The Bush administration placed itself above the law - above the United Nations, above the Geneva Conventions. It fooled the American people with untruths and evasions. Despite pretty language about freedom, it determined to follow a policy of coercive power. But force alone cannot lead to success. We see that today, and it is the most important lesson to be learned.
The greatest military in the world is unable to win the affection of 20 million Iraqis. It is stymied as an insurgency, an asymmetric war, swirls around it. Perfect tactical and strategic execution could still tip the balance against the insurgents, but the record so far - from the confused response on Sept. 11 to the ongoing prison scandal - offers little reason to expect that perfection is possible. Politically, the war is close to being lost - and that in the end is all that counts. Iraq was a gamble, and it's on the verge of failure. Even worse, war was the gamble our enemies very much wanted us to take.