The Meaning of Victory: A Conversation with General Franks
How should victory be defined?
What constitutes victory? I think that is a fundamental question, and it is good for each of us in this country to ask ourselves that from time to time.
When we try to decide whether or not we've been victorious, we have to think, for just a second, what the term "victory" means. Victory means the accomplishment of objectives and goals that we had in mind when we initially became involved in a particular conflict. It's also instructive if we ask how we understood victory-what the objectives had been-in the past when our country became involved in one fight or another. In some cases victory has been defined as the removal of a particular threat, either to ourselves or to our friends. But we also find that in almost every case we became involved in wars in order to gain security, either for ourselves or for friends; that at the end of the conflict, as a result of treaty, or pact, or alliance, this security was guaranteed. Security for friends-meaning both allied countries as well as for pro-American forces within a given country-has also inevitably become a part of the objective of victory. That is how we establish the metrics of defining victory.
There are always secondary objectives. The opening and securing of lines of communication are sometimes components in defining what constitutes victory. Sometimes there are economic benefits. Sometimes victory is said to have been achieved when a particular country has been introduced (or reintroduced) into the community of nations, as happened with Germany and Japan after World War II. This may entail the establishment of the rule of law and some form of representative government. And at least in one man's opinion, mine, components of politics on the ground in a particular country-internationally and certainly here at home-will always factor into our definition of victory.