candid outburst: “I think we are winning, okay? I think we’re definitely winning. I think we’ve been winning for some time.” Rather than kick Rumsfeld for this chink in his absolutist armor, we should welcome the honesty in his comment. In fact, it raises the most important question facing our troops in Iraq—which is that if “we” aren’t the ones who are going to defeat the insurgents, when (and how) are we going to go home and leave it to the Iraqis? Essentially, what does “winning” mean in this new, unconventional context we’re in? Damn that Myers for his intervention. We could have been getting somewhere…

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate