May 17, 2004

Emerods on both their houses
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Mark Helprin writes a devastating critique of Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq. Then, he follows it up with an even more devastating trashing of Kerry's proposals for Iraq.

Helprin's critique is both powerful and well-reasoned. It is also, on the whole, balanced.

The Bush Administration is hovering close to, but not quite over, the line between success and failure there. At every step of the way, when faced with e decision about whether to send more troops and equipment, or less, the Administration has chosen "less". At every opportunity to use more force or less, they've chosen "less".

Part of this is simple arrogance. The Bush Administration has a childlike faith in the power of defense transformation. Transformation is indeed powerful. Frankly, there isn't a military force in the world that would have a chance against the United States in direct combat.

But, in an occupation/nation-building scenario, it appears highly deficient. All the combat power in the world doesn't help if you can't apply it, and, in the context of a civil campaign, you can't.

One of the reasons Eric Shinseki was more or less forced to retire was that he wouldn't play along with the Bush team on the effectiveness of transformation in an occupation scenario. He predicted a successful occupation in Iraq would take 400,000 troops, but that was something Rumsfeld just didn't want to hear.

I have to admit, I was taken in by the transformation claims as well. I thought Shinseki was far too pessimistic, and that his refusal to go along with the Rumsfeld plan was a result of political, rather than military calculation. I was mistaken. Unlike me, however, Rumsfeld, and the Bush Administration generally, appears not have learned this lesson. As a result, our project in Iraq is--despite all the progress--faltering and stumbling.

The answer to this, however, is a policy the Bush Administration seems loathe to call for: Increased military spending and a significantly larger force structure. Their refusal to admit that this is necessary seems to me to reflect an unwillingness to learn from experience, and a politically-based fear to ask for greater spending or sacrifice on the part of the American people.

It is one thing to make mistakes in war. Indeed, mistakes are fairly constant in warfare. But, while mistakes are understandable and forgivable, a refusal to learn from them is not.

But, as Helprin points out, what alternative do we have?

The solutions proposed by the Democrats, including those of John Kerry, will amount to little more than an ignominious retreat. Kerry wants us to rely more on our "allies"--presumably France and Germany--despite the fact that those allies have done everything possible to frustrate our purpose in Iraq. Moreover, to require that everyone be on board for everything we do is, in reality, a recipe for doing nothing. In the real world, we will never get a generalized consensus to act from our allies. It is little more than a way to refrain from fighting the war on terror by using our most obstructionist "allies" as an excuse for inaction.

"Love to help you fellows out with the wahabbist zealots, but the frogs say 'no'. Sorry."

Saying that we will let the UN or France decide how the war on terror is to be fought is much the same as saying the war will not be fought at all. That simply isn't an option.

We already have the war. We can pretend that if we ignore it, it will go away, but that's a fantasy that's even more foolish than the fantasy that France can be reliably depended upon to safeguard American interests.

So, there's our choice for November 2004. Do we pick the sitting president who, by doing the bare minimum and arrogantly refusing to admit mistakes, will jeopardize our progress in the War on Terror, or do we choose the Democratic challenger, who will do everything he can to, in reality, ensure the war isn't fought at all?

I'll bet Teddy Roosevelt is spinning in his grave like a machine lathe.



you vote for the guy who believes there is a war on terror, and that there SHOULD be one.

Not for the man who wants to hide behinds France's petticoats.

Posted by: shark at May 17, 2004 12:01 PM

I would argue that anyone proposing to turn the whole thing over to the UN is either insane or criminal, or both. And, I'm not sure which would apply to Kerry.

Since North Korea is hot on the griddle these days,(and apparently in bed with Syria...) let's recall that North Korea starved to death about 2 million of its own people, while the UN did nothing.

Speaking of killing millions, let's recall Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and screwing up their ecosystem so badly they will never be able to return. The UN of course, did nada.

And the business in the Sudan continues to this day. Ah, yes, the Sudan. Lovely vacation spot, that... Where something on the order of 2 million of Sudanese Christians have been killed in the last 15-20 years. At this moment, millions are under threat form the Sudanese government, and have been driven from their native lands under threat of mass murder. The Silence from the UN, save for some posturing, is remakable.

Another UN vacation spot; Rwanda, where the UN witnessed the slaughter of around 800,000 Hutu and Tutsis, and did nothing.

Need I mention the UN's strong pro-terrorism stance, basically supporting attacks against Israel? They have made a show of hand-wringing, and done not thing one about the problem.

And since John Kerry likes to rattle on about his time in South East Asia, perhaps a mention of the genocide of an estimated two million souls by the Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. Can anyone tell me the UN's actions in that regard?

It's clear we cannot trust the UN to deal with the issue of Iraq or prison abuse, or in fact much of anything, for that matter. So much for Mr. Kerry's statements on the issue.

So, to your point, it's not that they don't want it fought at all, it's that they want it fought against US. which adds some weight to the choice to be made, I think.

Posted by: Bithead at May 17, 2004 01:22 PM