"Victory is a wonderful thing, and they have brought Iraq and its allies victory," - Hugh Hewitt, today.

"There's nobody in uniform who is doing victory dances in the end zone. Success in Iraq is not akin ... to flipping on a light switch. Rather it emerges slowly and fitfully with reverses as well as advances. There will inevitably still be tough days and perhaps tough weeks ahead, but fewer of them over time, inshallah," - General David Petraeus, earlier this month.

The goal of the surge - according to Hugh Hewitt and George W. Bush - was to create a breathing space for the various factions in Iraq to forge a national agreement and end the sectarian divide. The Pentagon just issued its own report on these criteria, saying that there have been "minimal advances in the delivery of essential services to the people of Iraq, mainly due to sectarian bias in targeting and execution of remedial programs." More worryingly:

The American military has recruited about 69,000 mostly Sunni volunteers to help secure Iraq. The United States would like the Iraqi government to institutionalize the arrangement by hiring many of the volunteers as policemen or soldiers. But the Pentagon report said that such efforts are “moving slowly” because of “fears by the Maliki government that those forces may return to violence or form new militias.”

The drop in violence has been considerable and is a fantastic achievement by the U.S. but it's worth reminding ourselves that this "victory" still means 600 civilian deaths a month. That's roughly two 9/11s a month, when adjusting for population size - but more terrifying because more random. It reduces violence to the levels of 2005 - a period when almost every observer saw the war as a catastrophe. There has been no oil law, no provincial agreement, no deal on Kirkuk, and Baghdad is a myriad different Berlins in the Cold War.

Anyone who can all this precarious situation "victory" rules himself out as a serious commentator. He's a propagandist. And he does no service to the troops or the American people by lying to them for cheap and temporary partisan gain. Maybe I should reiterate what I wrote here, or ask readers to show how I'm wrong:

Let's be clear: we have lost this war. We have lost because the initial, central goals of the invasion have all failed: we have not secured WMDS from terrorists because those WMDs did not exist. We have not stymied Islamist terror - at best we have finally stymied some of the terror we helped create. We have not constructed a democratic model for the Middle East - we have instead destroyed a totalitarian government and a phony country, only to create a permanently unstable, fractious, chaotic failed state, where the mere avoidance of genocide is a cause for celebration. We have, moreover, helped solder a new truth in the Arab mind: that democracy means chaos, anarchy, mass-murder, national disintegration and sectarian warfare. And we have also empowered the Iranian regime and made a wider Sunni-Shiite regional war more likely than it was in 2003. Apart from that, Mr Bush, how did you enjoy your presidency?

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.