Who would've thought that something as simple as word tense can make all the difference in the world? Yesterday Robert M Gates the heir apparent to Rummy's empty seat told the Senate Armed Services Committee "is not winning the war in Iraq." This just so happens to dovetail nicely into the sensible centrist McCain/ Lieberman position of doing whatever it takes to "win," usually manifest in the form of sending in more troops. "Not winning" is the perfect expression politically because it not only implies that there's still a chance to "win*" but also plays neatly to the American sense of rooting for the underdog.
In the afternoon and after Gates took some hits from critics on the right in that "not winning" could be interpreted as "losing" he amended his comments to say what he meant is that we are "neither winning or losing" in Iraq. Way to muddle things further, Bobby.
It occurs to me that Gates' characterization of the war is so confusingly nebulous and our options so murky is that he simply is using the wrong tense of "to lose" when describing the situation. Myself and somewhere upwards of 60% of Americans recognize the war in Iraq is already "lost" in the sense the U.S. can achieve military goals that will bring political stability. The U.S. army is the finest fighting force in the world but it was built to fight conventional, not guerilla wars.
Still- I have to give Gates and others credit for demonstrating signs that they're beginning to understand what's going on by entertaining the idea of losing in Iraq. It's just that they're about two years behind everybody else when it comes to deciding what needs to be done.