It alone has enough clout to bring about peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This question has new urgency, given the recent upswing in violence in Afghanistan and the sense emerging among many US leaders – from both parties – that military resources need to be speedily diverted there from Iraq.
One thing is clear. Neither of these victories will look like your grandfather's victory in the Pacific in 1945. Back then, Japan's army chief and top-hatted foreign minister traveled to the USS Missouri to sign a surrender document and hand it with full pomp to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
But victory in Iraq and Afghanistan will not depend, as in Japan, on defeating a standing national army. Instead, in each country, it will depend on defeating or defanging antigovernment insurgencies and helping midwife a governing system that:
•Enjoys domestic political "legitimacy," that is, it has the support of the vast majority of the country's citizens,
•Is sustainably able to deliver public security and other basic services to citizens throughout the whole country, and
•Has the tools to resolve in nonviolent ways the still-unresolved and yet-to-emerge conflicts among its citizens.
What we don't want is a replay of what happened in Vietnam, where the US declared "victory" but then withdrew humiliatingly, under fire, leaving the victors free to enact brutal retribution against our former allies.