1) The defined state of victory, by left and right alike, is that we have a stable, democratic government in Iraq. Democratic? Check, elected in January, 2006. Stable? Check, though only recently. PM Al-Maliki's recent and on-going beat-down of Sadr and his militia is removing the final serious threat that could have overthrown the government. We knew Sadr was militarily defeated when he declared victory and vacated the battlefield, the predominant sign of a loser in the Arab world. After you win you don't leave, you stay and take advantage of that victory. Instead Sadr is hiding in Iran, pretending to study to be an Ayatollah, a process that would take him at least 8 more years. What he is not doing is suffering casualties while clearing the Iraqi government out of their capitol. Instead, Americans and Iraqis are currently suffering casualties while clearing fighters out of Sadr city. This is removing the most serious threat to stability and was spear-headed by the Iraqis, not America.
2) Al-Qaeda has been driven from power in Iraq, and they can't return. After September 11th, Al-Qaeda was on the hunt for a new target. Instead of civilians in Los Angeles, they faced American troops in Iraq. Al-Qaeda responded, causing much more death and destruction - particularly their bombing of the Askariya Golden Dome in Samarra that seriously threatened defeat and civil war - than we in the military planned. But we recovered as President Bush, Sen. John McCain and others came up with a new strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda's attack and now Al-Qaeda is hated by almost every Iraqi. An Arab country is the worst enemy Al-Qaeda has today. That is a military victory turned into a victory of ideas.
3) Iraqi's overwhelmingly view the US as a liberator and an honest broker of remaining tensions. This one, I give to the troops. Not just "The Troops", but to those junior enlisted, officers and NCO's who overcame the Abu Ghraib media hype and cultural tensions and proved to the Iraqis, in person, day by painful, bloody day, that they were there not as occupiers but as allies. Men and women who cared about the Iraqis, wanted them to succeed and treated them with respect and dignity.
4.) The American media has admitted we've won. Ok, I made that one up. That will NEVER happen. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, lying on his deathbed 45 years from now as Iraq is celebrating its fifth decade of freedom, will insist the war is lost, Iraq is a quagmire and the only solution is to close down the "Ramadi US Air Force Base And Golf Course Fun Zone" and come home in honorable defeat. This is something we must all realize: the media would sooner shift their Democratic party contributions to the Dick Cheney Hunting Club than admit they were wrong on Iraq. This is because they never believed what they were saying was true, they were hoping that by saying it they could make it happen. They saw Iraq as a means to repeat their great Vietnam victory, where they turned victory on the battlefield into defeat at home.
I'll follow up with reasons why we won the war, but here's a hint. Our task now is to understand that we've won, to not be afraid of declaring victory in the face of ongoing media declarations of defeat and to make something of our victory. We cannot rest on our laurels, defeat in Vietnam was snatched from the jaws of victory almost two years after the military departed. We have to turn our battlefield victories into political ones. We owe it to those soldiers who paid for that victory with their lives.