January 11, 2007

Reading between the lines, is what the President’s address tonight resulted from. It all seems such a waste of time and effort to try and quell violence in a country and region where people are ready, willing, and able to strap explosives around their waists and walk into police stations and markets and detonate themselves. Maybe two or so years ago, the kind of strategy the President laid out tonight might have made sense or been achievable, but in a region of the world where the only thing respected is overwhelming power and strength, the U.S. and its military braintrust have been revealed to have neither, so this so-called “new approach” is, I’m afraid, doomed to failure.

One of the moments of the address that struck me had nothing to do with the words being oh-so-carefully delivered, but my wife’s immediate response upon hearing them:

“Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents – but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods – and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.”

To which Tracey said, “So, they’ll just go elsewhere and blow people up in the other provinces.”

Which is exactly right, I’m afraid. There are so many holes in the Iraq dike right now that plugging one or two large holes is just gonna cause the water to leak elsewhere. The insurgents know they’ve got time on their side, because they know America has, by and large, lost its patience with Iraq and its willingness to follow a president after six long, difficult, and stressful years in the Oval Office.

Whether or not one agrees with the idea of the so-called “surge” in troop strength being undertaken, make no mistake about it – there is a huge risk involved here, both strategically and politically, and it extends far beyond the White House of 2006 (and 2008, for that matter). The biggest concern, obviously, is what happens if this new strategy is not sufficient to halt the sectarian violence that is keeping Iraq immersed in violence? Not to be pessimistic about things, but what happens if, say, in 3-6 months, we’ve done the surge thing, lost hundreds or more troops in the increased fighting, and the situation remains status quo? Here I find myself agreeing with Capt. Ed, who concludes:

While I’m not sold on the use of “surge” to describe a sustained increase of 20,000 troops, it’s ridiculous to compare that to the massive escalations of the Johnson administration in Vietnam. If the mission has explicit definitions and targets and the rules of engagement allow the troops to accomplish it, then it makes sense. It is in our interests and those of Iraq to put an end to the sectarian violence in Baghdad and Anbar. A concentrated clear-and-hold that relies on American troops in a primary position could give enough of an opportunity for calmer heads to prevail, and for serious rebuilding and jobs efforts to have a soothing effect on the divide.

I do agree that this may be Bush’s last, best chance to change directions in support of victory in Iraq. If it doesn’t succeed, then the Democrats will likely force his hand towards defeat and retreat.

The sad truth is, if the latter turns out to be the case, the President and the Pentagon will have only themselves to blame, because it was they who not only were unable to foresee what cracking open the rat’s nest that Iraq turned out to be (understandable to a certain extent, as there’s no such thing as a predictable war), but, more importantly, in the critical weeks and months following Saddam’s overthrow, chose to fight the war with one hand tied behind its back – something that is truly unforgiveable.

It angers me to think back to our military planners’ measured response when the burned bodies of those contractors were hung from the bridge in Fallujah, and that punk Moqtada al-Sadr wasn’t taken out the first time his militia started causing trouble. After all, this is what gave the insurgency the courage to escalate its attacks – they quickly came to understand the U.S. was far more concerned with the politics of fighting a “compassionate war” and force-feeding democracy down the throats of Iraqis (so we wouldn’t look to the world like bullies and occupiers) than it was going in determined to win a war and achieve victory on its own terms.

You see, wars and armies by their very nature are not designed to be fought and used in a compassionate and restrained manner. You go in to fight, to die, and – more than anything else – to win. It’s hard to believe that the hard lessons of Vietnam were not only ignored by Bush 41 and General Schwarzkopf on that bloody road to Baghdad in the First Gulf War, but by his son and the military braintrust in this war as well. One can only hope future presidents will finally pay attention to the lessons of history and remember that you go into war to win the damned thing, not worry about world opinion and coalition building. That kind of thinking is for losers.

Don’t misunderstand me here – I’m no warmonger. I’m a lover, not a fighter. But I’m also smart enough to know that if you’re going to unleash the dogs of war, it should only be after every last attempt to keep the peace has failed. And once they are unleashed, the only goal should be victory, and doing whatever it takes – no matter who will be offended or how many are killed – to achieve it. To do anything less puts you in the same unfortunate position the President found himself tonight: expressing contrition for mistakes made, offering up last-ditch strategies for success, and trying to make up for lost time and wasted opportunities.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:15 | Comments Off on Lost Time, Wasted Opportunites
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