How to define victory

The New York Times, 31 October 2008

How to define victory

In “What Vietnam teaches us” (Views, Oct. 29), Henry Kissinger provides the reader with a few “observations.”

Kissinger addresses “victory.” He writes: “The purpose of war is victory” and “victory needs to be defined as an outcome achievable in a time period sustainable by American public opinion.”

I am surprised by these superficial “observations” and I doubt if these guidelines will help the American president make the proper decisions about war and peace.

The purpose of war should be the achievement of a political, strategic objective, not necessarily victory. Victory – the defeat of the enemy – is often not required, or even possible, and sometimes counter-productive, when the political objective is taken into consideration.

Contrary to what Kissinger argues, victory must not be defined in a time period sustainable by American public opinion, but rather world public opinion. At a minimum, the public opinion of the strategic partners of the United States should be considered.

This has become evident in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hopefully, the next U.S. president will formulate more effective guidelines with a global perspective. Victory, as defined by Kissinger, does not exist anymore.

Ingo Piepers, Amsterdam