Nonzero, Damnit

"Any rational observer would say that if the war's lost, then someone won the war," according to John McCain, "Al Qaeda will win that war." This is very insightful if you're dumb. By the same token, if buying my MacBook was a smart idea for me, I must have been ripping Apple off. Similarly, again, if Japan got rich by exporing goods to the West, the United States and Europe must have gotten poorer during Japan's great expansion.

In the real world, interactions between human beings are often other than zero sum (see Bob Wright's book). The Iraq War is, at this point, far beyond matters of "winning" and "losing." Saddam Hussein certainly lost the war, so does that mean we won? No, it means that both Saddam's regime and the American people are worse off than we might have otherwise been. There's little evidence that America's failure to accomplish its mission in Iraq is likely to lead al-Qaeda to taking over the country (as opposed to, say, a lot of factional warfare -- Sunnis versus Shiites, al-Qaeda versus Sunni nationalists, Sadrists versus SCIRI, Kurds versus Arabs) and certainly no reason to think we should keep compounding a policy error just to show Osama bin Laden that we're really, really stubborn.