A democracy, wrote the diplomat and scholar George Kennan, “fights for the very reason that it was forced to go to war. It fights to punish the power that was rash enough and hostile enough to provoke it — to teach that power a lesson it will not forget, to prevent the thing from happening again. Such a war must be carried to the bitter end.” Which is why “unconditional surrender” was a natural U.S. goal in World War II, and why Americans were so uncomfortable with three “wars of choice” since then — in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
What “forced” America to go to war in 2003 — the “gathering danger” of weapons of mass destruction — was fictitious. That is one reason why this war will not be fought, at least not by Americans, to the bitter end. The end of the war will, however, be bitter for Americans, partly because the president’s decision to visit Iraq without visiting its capital confirmed the flimsiness of the fallback rationale for the war — the creation of a unified, pluralist Iraq.
Someone is about to get excommunicated.
We didn’t need to fight this war. We haven’t fought it smartly. We won’t be able to “win” it. This was, in every sense of the term, a bad war. Admitting that does not diminish the valor and feats of our brave troops, not admitting it means that you are unfit to lead this nation.
I strongly disagree with that.
We fought the war brilliantly, and we won it. Who has EVER swept across a nation the size of Iraq, and captured it so wuickly and one-sidedly? Not even the Nazi blitzkrieg in France achieved such a milestone.
It’s not the war that’s the problem — it’s the subsequent occupation You know, the part that the political officers refused to plan, because that would be “planning for failure”? That’s been horribly executed.
Considering that the troops undertake to sacrifice life and limb for the policy goals enacted by the voters, those civilians have a great duty to not misuse the troops. Failing to pull them out of a pointless and bloody occupation is a violation of that duty.
I respectfully disagree.
This war represents the logical end of the American Empire. It had to be fought because our Imperial elites could not accept that the only alternative to it would have a fairly radical transformation of or role in a 21st century Earth.
This war was just as inevitable as World War I, when the great Colonial Empires of the 19th century had no options left but direct confrontation — and plenty of resources and jingoism to feed the beast.
This war, like WWI, will be fought to its bitter end, and will similarly destroy our Empire, which in the end, may not be a bad thing.
There is nothing else for us to do but to prepare for the next stage in our history.
Americans of 2050 may well look at this catastrophe as a transition that enabled us to go from one form of society to hopefully a better one.
You’re impressed that the largest, most advanced military in the world, with the same budget as every other military in the world combined, was able to defeat a 3rd world, mostly destroyed, uninspired group of conscripts who purposefully melted away to avoid confrontation and start an insurgency?
If we hadn’t rolled across Iraq in a few weeks, something would have been horribly wrong. A trained sea cucumber could have led the American military to victory. Our military was supposed to be able to fight millions of commies across Europe with similarly advanced weaponry just 15 years ago, but you’re impressed that we rolled over some already defeated pile of crap?
I agree totally, John. All our our gratitude to the men and women of our armed forces is not diminished in any way by the desire to end this futile and unnecessary war.
Nice to see George Will fess up to reality.
WTF! We demolished a third-world military with no air force, and you’re comparing this to WWII? Most of the Iraqi military threw down their weapons and disappeared, and you’re comparing this to WWII? This was a completely unnecessary war, fought “on the cheap” before we were ready to even fully arm the combat vehicles we sent our troops in on.
As John said, their valor remains undiminished, but there is no basis for saying the strategy involved was brilliant, and the only “win” I see is that Saddam is not in power. Other than that, this is the single greatest clusterfuck in our history, and something I hope we will learn from.
I want some of what you’re smoking, Demi.
They’re trainable? Good to know. Bush may need some for the Justice Department.
I do tend to agree partially with this pedantry. The way we knifed across that vast terrain, keeping our logistical support lines open and flowing, was nothing short of brilliant. We essentially moved a small city cross country in a very short time. That is, in and of itself, a military feat that will be passed down in military texts for years.
That having been said, we have lost the aftermath, which, it turns out, was the real war.
You might want to look at my comment again, mobi. When the Nazis rolled across France, they also faced a depleted, weakened army with no air support. That’s the only reason the invasion happened as fast as it did.
It’s not just pedantry, John. It’s also an alternate frame to “who lost China”.
