War-Torn Warriors

|

Reason Contributing Editor Carolyn Lochhead, the D.C. correspondent for the San Fran Chronicle, has written a sobering column on diminished GOP/neocon support for the war in Iraq. Snippets:

Even the staunchest supporters of President Bush's Iraq enterprise were less than cheered by his speech to the nation Monday night outlining the path forward, some describing the administration as being in a state of panic.

In particular, the neoconservatives who provided the intellectual argument that an invasion of Iraq could provide a template for democracy in the Middle East are expressing open alarm that this effort is dangerously off course.

"There's no question the administration has been in total panic mode, and they don't need to be, because Iraq is salvageable," said Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that has been a hotbed of support for the war. "But I think there is still so much indecision about what to do that it's going to be hard for them to do the right thing."…

Wall Street Journal contributing editor Mark Helprin called Abu Ghraib "a symbol of the inescapable fact that the war has been run incompetently, with an apparently deliberate contempt for history, strategy, and thought." He asked why the administration was trying to occupy Iraq with current troop levels, "even as one event cascading into another should make them recoil in piggy-eyed wonder at the lameness of their policy."

Whole thing here.

NEXT: Setting a Sterling Example

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “War is an act of Force designed to compel the enemey to our will…” Clausewitz

    “In war the moral is to the physical as three to one…” Napoleon

    “The human heart is the starting point for all things pertaining to war.” Maurice de Saxe

    Good thing that no of them listened to a bunch of INTELLECTUALS in their careers, never have I seen such a bunch of Nervous Nellies.

  2. I am confused by the neoconservatives who argue for increased troop strength. Our troops are doing pretty well from a strategic standpoint. If I were looking to ‘fix’ the problems over there, I wouldn’t start by sending more Americans.

    My $.02 is that the remainder of winning the peace is 100% perception. The combination of regional prejudice and the asinine actions of some of our troops have made it impossible for the US to win on perception until history provides perspective. Truth is, we only need them to accept something that is clearly in their own benefit. We don’t need praise to declare victory. If they like blue hats, give them blue hats. If they want the UN to handle political decisions, more power to them.

  3. The Iraq…thing…has been so polarizing. I am reading stories about Liberal versus Conservative, Conservative versus Conservative, Military in support of the war, Military against the war….etc. etc. This is the immediate tragedy, IMHO,…Its like the Xtreme games of Disunity. How can leadership take any ques from a country full of people who cannot even hear the other side out?

  4. “How can leadership take any ques from a country full of people who cannot even hear the other side out?” Well 1Man, that’s the point of leadership, it’s NOT about taking cues, it’s GIVING them. People seem to have an odd sense of “leadership”.

    Politicians, can be leaders, but only on certain issues, lest anyone think that I am recommending the Fuehrer prinzip.

  5. Give it up, Joe.

    Jason, you’re probably righter than you think. Some of the wavering neocon support, I suspect, is dissatisfaction at realizing they have to accept less than the full loaf, with jelly, butter, and all the fixin’s, that they were unrealistically expecting. Historians Of The Future are always on the side of whatever point we’re trying to make, but I suspect that if the U.S. fled Iraq tomorrow, the verdict in 50 years would be neither an A+ nor an F.

    (My personal prejudice, of course, is that the wavering war supporters need to admit that Iraq has in fact gone much better than any prudent person had a right to expect. It was their own rosy idea that war could be a happy place, not the generally competent performance of the soldiers and civilians on the ground, that was the real disaster.)

  6. Nothing to give up, Mr. Cavanaugh… I’m just uttering my contempt for intellectuals…

    I’m not in disagreement with Jason or you. I’d have to say that anyone who thought that Iraq would look like Minnesota or even Chicago by this time was living in a fools paradise.

    I’d just prefer them to come out and say, “I was living in a Fools Paradise last year.” Not that, “The war is going badly, because my vision was unrealistic but I don’t care to give up my unrealistic vision.”

    Personally I think it’s going fairly well in Iraq, local elections haven’t been a disaster, and haven’t elected, by-and-large, theocrats. Transfer of power is still on, Sadr is becoming irrelevant, Heck Fallujah might sort itself out in a few months. As I say I’m just tired of fellows, like Andrew Sullivan, who want to back away from the war…

    War is NOT an intellectual exercise… “it is an act of FORCE designed to compel the enemey to our will”… notice the words Force and Will. It is violent and violence is never perfect and it involves a morale component. If the neo-cons and Sullivans of the world didn’t understand what war was, that’s THEIR problem, stop trying to make it mine. Not that YOU are, that’s just a generalized complaint about their sudden “cobblie-wobblies”.

