Defeatists argue that the nature of this war is different — that it is sectarian violence involving fighters who slip in and out of the civilian population, who are highly difficult to recognize in the midst of that population, and who are particularly vicious and heedless of their own lives.

To me, that sounds like parts of New York City before Rudy Giuliani took over and made things right in just a few short years.

If that response sounds too flippant, then consider that insurgencies are not by their nature somehow invincible. In modern times, insurgencies that once seemed at least as unstoppable as the violence in Iraq have been defeated in all corners of the globe, from the Communist insurgency in Greece after World War II to the failed Marxist insurgencies in Central America in the 1980s. ~Quin Hillyer, The American Spectator

Yes, I think we all remember when the car bombs used to go off in Times Square and the police would daily dredge up five dozen or so bodies of Mets fans who had been tortured, killed and dumped in the East River by irate Yankees fans.  The cleansing of the ethnic Italian neighbourhoods was particularly grim.  Instead of Moqtada, you had Milken, but the carnage was much the same.  It was a tough town back in the ’80s!  If only Maliki would outlaw jaywalking in Baghdad, I’m sure that the death squads would cease their killings forthwith.   

As for the absurd claim about successful counterinsurgencies, let’s recall that the civil war in Greece came to a close in no small part because Tito stopped supporting the Communist guerrillas.  A sudden change in support from an outside backer sealed the fate of the Greek Communists.  This was not a case of the Greek government successfully suppressing a full-blown insurgency, but of snuffing out a badly weakened one.  Had Tito continued to support the KKE, perhaps the Greek government would have won, or perhaps the war would have ground on for years and years with no end in sight.  What we do know is that the KKE lost because it lost its major foreign support, something that seems entirely unlikely to happen in Iraq since so much of the mayhem is homegrown.  As for Central America, the kinds of atrocities used to suppress the communists there might give anyone pause about the costs of successfully suppressing insurgencies.  Against these relative few (bad) examples, you have most of the other Third World insurgencies since the end of WWII as counter-examples of insurgencies that were not defeated.

The question ultimately is not whether Americans might theoretically be able to restore order to Iraq, but whether we believe doing so to be worth the life of one more American.  As it has been from the beginning, my view is that Iraq has never been worth one American life, much less 3,000 American lives and tens of thousands more Americans injured.  The continued waste of American lives in Iraq is profoundly immoral and serves no greater good.  Mr. Bush’s half-baked “surge” plan is simply more of the same, and it ought to embarrass his supporters that this is literally the best “solution” their hero can devise.