Did we lose the war in Iraq? Well, which war, and which we? Did the troops lose the war in Iraq? No — they won the war they fought. They didn’t maintain the occupation, but that’s because they’re soldiers, not policemen or diplomats. The US lost the war in Iraq, not the US Army.
This is, of course, the meat of the matter. It was the very way we prosecuted the invasion which created the conditions for the insurgency.
General Shinseki was right. We needed 300,000 to 400,000 troops to invade Iraq, depose Saddam, and stabilize the country.
Absent those troops, the rest was valorous, but futile. It doesn’t matter how brilliantly it was accomplished.
And the blame for this can be layed at the feet of one Donald Rumsfeld. His conception of a “light on its’ feet” military, his plan, his making Tommy Franks his bitch. There’s a lot of revealing stuff about this in Tom Ricks’ “Fiasco.”
You know, I’d post here a lot more often–if there wasn’t always somebody around to say it for me. And since that saves me the labor of having to type ‘n’ shit I opt for that route almost all the time.
I think John has found the one small positive lesson out of this military adventure/fiasco–American military logistics, good in WWII just gettin’ better ever since.
Aside from that this is one long, painful object lesson in what not to do, and in pretty much all facets of society: how not to run your media, how not to pick your “leaders” how not to plan a war/not plan an occupation and pretty much anything else you’d care to name.
On the plus, if we manage to avoid nuclear holocaust–err, excuse me nukular rapture–and learn these lessons we’ll pretty much live in a perfect world, after all we’ll have gottne pretty much all the failure out of our system.
We can only hope, Steeley.
Ok Demi, point taken.
And yet, I thought that was the lesson we learned from Vietnam. It wasn’t our ability to move unencumbered that was the issue there either. You don’t ask for half a million troops for the war, you ask it for the delicate aftermath.
America was never meant to be an empire.
I don’t agree with this either. The enemy melted away and was not destroyed — this was Saddam’s plan from the start. The weapons caches were not secured. Our blitzkreig failed to secure “known” WMD sites.
Of course the troops generally performed exceptionally well on the unit level. It was the war plan that was a failure.
Why did we have to run to baghdad asap? Why couldn’t we secure territory? What was the hurry? I’ll tell you what it was: it was an ideologically motivated war plan, which hinged on killing Saddam and then getting smothered by flowers and puppies and candy.
The war was mismanaged from the beginning and it’s a fiction that it went well.
Or more specifically, the Republican Party lost the war. The Democrats had essentially no input until the 110th congress convened in January 2007. Bush started sending the ‘surge’ troops the same week as he announced to new policy, with no consultation or notice to Congress.
Bush, and the GOP, owns this fiasco 100%.
No, Andrew, the Army did what it was supposed to do: capture as much as possible at the lowest possible cost. You hit hard, knife through, isolate key resources and stabilize everything else later. With a couple of notable exceptions, that’s exactly what happened.
The soldiers did their jobs. It’s everyone else — the Republicans who supported C+ Augustus, his neo-con-man advisors and their clients, and the rest of us who were taken in, for whatever reason — who failed.
Yep–because Cheney was running the show, anyone with the sense of a Brent Scowcroft (or a George H. W. Bush) or even a Colin Powell was ignored, fired, or demonized. The entire plan was designed to destabilize Iraq:
1. Depose Saddam
We explicitly did NOT capture as much as possible. We drove BY as much as possible, leaving massive munitions stockpile unguarded and allowing the Iraqi military dissolve into insurgency.
More to the point: What was the rush? Why did we rush?
The German Blitzkreig was critical to surprise their enemy and capture key elements, like you suggest, before the defensive forces could be mobilized and sent into battle. We sat in Kuwait for weeks and months. Everyone knew we were going to invade. We had no plausible deniability of defensive posture like the Germans did, with their forces on their home territory prior to invading Poland and France.
But most importantly, time frame in Iraq was not important: there was nothing that Saddam could have done with more time. Getting to Baghdad extremely quickly had no military upside. They were as entrenched as the would ever get.
The battle plan was a photo op writ large. It was no plan to secure a country.
Again, I totally agree that the soliders carried out their orders expertly (which I expect!). It was their orders at the large operation level that were shit.
Exactly. And on this basis alone, none of the Republican candidates are fit to lead the nation, save the one who supports a return to the gold standard. As cynical as I’ve become, I find this surprising, shocking, and appalling.