    Plus, I am a little amazed at folks who are supposed to be so smart refusing to examine history, an enterprise has moments of up’s n’ downs, we can not measure success on a minute-by-minute basis or on the basis that it only takes 90 seconds to make pop corn, so why isn’t Iraq Utopia? Again, my scorn and amazement is directed at these intellectuals, not this message board.

  7. The thing is, Joe, that the expectation that Iraq would be hunk-dory now was not one that any responsible supporter of the war ever put forward. Look at the President’s speeches from last year, for example – all about how this is going to be long and hard.

    No, the expectations game being played here is coming from the anti-war side, using the familiar trope of raising expectations to unattainable levels, and then using the failure to achieve perfection as proof of failure.

    Jason, I tend to agree on troop levels. In fact, I tend to regard anyone who says we need more troops in Iraq as someone without a clue. We have more than enough combat troops already, but the problems we face now are only incidentally military. Our military actions in Iraq these days are characterized by extraordinarily calibrated restraint, after all, not desperate half measures.

  8. And Jason put it well, it’s a perception game… Many want it perceived that things are going badly. I just get tired of our side going along with “those” people. I just don’t know what they expected.

    Compare predictions and the Pro-war side has been much closer to the mark than the anti-‘s, no tens of thousands of US KIA’s, no refugee crisis/humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, no “Arab Street Aflame” yet, MY side seems to be struck with the Willies…

    I’m just say’n that I am glad that Fouad Ajami, and Andrew Sullivan weren’t hanging around in Churchill’s or FDR’s Cabinet in WW II, ‘cuz if Abu Ghraib and the troubles in Iraq cause them this much angst, I’d hate to see what the London Blitz, Coventry, the see-saw war in North Africa, the Battle of the Bulge, and Dresden would have done to them.

  9. Meanwhile, Ashcroft & Company are saying to brace ourselves to get hit hard by Al Quaeda this summer.

    So, while we’ve spent the last 2 years and 200 billion “fighting terrorism” in Iraq, Al Quaeda’s still in business.

    Beautiful.

  10. “I just don’t know what they expected.”

    They expected Bush to be on top of it. This wasn’t a war where “sort of” was gonna cut it. I have never been “anti-war” except in the most general sense of war is something to be avoided, if you can that is.

    But for me this was different. Yes, I expected to “not” have the POW issue explode in our face. Yes I expected to not alienate the world and our allies. Yes I expected us to go in showing that we were the good guys. Not the keystone cops.

    I have just spoken to someone in bagdad via e-mail. Maybe it’s the lack of trained personal, not bodies per se, but none the less, there is a shortage there.

    Basically my position has been against this “action” not because I am anti-war, but because I do admire men like Churchill. I am sorry, but in that conflict, bumbling fools like Sanchez and the others would have been bounced, not for PC effect, but for being incompetent buggers.

    We had a responsibility, we still do. But bottom line…bush never had the balls to fight this war, and little man still doesn’t. Mistakes at every turn, and the bottom line for me? My assesment says we are more in danger, and more isolated than when we started. That just doesn’t make a winning strategy for me.

  11. Gadfly,
    Just a minor point. At this point in the Second World War, the US still had the MAJOR portion of its casualties to suffer yet… In fact the Break-out from the Beacchead was just underway? Ahead lay the slogging in the Vosges Mountains, the Bloody Hurtgen Forest Campaign, and the Battle of the Bulge. And that doesn’t even begin to count the Pacific Theatre, where an incredible bloodletting was forthcoming. Would you then account the Second World War a failure at this point?

    The fact that the enemy still can strike us does not necessarily make the war a failure.

    Put simply how long is too long for you? Six months? A year? More than one season of CSI:Wichita or Law and Order: Parking Enforcement Unit?

  12. Joe L.

    Question, since you say “At this point in the Second World War”. Really. Lets see, when exactly did Bush declare victory? Using his timetable, his analysis, wouldn’t it be after Hiroshimo? Yes, if the enemy is still able to strike at us, hostilities are not ended, and we are still fighting a war. Anybody told Bush?

    It’s those kind of mistakes that are worrying me.

    Oh and PS, Buckley is an intellectual, and even though I disagree with him on a regular basis, I still listen to him. As I do anyone with an intelligent, informed opinion. “Intelluctual” as a slur puts me in a mind of a Dr. Suess story about some creatures called the Sneetches.

