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It's not quite 'political'

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Frank S.

It's not quite 'political'

#1 Post by Frank S. »

But it's an interesting recap. If you're sick of Iraq and Afghanistan, read no further.

No Way to Run a War
The Democrats are guilty of ideological confusion and the Republicans of disdain for reflection.

Monday, May 17, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

Though America has condemned the cruelties of Abu Ghraib, they remain nonetheless a symbol of the inescapable fact that the war has been run incompetently, with an apparently deliberate contempt for history, strategy, and thought, and with too little regard for the American soldier, whose mounting casualties seem to have no effect on the boastfulness of the civilian leadership.

Before the war's inception, and even after September 11, the Bush administration, having promised to correct its predecessor's depredations of the military, failed to do so. The president failed to go to Congress on September 12 to ask for a declaration of war, failed to ask Congress when he did go before it for the tools with which to fight, and has failed consistently to ask the American people for sacrifice. And yet their sons, mainly, are sacrificed in Iraq day by day.

When soldiers are killed because they do not have equipment (in the words of a returning officer, "not enough vehicles, not enough munitions, not enough medical supplies, not enough water"), when reservists are retained for years, and rotations canceled, it is the consequence of a fiscal policy that seems more attuned to the electoral landscape of 2004 than to the national security of the United States. Were the U.S. to devote the same percentage of its GNP to defense as it did during the peacetime years of the last half-century, and the military budget return to this unremarkable level, we would be spending (apart from the purely operational costs of the war) almost twice what we are spending now.

The year-and-a-half delay between action in Afghanistan and Iraq mobilized the Arabs and the international left, weakened the connection with September 11, and prompted allies who would have been with us to fall away. The delay was especially unconscionable because it was due not merely to normal difficulties but to the aforementioned military insufficiencies and to indecision masquerading as circumspection. Once the Army and Marines were rolling, their supply lines were left deliberately unprotected, and are vulnerable to this day. Why? Why do the generals, in patently identifiable top-down-speak, repeatedly state that they need nothing more than the small number of troops (for occupying such a large country) that they are assigned? Why do they and the administration steadfastly hold this line even as one event cascading into another should make them recoil in piggy-eyed wonder at the lameness of their policy?

From the beginning, the scale of the war was based on the fundamental strategic misconception that the primary objective was Iraq rather than the imagination of the Arab World, which, if sufficiently stunned, would tip itself back into the heretofore easily induced fatalism that makes it hesitate to war against the West. After the true shock and awe of a campaign of massive surplus, as in the Gulf War, no regime would have risked its survival by failing to go after the terrorists within its purview. But a campaign of bare sufficiency, that had trouble punching through even ragtag irregulars, taught the Arabs that we could be effectively opposed.

Mistakenly focused on physical control of Iraq, we could not see that, were we to give it up, the resultant anarchy might find a quicker resolution than the indefinite prolonged agony through which our continuing presence has nursed it. Seeking motivation after the fact, we decided to make Iraq a Western-style democracy, and when that began to run off the rails, to make Iraq the mere model for a Middle East filled with Western-style democracies. Of course, instead of a model to inspire them (of which they have many, such as Switzerland), what the Arabs need is first the desire, and then a means to overcome the police states that oppress them, neither of which a reconfigured Iraq, were it possible, would supply. Japan and Germany are often cited in defense of this overreach, but rather than freeze our armies in place and set them to policing and civil affairs as we fought through the Second World War, we waited until we had won.