Reread my posting, please. I didn’t say that — I said “capture as much as possible *at the lowest possible cost*.” Those are contentious goals — you can’t meet both of them simultaneously, at least if you’re at war. (Diplomacy is always cheaper than invasion, after all. )
When the Nazis rolled across France, they also faced a depleted, weakened army with no air support. That’s the only reason the invasion happened as fast as it did.
Not exactly true. The Allies outnumbered the attacking Germans and had more tanks. They had fewer combat aircraft, but by only about 200. It’s amazing the crap that gets said about WW2.
Better tactics (shock and awe) and superior logistics.
What was the military purpose of a lighting invasion to take baghdad? I fail to see any justification besides politics.
That’s a really good way of putting it.
Memo to George Will: Watch out for that bus. You’re about to be hurled under it.
See, and that’s another load of bullshit just because I don’t really know. How was our military performance in 2003 compared to the Operations Desert Storm and Shield in ’90 and ’91? I don’t know. Did we really perform exceptionally well, or just average? Did we get an A, B, C? Looking at Abu Garaib, our civilian and military contractors appear to have earned an F.
Did the soldiers perform to the best of their ability? Should they have received more comprehensive desert training? Better counterinsurgency guidance? Was the US Army functioning at 100% capacity or did we have officers who weren’t doing their jobs?
Fuck if I know. We aren’t even allowed to ask those questions because they’d be disrespectful of the troops.
And its also worth noting that years after the Nazis seized Paris, cries of Viva La Resistance! were heard in the streets. The Axis powers had just as nasty a time with insurgents in France, Poland, Spain, even Italy – as we have had with Iraq insurgents in Bagdad and Al-Anbar. All the blitzkreging in the world didn’t do Hitler or Romley a damn bit of good by ’42 and ’43.
No one was ment to be an Empire. They never work.
At the time I had thought the idea was to neutralize the Iraqi Army, to tie it up in place, whether that was in barracks or deployed in the field, and then take over the government and run the army from Baghdad. Individual soldiers would know they would still get paid as long as they did not desert, so we would get a functioning Iraqi army around which to rebuild the country.
So it seemed to make sense at the time. Then we went ahead and disbanded the army before pacifying the country, all hell broke loose, and things have been getting steadily worse since then.
That would be a bingo.
“Brilliant” might be a little stretch, but yeah it was very well done. Franks accomplished the mission given to him by the admin, and the only one the brilliant civies could grasp: Take Baghdad and kill, capture, or chase Saddam from power.
Those blasting up the highway were told the return road home was through Baghdad. So they were damn sure going through Baghdad. Wasn’t too long before M1s were doing thunder runs behind spinning Tony Snow Baghdad Bob on the teevee. That guy cracked me up. Be home in six months tops. The salad days.
Not quite. French military and citizens were sold out by a brain-dead on defense civilian administration and well-connected defense contractors wanting to gorge on French francs. Why does that sound familiar?
The idiots in charge, including a defense minister named Maginot, just knew a massively fortified static defense line along its border with Germany was the way to go. Maybe they got it direct from Jesus. Known truth from the brilliant stratergerists was that their military brass, including generals like de Gaulle who favored mechanized armor, aircraft, and well-equipped divisions to face a resurging Germany, just didn’t see the big picture.
Ten years and billions of francs later they had the Maginot Line. Months after that they could have had French Condi exclaiming “Who could ever have imagined they’d just go around the fucker?”
mrmobi and Andrew are right.
George Will wrote,
I don’t know about whether it was a “natural” goal, but my strong impression is that unconditional surrender was insisted upon by the Allies to prevent Germany and Japan from using surrender conditions as a means of splitting the US and USSR.
That was a big factor, but there was much more to it than that. The definitive reference on the political weakness of France is William Shirer’s The Collapse of the Third Republic. An amazing book, which gets me to:
My wife made reference to Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich last night, and I went into a rambling monologue about his other book on France. My recollection (it’s been a long time since I’ve read it) is that one of the factors that really weakened France was reactionary parties and individuals. I tried to generalize this into a historical law: the forces of reaction really aren’t patriotic, and are one (if certainly not the only) factors that weaken states. (The details of the parallel to the US today are obvious.)