  13. Well Skeptikos,
    What can be said? “Yes I expected to not alienate the world and our allies. ” We’re more isolated? like Germany, France, Russia et. al were EVER going to do something to Saddam? IF Saddam was to be eliminated it was going to be done by the US and the UK, no one else was going to help in any meaningful way. Saddam wasn’t going away from bombing and sanctions nor from internal subversion, so direct invasion in the face of the chief beneficiaries of the “Oil for Palaces/Bribes” Program. This idea that BUSH isolated us, implies that the Germans and French could EVER have been brought on board, present any evidence that this was possible?

    “Yes, I expected to “not” have the POW issue explode in our face.” Read Hackworth’s “About Face” or MacDonald’s “Company Commander”, 20-30 years after the fact they both admit to executing POW’s!!! The difference is, we view those as Just Wars, and historical artifacts, not prime news, today.

    If you expected picture perfect behavior from US troops, don’t know what world you came from. I expected Abu Ghraib, and rapes, and lootings, and murders, and bribes. I simply expected the US military to investigate and punish criminal behavior, just what they are doing. As Kipling said, “Single men in barracks ain’t plaster saint…” and I certainly never expected saintly behavior from all of our troops, it’s what we do when we break the law that counts, not that the law has been broken. I’m very proud that the US Army HAS learned from the debacle of Vietnam and My Lai.

    “Yes I expected us to go in showing that we were the good guys. Not the keystone cops.” And how have we been shown to be the Keystone Cops? You mean that Najaf and Fallujah have erupted into rebellion? I think it significant that the rebellions did not spread and appear to be withering on the vine, all without carpet bombing and mass casualties. Compare and contrast the village of Homs with the town of Fallujah, both of whom went into rebellion against the central government, one in Syria and one in Iraq… Homs was levelled.

    And we’re NOT the good guys? Can you name one ARAB nation that has occupied a neighbor and treated the losers so nicely? Are you saying that the people of Iraq LONG for the good ole’ days of Saddam, poverty, dirty water, corruption, and authoritarian rule?

    Churchill might scratch his head in wonder at your comparison, at least in private… History shows Churchill the bold decisive leader. Now go back and read the Times and the floor speeches of his Labour opposition, at the time. I’m sure Clement Atlee would be glad to paint an entirely different picture of Churchill for you… My point being that the “statesmen” of yesteryear are nothing more than todays baby-kissing politicians, air-brushed by historians of the future for our viewing grandchildren’s pleasure.

  14. Joe L.,

    “…the see-saw war in North Africa…”

    The American military command thought and continued to think through the war that the North Africa campaign was a waste of time; they wanted an invasion of France by 1942, or at least 1943. I tend to concur with that sentiment; and with the notion that invading Italy was also a waste of time, manpower and resources; indeed one has to ask what Hieronymus Bosch-like nightmares the allied commanders (Mark Clark in particular) dreamed up for their own troops had to do with winning the war.

    “…Dresden would have done to them.”

    No one gave a shit about Dresden when it happened; at least on the Allied side; and to be blunt, Dresden was changed from a city governed by non-Nazi parties, to one governed by the Nazi party in the local elections that followed the bombing.

    R.C. Dean,

    “The thing is, Joe, that the expectation that Iraq would be hunk-dory now was not one that any responsible supporter of the war ever put forward. Look at the President’s speeches from last year, for example – all about how this is going to be long and hard.”

    Please define a “reasonable supporter” please – you appear to be trying to perpetrate a post hoc fantasy here. And to be blunt, the President’s “Mission Accomplished” belies your statement.

    “No, the expectations game being played here is coming from the anti-war side, using the familiar trope of raising expectations to unattainable levels, and then using the failure to achieve perfection as proof of failure.”

    This statement makes no sense in light of the above neo-conservative whining; furthermore, it abdicates responsibility is slightly hysterical in its conspiracy-mongering.

  15. Joe L.,

    Al Qaeda is apparently stronger today than it was before 9/11; according to a new report by a respected think tank.

    “At this point in the Second World War…”

    Please, comparing this to WWII is so non-sensical.

  16. No Skeptikos, Bush only declared the end of major combat operations last year, and he didn’t say the war was over… So he didn’t declare VJ Day.

    And “intellectual” isn’t always a swear word. I’m one, to an extent, I just don’t feel like running around wringing my hands because perfection has not broken out in the Middle East or that a bunch of MPs behaved badly.

    I refer you to my post and ask again, if this is how they react to something as MINOR as Iraq in 2004, how would they have survived the World from 1939-1945?

    Intellectuals deal in ideas, in the head… Leaders do things. Doing is not thinking about doing. Mayhap I ought to be easier on intellectuals, but I just don’t care to. I can compare some past intellectuals, Jefferson, Washington, Trotsky, and Lenin who thought AND did, for better or worse. I’m just a little tired of a bunch of “pissy-willow fellows” declaring the play is a disaster in Act II, not even knowing how many fat ladies there are in the wings or what the libretto contains.