Having decided to remake a country of 26 million divided into warring subcultures with a shared affection for martyrdom and unchanging traditions, the administration thought it could do so with 100,000 troops. Israel, which nearly surrounds the West Bank, speaks its language and has 37 years of experience in occupation, keeps approximately (by my reckoning) one soldier on duty for every 40 inhabitants and 1/13th square mile, and the unfortunate results are well known. In Iraq we keep one soldier per 240 inhabitants and 1.7 square miles. To put this in yet clearer perspective, it is the same number of uniformed police officers per inhabitant of the City of New York. But the police in New York are not at the end of a 9,000-mile supply chain (they live off the land at Dunkin' Donuts), they do not have to protect their redoubts, travel in convoys, maintain a hospital system, run a civil service, reform a government, build schools, supply electricity, etc. And, most importantly, they do not have to battle an angry population that speaks an alien language, lives in an immense territory, and is armed with automatic weapons, explosives, suicide bombers, and rocket-propelled grenades. Imagine if they did, and you have Iraq. Imagine if then the mayor said, "We don't need anything further, it's just a question of perseverance: Bring it on," and you have the Bush continuum.

Leaving out entirely our gratuitously self-inflicted inability to deal with major contingencies in Asia, this has been the briefest summary of mismanagement, a full exposition of which could fill a thick and very unpleasant book. But to these failings the left offers no better alternative, for if the right has failed in execution, the left's failure, in conception, is deeper.

John Kerry may say one thing and another, but no matter how the topgallants break in the Democratic Party, its ideological keel is a leaden and unthinking pacifism, a pretentious and illogical deference to all things European, and the unhinged belief that America by its very nature transforms every aspect of its self-defense into an aggression that justifies the offense against which it is defending itself. After the enemy has attacked our shipping, embassies, aviation, capital, government and largest city, and after he has slit the throats of defenseless stewardesses, and crushed and immolated three thousand unwary men, women, and children, those who wonder what we did wrong are not likely to offer a spirited defense.
Their allergy to military expenditure assures that, unlike Republicans, who provided just enough to accomplish an arrogant plan if nothing went wrong, they would not provide enough to accomplish a humble plan if everything went right. They say that war is not the answer, and, meaning it, profess their faith in special operations. But are we to credit their supposed indignation that in the early Bush presidency there was a shortage of covert insertions into sovereign states, a dearth of assassinations, the absence of close cooperation with the intelligence services of dictatorships, and insufficient funding for black operations? Or to take seriously the crackpot supposition that this was a war for oil, the price of which, since the war, has gone up? And why then did we not invade Venezuela? It's closer, and the food is better.

With nothing to offer but contradictions and paralysis, they and their presidential aspirant have staked their policy on a mystical and irrational prejudice against unilateralism. This is a new thing under the visiting moon, an absurdity propounded by the very same people who often urge the U.S. to unilateral action when it refrains, for example, from interventions in Africa to fight genocide or AIDS. In what way is America, moving in concert with Britain and Spain to invade Iraq, more unilateral or less multilateral than France moving in concert with Germany and Belgium to oppose it? And does a wrong act cease to be wrong if others join in, or a right cease to be right if others do not?

Just as many Republicans detest the idea of international governance but glow at the prospect of empire, many Democrats are reliably anti-imperialist yet dewy-eyed about world government. Thus, Sen. Kerry's only non-secret policy for the war is a bunch of mumblings about the U.N. and our "allies," presumably the ones who are not with us at the moment in Iraq. It is they and the U.N. who in the fairy dust of multilateralism will solve this most difficult problem. But in fact they neither can nor will do any such thing. Either Sen. Kerry knows that his strategy is just a cover for simple, complete, and ignominious withdrawal, or he does not know, which is worse.

Though the parties have been incompetent, nothing but politics keeps them from correcting their deficiencies, and at a point like this, even if professional politicians are incapable of knowing it, explicit and decisive correction would be the best politics. The situation need not remain intractable if once again respect is accorded to certain fundamentals.
The military must be reconstituted so that it has a surplus of power without having to choose between transformation and tradition, quality and numbers, heavy and light: All are necessary. This is expensive, and would require more plain speaking and less condescending manipulation from those who govern, but would allow for the quick and overwhelming application of force, unambiguous staying power, coverage of multiple contingencies, and, most importantly, deterrence. It is always better to deter an enemy than, by showing weakness, to encourage him to take the field.
In addition to more aggressive unconventional, police, and paramilitary operations against the fragmented terrorist legion, we must strengthen civil defense. Although striking a thousand targets is easier than defending ten million, it isn't possible to control every laboratory and closet in the world. If the social cost and hundreds of billions of dollars annually necessary for a probabilistically effective defense against weapons of mass destruction appear a great burden, they pale before an unrestrained epidemic or a nuclear detonation in a major city.

