Armstrong's If They Don't Know You Won, Did You? was the one that made me see it: why public diplomacy matters, because this may be the only way to understand peace.
And here's where I had my "aha!" moment, reading AngryBear's Iraq Is Won?
In the latter link I read that the war in Iraq is pretty much over now, and we won!
But, why doesn't this feel like we won?
It doesn't feel like the U.S. won anything not only because there's been no "reliable source" to announce the victory - even when Bush donned his jumpsuit and got the big ol' billboard to saying we'd completed our mission: this war pointed out something that America has been avoiding for at least 40 years, wars are unwinnable.
"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake," it was stated years before me by a fellow Georgian (well, she had property in Watkinsville), the first woman to serve in Congress, Jeannette Rankin. The situation in Iraq only amplifies this message.
At best what can be done now is to promote a revisionist history of the war in Iraq: state that there were two wars, we won the first one (and so Bush didn't lie about victory) and in the immediate aftermath of American victory a civil war broke out in Iraq. This civil war is what has been claiming the lives of our soldiers and thousands and thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis.
With the massive promotion of this new history, a stage can be set where America can claim a victory. But it will likely require some other massively traumatic event to occur first. Why? Because wars are won in the popular imagination when their is agreement between belligerents. Petraeus walks into an office, the leader of the oppositional forces shakes his hand, they sign a treaty announcing that the war is over and everyone starts popping corks.
But that's not what we're fighting is it? Victory implies in the popular imagination that bullets stop flying, that families are reunited, that stability returns in the form of picking up where the belligerents left off.
But the war America is fighting isn't a war for territory, it's not even for oil (apparently). America's been fighting a war against the global poor and has been losing since at least the fall of the former colonial powers in the 1940s. America's "War on Terror" could be successful if it were to inject capital into these battle sites through infrastructure and bread trucks instead of injecting capital through ballistics. The areas where terrorism flourish are those where the least amount of justice have been present.
The more I think about it, the more and more I wish I wasn't making these things publicly viewable - but I will keep publishing because I'm hoping someone helps me think this stuff through.