  17. Joe L,

    I’m not talking about the governments of France, Germany and Russia alone. God, one of my nightmare days was Bush’s blushing romance with Putin. I am talking about the people on the ground. I’m talking about the baker in Paris I know, I guy who worshipped us. He doesn’t now. I’m talking about all the folks who reached out to us from around the world after 9/11. Who may not reach out to us after another 9/11.

    I’m talking about the difference between deliberate actions, not the random cluster F… of the prison scandal. Lets be honest, no matter which side of the torture scene you are on, the lack of control and chaos that happened can not be intended, even if someone wants to lean on a few prisoners. Yea, it matters how that plays. There is a difference between decisiveness and lack of control.

    Joe, I love my nation, and I reject comparisons between myself and Slimy arab nations like the Saudi’s. I despise them, and am quite angered at the lateness of the american press in portraying them as they are, in all thier disgusting inhumanity, but I will not use them as a standard to judge myself, or my nation by.

    I respect and admire the tough decisions that had to be made in WWII, but I don’t see that kind of leadership here. And that is my problem. And only my opinion.

    You still didn’t answer my timetable question. I was upset when Bush declared “Victory”. As the war, by my view, and apparently yours, was still in swing. We have not (at least up to now) really controled the ground that would have justified the victory dance on that carrier. That is a huge sticking point for me. I still believe this war is salvagable. But I have some REALLY serious doubts about whether or not Bush can carry it out. That has always been my concern.

  18. Joe L.,

    “…EVER going to do something to Saddam?”

    Well that really begs the only question at issue vis a vis Iraq – was it important, neccessary, etc. to undertake this action? Indeed, whether they were willing to do anything is entirely beside the point, and merely demonstrates your willingness to avoid the heart of the issue. Until you answer that question with something more viable than has already been presented, anything else you might write is mere ranting.

    “Can you name one ARAB nation that has occupied a neighbor and treated the losers so nicely?”

    If the Arab world is your metric for determining proper behavior, then you are indeed setting the bar very low. However, the fact is that this is merely an apologia; and an arrogant one at that given the American government’s penchant for dictating “one standard” to other states. If “one standard” exists, then the U.S. should act by it and stop whining about those who expose its inability or unwillingness to do so.

    “Churchill might scratch his head in wonder at your comparison, at least in private…”

    What Churchill might or might not do is pure conjecture.

    “History shows Churchill the bold decisive leader.”

    It also shows him to be a giant fuck-up, and quite wrong on many counts – Indian independence for example.

    “My point being that the ‘statesmen’ of yesteryear are nothing more than todays baby-kissing politicians, air-brushed by historians of the future for our viewing grandchildren’s pleasure.”

    And this has what to do with the topic at hand?

  19. Gary,
    Are you referring to the discussion of the 20,000 Al-Quaeda fighters, TRAINED IN AFGHANISTAN? If you are my take is that this shows a success, PRIOR to 9-11 the Taliban et. al. were training thousands of combat terrorists and now… Yeah, they aren’t. So THAT phase of the WoT went well. Now, there 18,000 of those 20,000 left

    And now states that sponsor terrorism have to divert their attention and resources nearer to home, rather than Europe, Israel and America. No more cash to suicide bomber families, no more support overseas, now we ahve to send the money to Iraq or otherwise this democracy thing might catch on… as the kurds in Syria demonstrate. So I’d say that this phase of the WoT ain’t goin’ badly either.

    And please why are comparisons with WW II nonsensical? Because they put paid to questions like the one asked? This is a global war, it will take time and have setbacks, just like WWII. Sorry, if historical perspective crimps your style.

  20. Skeptikos,

    How can our “allies” support us when they are taking blood money from Saddam? GWB in the white house or no.

  21. Joe L.,

    “No Skeptikos, Bush only declared the end of major combat operations last year, and he didn’t say the war was over… So he didn’t declare VJ Day.”

    You are being purposefully obtuse I am afraid; it was clear that Bush was declaring victory on that day.

    “And ‘intellectual’ isn’t always a swear word. I’m one, to an extent, I just don’t feel like running around wringing my hands because perfection has not broken out in the Middle East or that a bunch of MPs behaved badly.”

    Hmm, what one has to do with the other remains a mystery; at least one can make said judgment in light of your tortured logic.

    “I refer you to my post and ask again, if this is how they react to something as MINOR as Iraq in 2004, how would they have survived the World from 1939-1945?”

    And again, comparing this to WWII is non-sensical.