In the Middle East, our original purpose, since perverted by carelessness of estimation, was self-defense. To return to it would take advantage of the facts that the countries in the area do not have to be democracies before we require of them that they refrain from attacking us; that a regime with a firm hold upon a nation has much at stake and can be coerced to eradicate the terrorist apparatus within its frontiers; and that the ideal instrument for this is a remounted and properly supported U.S. military, released from nation building and counterinsurgency, its ability to make war, when called upon, nonpareil.

The Kurds and Shia of Iraq could within days assert control in their areas. We already have ceded part of Sunni Iraq: What remains is to pick a strongman, see him along, arrange a federation, hope for the best, remount the army, and retire, with or without Saudi permission, to the Saudi bases roughly equidistant to Damascus, Baghdad, and Riyadh. There, protected by the desert, with modern infrastructure, and our backs to the sea, which is our metier, we would command the center of gravity of the Middle East, and with the ability to strike hard, fast and at will, could enforce responsible behavior upon regimes that have been the citadel of our enemies.

In a war that has steadily grown beyond expectations, America has been poorly served by those who govern it. The Democrats are guilty of seemingly innate ideological confusion about self-defense, the Republicans of willful disdain for reflection, and, both, of lack of imagination, probity, and preparation--and, perhaps above all, of subjecting the most serious business in the life of a nation to coarse partisanship. Having come up short, both parties are sorely in need of a severe reprimand and direct order from the American people to correct their failings and get on with the common defense.

Mr. Helprin is a novelist, a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute.

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#2 Post by dootybooty »

WHAT THE HELL WAS HE PROPOSING. Is the man a total tit. If he really wants to piss off the Arab world by putting an unwanted base in a hostile country and threatening to take out countries that dont like it or US policy in general THE MAN HAS THE BRAINS OF A SPASTIC GNAT. If Uncle Sam wants to heed the advice of a twonk like that it will find itself totaly isolated in the rest of the world. It might (god forbid) drive us Brits closer to Europe.
Keep the faith.


Re: It's not quite 'political'

#3 Post by cambridgebloke »

[quote- Having decided to remake a country of 26 million divided into warring subcultures with a shared affection for martyrdom and unchanging traditions -quote]

Excellent post Frank above quote says it all I guess, the way they are is the way they are.(Arabs)

I believe that the USA is our good friend but how far do we all go to help Dubya?? The American people included.

Cbore :roll:

Frank S.

#4 Post by Frank S. »

dootybooty wrote:WHAT THE HELL WAS HE PROPOSING. Is the man a total tit. If he really wants to piss off the Arab world by putting an unwanted base in a hostile country and threatening to take out countries that dont like it or US policy in general THE MAN HAS THE BRAINS OF A SPASTIC GNAT. If Uncle Sam wants to heed the advice of a twonk like that it will find itself totaly isolated in the rest of the world. It might (god forbid) drive us Brits closer to Europe.
Yeah. What he says about this does echo our policy in the region: you may know that we are building four permanent bases in 'remote' locations of Iraq. As to driving the UK closer to Europe... I've said before, it seems that some at the Pentagon do not care. Remember Rumsfeld's comment during the force build up prior to the invasion? Can't quote it exactly, but it was dismissive of the British contribution, something to the effect that we (the US), were going in whether you guys were ready or not, that was not considered worrisome.
So it makes you wonder why they wanted the British there. As window dressing? As a show of apparent strength of the coalition?
The 'going it alone' mentality is a centerpiece of some suits at the Pentagon. How many times have we heard comments such as "America will go it alone if necessary"?
Convictions of an almost messianic quality. Dr. Strangelove rides again, indeed.
The main thing I got about the article, is that neither Republicans nor Democrats have a firm grasp of the situation.

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