P R O G R E S S I V E   R E V I E W

HOW TO TELL
WHEN YOU'VE WON

By Sam Smith

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THERE seems to be some confusion in Washington these days as to the nature of victory. To help the Beltway discourse, the Review provides some handy hints to determine whether you've won or lost:

- If, in the course of battle, you not only destroy your enemy but greatly harm yourself, as well as the people whom you are purportedly rescuing, that is not a victory but a disaster.

- If you are content to cause great damage to your opponent without regard to its effect on yourself, that is not a victory but a pathology typical, for example, of suicide bombers.

- If the instruments of your struggle, upon capturing a city, proceeds to summarily execute almost as many people as were killed in the initial cause of your anger, that is not a victory but reason for shame and a hint that you should do better in selecting your allies.

- If you attack a country without obeying the rules of the United Nations, that is not a victory but an international crime.

- If you leave the place you are liberating filled with dead bodies, unexploded bomblets, and depleted uranium, that is not victory but brutality.

- If you destroy your own liberty for the sake of revenge, that is not victory but masochism and should be treated rather than applauded.

- If you don't see ordinary citizens walking around your Capitol because they are too scared someone is going to blow it up even after "defeating" the enemy, that is not a victory but a shame.

- If the country you're bombing has a gross national product equal to less than what it would cost us to fight there for two years, you didn't win much and might have done better using the money in some other way.

- If, despite the fall of Kabul, you are still worried about suitcase nukes, stinger missiles, plane hijackings, anthrax attacks, mass smallpox, and one billion Muslims, that is not victory, but approximately the same problem you had before Kabul fell.

- If you have to rely on the honor of John Ashcroft and Richard Cheney rather than on the integrity of the Constitution, that is not victory, but a catastrophe.

- If you don't decide who the enemy is until after you've start fighting, that's a sign you might have thought about it all a bit more first.

- If both your final and penultimate enemies were creations of your intelligence agencies and foreign policy experts, getting rid of them is not a victory but a salvage operation that could have been avoided by being right the first time.

- If you are still scared to visit a big city, fly in a plane, sit in a crowded stadium, or open your mail, you have not won regardless of what happened in Kabul.

- If, thanks to the policies of your government and the enemies it has created, you can no longer travel, act, or speak in the manner of free Americans over the past two centuries, that is not a victory but the deepest of tragedies. - Sam Smith, November 2001