  22. I`m just in piggy-eyed wonder about the whole damn mess.
    I think the republicons have secured the Chinese finger trap on their middle digits,and guess who will end up getting fucked over…..WTP.

  23. Matthew Cromer,

    If taking (or paying) blood money prevented anything in the world of politics…

    There would be no one left to play.

    Georgie porgie or no.

  24. Joe L.,

    “So THAT phase of the WoT went well. Now, there 18,000 of those 20,000 left”

    The point of course is that is the folks we should be headed after; and not the tangential at best threat posed by Iraq.

    “And now states that sponsor terrorism have to divert their attention and resources nearer to home, rather than Europe, Israel and America.”

    Which of course explains the bombings and attempted bombings throughout Europe, the continued terrorism in Israel, etc.

    “No more cash to suicide bomber families…”

    This a blatant canard; such funding continues with or without the regime in Iraq (indeed, its well known that Sistani provides some of this funding).

    “…no more support overseas, now we ahve to send the money to Iraq or otherwise this democracy thing might catch on… as the kurds in Syria demonstrate.”

    Your remarks strike me as someone desperately wanting something to be true that is not.

    “And please why are comparisons with WW II nonsensical?”

    Well, the different factual predicates of both wars argue against such usage in the first place – this ought to be obvious in and of itself. When looking for historical analogues, one should be careful to with regarding to issues like factual predicates of these wars, how they are fought, where they are fought, etc. WWII bares no resemblence to the war in Iraq or the war against the Islamicists.

  25. “Al Qaeda is apparently stronger today than it was before 9/11; according to a new report by a respected think tank.”

    Been awfully quiet on American targets, if that is the case. Where is the ‘You Can’t Kill Us’ show of strength?

    Besides which, I’d be interested to see an analysis of Al Qaeda’s strength if we got rid of the Taliban and went home. Maybe we’d be safest if we did absolutely nothing so as not to anger them. If you are proposing an alternative use of force that doesn’t involve violating someone’s national borders with our military, I’d be interested to hear it.

    I believe, for example, that we would be safer now if we had moved against Saudi Arabia, but that is still a military action. I do not believe that AQ has either a home or much in the way of support from dictators, but they still have the support of wealthy Arabs. Two out of three sources of strength gone is not losing the war.

  26. Jason Ligon,

    “Been awfully quiet on American targets, if that is the case. Where is the ‘You Can’t Kill Us’ show of strength?”

    That hasn’t been the case anywhere else; furthermore, there mere monies that the U.S. has to spend on HSD is to defeat their efforts shows their effectiveness.

    “If you are proposing an alternative use of force that doesn’t involve violating someone’s national borders with our military, I’d be interested to hear it.”

    Its fairly obvious what I am proposing; attacking al Qaeda as opposed to tilting wind mills in Iraq.

    “I do not believe that AQ has either a home…”

    They have lots of homes.

    “…or much in the way of support from dictators…”

    Well, aside from the Taliban (if you can call that loose coalition a dictatorship), that was never the case.

    “…but they still have the support of wealthy Arabs.”

    This of course was always there main means of support.

  27. Matthew Cromer,

    Sorry, but venality does not explain their actions; if it did, then jumping onto the American bandwagon would have been the thing to do. Instead of actually addressing the merits their arguments, you instead attack their character – much like elements of the anti-war movement attacked the character of the Bush administration and war supporters (e.g., no blood for oil).

  28. “Its fairly obvious what I am proposing; attacking al Qaeda as opposed to tilting wind mills in Iraq.”

    I keep hearing this. What do you mean by attacking al Qaeda? Where do you go?

  29. Homs was levelled.

    ?accurate discussion?Homs was not levelled. Hama was levelled.?/accurate discussion?

  30. “…or much in the way of support from dictators…”

    Well, aside from the Taliban (if you can call that loose coalition a dictatorship), that was never the case.

    You speak with quite a bit of confidence. AQ did not use middle eastern dictators for resources, places to hide, and the like? Funny, every other islamic terrorist organization I can think of did.

  31. Joe L.,

    Are you suggesting that Roosevelt and Churchill were not intellectuals or that they neglected their intellects in order to fight WW2? Are you suggesting that military strategy is not an intellectual pursuit? Help me out here.

  32. Jason Ligon,

    Wherever al Qaeda is obviously; in this case, they were not in Iraq.

    “You speak with quite a bit of confidence. AQ did not use middle eastern dictators for resources, places to hide, and the like? Funny, every other islamic terrorist organization I can think of did.”

    I believe this is a bit of hyperbole; at best in recent years what you can point to are the links between Syria and Iran and those terrorist organizations that attack Israel, which is Israel’s problem.

