Of course, she neglects to mention the obvious -- that the overall situation has deteriorated to such a dismal extent, that "military victory" can no longer even be clearly defined without a lot of "collateral damage". And we are no longer remotely in a position to justify that. We don't even seem to be able to gather and train an Iraqi army that isn't going to start murdering every Sunni in sight the day after we back out of there.
If "victory" can be properly defined, then by all means do so in the current context, and lead us through the prospective steps. No one seems to be able to do those things, not even the people in charge of making the actual plans.
Well, human rights groups also have their (frequently spiritually-based) missions as well. But taken strictly from a practical, utilitarian standpoint, it is still hardly disputable that the execution was a debacle. Given the circumstances, there's probably nothing we could have done "right" -- the Shi'a government was hell-bent on exacting revenge, making an example, and sending a message to the Sunnis. Given half a chance, they would probably have ended Saddam the way the Taliban ended the Afghan Soviet puppet Najibullah -- castrated, genitals stuffed in his mouth, strung up from a traffic light for several days so the birds could have a crack at the corpse. And from the emotional, vengeance-based point of view, fine. I get that, I sympathize with it.
But if the foremost desire is that the killing and violence stop, somehow, some way, then there was no good way to carry it out, because the prime backers of this government are the very same thugs we're fighting in the streets. This was the Mahdi Army's kill, and they wanted everyone to know that. And we should have seen that coming.
This is a much bigger, much more practically-based dissent than Saunders and the rest of the too-clever-by-half snark merchants pretend to believe. They have to know better by now; they can't really be dim enough to think that there was no strategic flaw in how this played out, only the expected whinging from lefty human-rights groups. That's too asinine an assumption, even for them.
Hell, maybe it's not an assumption; maybe, as O.G. nerd warrior Steven den Beste used to insist, regional destabilization was really a feature rather than a flaw.
Taking that polemic at face value, one can at least boil the premise down to its basic yes/no toggle questions. Either they meant to do this shit, or they fucked up royally. The second answer should automatically mean that none of these people should ever again be trusted with our money or our lives, but because their base have their politics inextricably wound up with their personal issues, there is no accountability.
So then we look at the other possibility, that destabilization was not a bug but a feature. That too has its own dichotomous linkage, ascribing intent either to ideology or greed. Take your pick.
Realistically, my guess is that it's all of the above, that the guiding principle was the PNAC premise that we couldn't break that which was already dangerously broken (the destabilization feature), that right-thinking ideological patriots could go over and make a buck in the process (provided that they cleared Jim O'Beirne's loyalty questionnaire), and that they overestimated their juice so monumentally badly in the first place, there was no way this could ever have succeeded.
And nothing bears this out in clearer detail than this -- these guys found a way to make one of the most despicable thugs of the 20th century look like a martyr to the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims. There is no strategic upside to handing Iraq strictly over to the Shi'a -- from Morocco to Indonesia, only Iran and southern Iraq have majority Shi'a populations. The rest are Sunni, and now they are even more furious. We can keep whistling past the graveyard, telling ourselves that since they're uncivilized wogs, they'll get pissed about something anyway, but how does the reckless incitement of an enormous region of people accrue to our benefit? How does it bring a resolution to the situation, how does it end the slaughter and reduce the danger to our troops and to millions of civilians who just want their lives back? Cui bono, who benefited from this ramshackle gang of masked thugs stringing up the tyrant from a makeshift gallows? Moqtada al-Sadr, mostly. Iran, indirectly. Us, not really at all.
This is how our serious editorial thinkers regularly comport themselves -- they hem and haw over which marginalized stereotype to rail against, as if the principled and predictable dissent of human rights groups trumps had any pull at all, much less the sort of influence that the bumblers at the top have.
But the constant sneering at what used to be unquestioned, exalted principles thinly conceals a deeper resentment at values which we ought to be especially concerned about these days. If we want to be moral leaders, then we have to demand a higher standard of ourselves; we don't act like Saddam precisely because we're better. Either we support tribal barbarity, or institutional barbarity to achieve expedient means, or we don't.