So Donald Rumsfeld thinks that the Iraq insurgency could last for twelve years, despite the fact that it lacks “a Mao or a Ho Chi Minh.”

And yet, in the very same interview, he defends Dick Cheney’s assertion that the insurgency is in its last throes. “If you look at the context of [Cheney's] remarks,” Rumsfeld said yesterday on Fox, “last throes could be a violent last throe, just as well as a placid or calm last throe. Look it up in the dictionary.”

All right. Here’s how my dictionary defines “throe”:

1 A severe pang or spasm of pain, as in childbirth. (See Synonyms at pain.)
2 throes A condition of agonizing struggle or trouble: a country in the throes of economic collapse.

Not much about placidity or calm in those definitions, is there? Just a lot of nasty stuff about pain and agony, spasms and struggles.

It’s increasingly obvious that the macho men in the Bush administration, who so like to project the image of overwhelming competence, simply have no idea how to win this war in Iraq. (Hell, they can’t even buy armored Humvees.)

When they can’t convince us that they know what they’re doing, how can they possibly expect young men and women to volunteer to go to Iraq for the next decade?

I used to think that all those Iraq-is-Vietnam analogies were facile. But when the secretary of defense starts to talk about a decade-long insurgency, and practically invites the rebels to come up with their own Ho Chi Minh….