  33. Les,

    What’s particularly hilarious is that he attacks intellectuals while at the same time quoting von Clausewitz. I nearly threw up laughing.

  34. I have the same question Ligon has. Where do we attack al Qaeda? And with what? Presumably not the 4th ID or a MEF, since those al Qaeda members are spread across the globe in countries friendly, hostile and indifferent to us.

    So I’m not sure what beyond that which we’re already doing would accomplish any more to corral and dispatch that rotten crew.

    As to the general panic on the right, I’m really surprised at how half-cocked everyone has gotten. I supposed that pretty much all stripes and breeds of self-described intellectuals and think-tankers are, at their heart, utopians and thus more fragile when their plans get smacked around a bit by reality.

  35. Gary,

    I hate to get off topic, but you said something I found absolutely astounding: Dresden was changed from a city governed by non-Nazi parties, to one governed by the Nazi party in the local elections that followed the bombing.

    I find it difficult to believe that the Nazis tolerated non-NS parties ruling a major German city during wartime; could you please provide me with a link?

  36. “So I’m not sure what beyond that which we’re already doing would accomplish any more to corral and dispatch that rotten crew.”

    “That which we’re already doing” is pissing away money and lives that have nothing to do with Al Quaeda. Their threat is undiminished.

    Close your eyes and imagine what else we could do with 2 years of concerted effort and $200 billion.

  37. Gadfly:

    I submit that if we had any way to get AQ gone in a public way, we would see another 200 billion in unfunded spending to get it done. This whole ‘diversion of resources’ argument has seemed very flat to me on those grounds.

    What astounds me is the complete lack of an answer for what should be done about AQ. If they hide behind a ‘sovereign’ country’s borders, we are using a military to get them.

    As to Gary’s point, there is nothing various of us haven’t hashed out before. It is a difference in the definition and perceived scope of the problem. Some believe that this issue is about some 50 honchos running around Afghanistan and elsewhere. Call those guys AQ. All you have to do is arrest them or, if you’re feelin’ froggy (the KY in me coming out), you can send some SEALS to kill some followers. Attached to this point of view is the idea that before any violent action can be taken, you must have sufficient evidence to convict each terrorist in a court of law. Anything less, and you are using force willy-nilly and killing innocents.

    Another point of view is that going after those 50 honchos is only part of the solution because there is more or less an endless supply of screaming bearded clerics to fill the vacancy. The term war on terror is employed because it allows one to think in terms of tactics (direct assaults against known AQ operatives) and strategy.

    The strategic goal of a WoT is to solve big picture puzzles. To wit, muslim crazies have hated us for decades, but we were never hit on domestic soil. Why did they think they could get away with it? The jihadis may seek the next life, but the potentates don’t. Why did they suddenly not fear retribution? Because the US had 0 credibility in our underlying threats. We have the biggest hammer in the history of the world, and Saddam laughed at us for 10 years as we refused to follow through on issued threats to bring him into compliance with the terms of his surrender. Khobar Tower – nothing. Mogadishu – we left.

    The first step in a WoT strategy is to make every Islamic crazy really believe that we will hunt him down while he cowers in a hole if we even imagine he might be a threat. The fiction of tyrant sovereignity won’t save him. The total incompetence of the UN won’t save him. Even threats of gas and untold invader casualties in horrific urban fighting won’t save him. When presented with a target that has convinced the world he has left over WMD, who has declared war on the US, who has attempted to assassinate a US president, AND who happens to torture and gas his own people, one can see a prime candidate on whom we can demonstrate our willingness to follow through.

    The first point of view seems inadequate to those of us who hold the second, and the second point of view includes all manner of things the first camp sees as completely irrelevant at best and immoral in general.

    One way this is like WWII. People will probably be arguing counterfactuals in 60 year.

  38. gary gunnels writes: “Well, the different factual predicates of both wars argue against such usage in the first place – this ought to be obvious in and of itself. When looking for historical analogues, one should be careful to with regarding to issues like factual predicates of these wars, how they are fought, where they are fought, etc. WWII bares no resemblence to the war in Iraq or the war against the Islamicists.”

    I do not see why any of that should render Joe L’s comparison “non-sensical.” His purpose in making the comparison did not touch and concern the factual predicates you allude to; his point was about TIME. (Moreover, no analogy is perfect, or it would not be such.)

    Certainly things went badly, for quite some time, before they did not, in WWII.

    Also, I do not find Joe’s pique with intellectuals entirely off base. Von Clausewitz was a very bright guy who could have justly claimed to be an intellectual, but he was also an experienced warrior. I think it was obvious in Joe’s remarks that his disdain is for luminaries who don’t have the first clue about actual warfare, but who pontificate behind computer monitors as if they do.

