My dad handed me this article, which appeared in the Weekly Standard. It's by an Army reserve officer named Austin Bay, and raises some very good points, I think.
Bay discusses the term "End State," juxtaposing it with the newspeak term "exit strategy." The end state is the set of conditions that need to be true in order to declare victory. He says that talk of "exit strategy" is philosophically irresponsible, and that there are four acceptable end states in the "Millenium War" (he, like myself, despises the phrase "War on Terror," and not only because Bush pronounces "Terror" funny):
What are the acceptable End States in Iraq? In an essay he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in August, Iraq's interim prime minister Iyad Allawi identified three keys to success in Iraq: (1) security and the rule of law, (2) a prosperous economy, and (3) an "inclusive, collaborative" political system. To achieve it will take years of low-level warfare and continuing security assistance from the United States even after the New Iraq begins to manage its own domestic security. No administration of whatever political stripe should think otherwise.
Another acceptable End State would be what a friend called "a too strong, bulldog Iraq." Don't dismiss the notion out of hand. Here are the attributes: "New Iraq" decides to rearm for offensive capability--and the French or Russians sell it weapons. Angry at perceived Syrian, Iranian, or Saudi interference, a brave new Iraqi government turns to regional assertiveness as a way of solidifying domestic support. The United States could live with this End State, but it would seriously frustrate attempts to spur political evolution in Saudi Arabia and Iran.
A far less acceptable End State would be a "gentle" dictatorship in Iraq, an authoritarian regime that did not threaten the region but held Iraq together by force and smashed civil opposition in the name of domestic security. This would be an ideological defeat for the United States, the defeat salved if this New Iraq were an effective counterterror partner in the region. Early Coalition withdrawal, whatever the reason, would make this End State more likely.
The last acceptable End State, but one that further frustrates long-term American goals, is the oft-debated tripartite Iraq, with Kurdistan in the north, Shia-stan in the south, and Baath-istan in the Sunni Triangle and Al Anbar Province. This would be a dangerous mosaic, but for the sake of oil revenues the Baathists would have to police al Qaeda. Kurds and Shia areas would also destroy al Qaedaites.
If for no other reason, read the article for its remarkably good prose and vivid imagery. Personally, I think Bay has hit the proverbial nail on its proverbial head.