    And, btw, I think Rumsfeld might be held accountable for not listening to his generals, whether they are or are not intellectuals.

    –Mona–

  39. Er, okay …

  40. “Defining the enemy properly keeps one on task, instead of invading places where terrorist acts may occur that are not direct against you.”

    I believe that this is the point I was making. There is more than one view of the nature of the problem. To some the problem is AQ, to others the problem is that there exist many places where AQ can live without running for their lives.

    “Such categorical denial is a denial of reality; indeed, there are many scenarios where you would be proven wrong. In other words, only a fool says “never.” ”

    Well, golly, Gary, I thought I was only talking about the strategic goals of scaring the crap out of terrorist supporting despots and otherwise re-establishing military credibility. I’m glad I didn’t say ‘never’ so as to reveal my foolishness.

    “It remains the case so long as it continues; whether it is short term or not is a matter for the future; however, it will remain the status qou so long as it continues.”

    An important aspect of strategic thinking is to forecast short term vs. long term results. Forecasts aren’t always good, but to say we can’t even discuss the the long term, or that we must assume that current states will remain until proven otherwise, seems a bit restrictive.

    “its obvious that I’ve no issue with the application of military force – however it should be applied properly and in the rights places – Iraq was not one of those places.”

    Where is the appropriate place to use military force? How should force be applied? Is or is not the current membership of AQ the limit of the enemy you are defining? If so, can they just change the name or start associating with other more upstanding terrorists like Hizbollah and escape? If not, who else gets included? Does military credibility mean anything? What evidenciary standard do you hold for the employment of force to become a valid option?

    Every islamic terrorist in the world is our enemy in this. Sovereign borders of tyrants do not exist. Regional tyrants need to be terrified, as do regional mullahs and wealthy individuals who support terrorists. The game is to reduce the ranks of the terrorists only to those who are willing to die in the effort, and kill every one of those who remain. That is my proposal.

  41. Please don’t “quote” Kipling when you are paraphrasing him. Learn the difference.

    When did Bush proclaim “Victory”?

  42. just wondering,

    “I find it difficult to believe that the Nazis tolerated non-NS parties ruling a major German city during wartime; could you please provide me with a link?”

    This knowledge comes via a conversation with a historian of the period; I could ring him up and ask him about the relevant source material for this statement.

  43. Jason Ligon,

    “It is a difference in the definition and perceived scope of the problem. Some believe that this issue is about some 50 honchos running around Afghanistan and elsewhere. Call those guys AQ. All you have to do is arrest them or, if you’re feelin’ froggy (the KY in me coming out), you can send some SEALS to kill some followers. Attached to this point of view is the idea that before any violent action can be taken, you must have sufficient evidence to convict each terrorist in a court of law. Anything less, and you are using force willy-nilly and killing innocents.”

    Please, this a complete mischaracterization of my view, and is at best an attempt to create a strawman you may beat upon. Instead of dishonestly trying to create a view for me that appears to be favored by both the pro-war and anti-war crowd, why not simply ask me my view?

    “Another point of view is that going after those The term war on terror is employed because it allows one to think in terms of tactics (direct assaults against known AQ operatives) and strategy.”

    Terror is tool; you don’t declare war on tools, you declare it on groups of people – be they in the form of a nation-states or otherwise. In order to actually to define the war, you have to understand who your enemy is – and “terror” as a tool is not the enemy.

    “We have the biggest hammer in the history of the world, and Saddam laughed at us for 10 years as we refused to follow through on issued threats to bring him into compliance with the terms of his surrender. Khobar Tower – nothing. Mogadishu – we left.”

    Yet we are weaker today than we were before the war; be it in domestic support for such future interventions, or in any confidence that we might have in governing a nation that we might conquer. Tokugawa, the first Shogun of Japan following the warring period of the 16th century, rightly stated that there is a difference between conquering and governing – Rumsfeld and his lot have still yet to learn this lesson. Anyway, its rather easy to discern that the U.S. blew its wad in Iraq, and that very little has come of it – at best it made an already reforming Libya reform more quickly.

    “The first step in a WoT…”

    Calling it a War on Terror remains a rather stupid title, and ignores reality.

    “…strategy is to make every Islamic crazy really believe that we will hunt him down while he cowers in a hole if we even imagine he might be a threat.”

    Nothing the U.S. has done so far has led to such; indeed, again the Iraq war has emboldened the enemy.

  44. This knowledge comes via a conversation with a historian of the period; I could ring him up and ask him about the relevant source material for this statement.

    Gary,

    Actually, if you would, I would appreciate it greatly. I know of NO evidence in English or German to support your statement – I’m not saying that it is not true, just that I have never heard of this. Thanks.

  45. mona,

    “His purpose in making the comparison did not touch and concern the factual predicates you allude to; his point was about TIME. (Moreover, no analogy is perfect, or it would not be such.)”

    The primary reason for comparisons to WWII are as follows: (a) the war was successful, and (b) historical ignorance.

    And whether his point was about time or not is beside the point; WWII is not a proper model by which to make a comparison of any kind based on the aforementioned reasons.

    “Certainly things went badly, for quite some time, before they did not, in WWII.”

    Well that is the case with many wars; it hardly makes WWII a proper analogue.

    “Von Clausewitz was a very bright guy who could have justly claimed to be an intellectual, but he was also an experienced warrior.”

    Given that you’ve likely never read Vom Kriege, I don’t see any reason why you should actually comment on his work or life. Furthermore, though Clausewitz’s more famous phrases are often repeated by the ignorant, they little understand that the form of warfare that he advocated has been rejected by today’s civilized nations – the sorts of agressive wars launched by Germany in WWI and WWII.

    “I think it was obvious in Joe’s remarks that his disdain is for luminaries who don’t have the first clue about actual warfare, but who pontificate behind computer monitors as if they do.”

    And Joe lives in some special Archimedian point that allows him the expertise these luminaries lack? Or is it you that lives there? Pots and kettles.

  46. “…strategy is to make every Islamic crazy really believe that we will hunt him down while he cowers in a hole if we even imagine he might be a threat.”

    “Nothing the U.S. has done so far has led to such; indeed, again the Iraq war has emboldened the enemy.”

    Amazing. An enemy emboldened after blowing up buldings in NYC and in the capitol of the Great White Satan does what again? It is all so clear to me now.

    “Yet we are weaker today than we were before the war; be it in domestic support for such future interventions, or in any confidence that we might have in governing a nation that we might conquer.”

    Myopia should not be confused with weakness. Bogged down is a matter of short term perception. Support for eliminating Saddam was very high, and that is the object lesson that matters. Where we are getting queasy is in the effort of trying to make things perfect after the fact. I submit that no regional dictator gives a rat’s ass what happens once they are gone. We don’t need to govern any nation to achieve strategic goals.

    “Terror is tool; you don’t declare war on tools, you declare it on groups of people …”

    A group of people defined by their use of a tool?

  47. “Please, this a complete mischaracterization of my view, and is at best an attempt to create a strawman you may beat upon. Instead of dishonestly trying to create a view for me that appears to be favored by both the pro-war and anti-war crowd, why not simply ask me my view?”

    I thought I did when I asked what you would do. You inidcated that you would go after AQ in an undisclosed manner, where they are, and not be distracted. You have defined the problem to be AQ only in defining everything else to be a distraction. Please, set me straight with some specifics.

  48. Jason Ligon,

    “Amazing. An enemy emboldened after blowing up buldings in NYC and in the capitol of the Great White Satan does what again? It is all so clear to me now.”

    Attacks targets rather successfully all over the world since 9/11.

    “Myopia should not be confused with weakness.”

    Myopia is a weakness.

    “Bogged down is a matter of short term perception.”

    It remains the case so long as it continues; whether it is short term or not is a matter for the future; however, it will remain the status qou so long as it continues.

    “Support for eliminating Saddam was very high, and that is the object lesson that matters.”

    And?

    “We don’t need to govern any nation to achieve strategic goals.”

    Such categorical denial is a denial of reality; indeed, there are many scenarios where you would be proven wrong. In other words, only a fool says “never.”

    “A group of people defined by their use of a tool?”

    You still not at war with the tool; you are war with the people who use it, specifically as that tool is used against you. Defining the enemy properly keeps one on task, instead of invading places where terrorist acts may occur that are not direct against you.

  49. Jason Ligon,

    “I thought I did when I asked what you would do. You inidcated that you would go after AQ in an undisclosed manner, where they are, and not be distracted. You have defined the problem to be AQ only in defining everything else to be a distraction. Please, set me straight with some specifics.”

    Going on about “50 people” and “arresting” them after some discovery process is clearly a mischaracterization of my statements; its obvious that I’ve no issue with the application of military force – however it should be applied properly and in the rights places – Iraq was not one of those places. In essence your argument is that the best application of such was to invade Iraq; I differ and disagree; I view it as folly and as a dangerous waste of resources – a chimera if you will. If your modus operandi entails a continuation of these mischaracterizations, then I would argue that a continuation of this conversation would not be fruitful.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.