Thursday, September 23, 2004

The War and the Election are one. There is no other issue and on that America's future hangs in the balance. Mr. Bush goes forward blindly while Mr. Kerry knows not where to go and shows no inkling of why he should.

If you have not been reading a truly excellent group blog called The Boileryard, you ought to start. A challenge has been issued there to all bloggers to debate " Exiting Iraq ". You can read their posts, including a good summary of options by Boileryard Clarke here, here and here. Many of them by other members of The Boileryard are quite critical and because I do want that side to have the strongest representation possible I'm also linking to recent commentary on Iraq by Collounsbury (here and here) and Juan Cole.

I supported the invasion of Iraq in public debate on H-Diplo and HNN( here and here) and still remain firmly convinced that it was the correct course of action even as I harbor immense bitterness about how badly the Bush administration has mishandled Iraq and jeopardized the entire war. Democracy is not likely to be realized in Iraq any time soon even if that country avoids sliding into civil war. Our position there is eroding and the insurgency is tying down too many military assets that we frankly need to tackle al Qaida in Pakistan ( yes, Pakistan) and if required, to deter Iran or North Korea from nuclear catastrophe.

War supporters like myself need to offer a harsh reassessment of the possible in Iraq and explain why reorganizing to move forward is so vital, something I will do in a subsequent post. The war on America quite simply will not stop because we do, our foes recognize no cease-fires and strike no bargains. This war is one that if left undone, will follow us home.

America does not have another year to stand still.
I know I for one am getting sick and tired of everyone and their dog singing the "we won the war but lost the peace" song. Stop. It's old. It's lame. The song sucked in the beginning and doesn't get better the more it's repeated, no matter who covers it. You sound just like John Kerry: "I wanted the President to go to war but didn't think he'd f*%k it up this bad." How exactly have we bungled things so badly? Did I miss the memo that just because some terrorist ignites a bomb the sun won't rise tomorrow? What was your brilliant plan that you expounded BEFORE the war that would have assured us of immediate victory over an amorphous and cowardly enemy in a country that's been physically and psychologically tortured for 30 years by a madman and in a state of disarray before then? How exactly do you propose to do things more effectively? Not differently, more effectively. What is so terribly flawed about a plan that produces a much needed regime change in a country avowedly hostile to America and the West at a human cost of less than we endured in a typical month in Vietnam or in ONE DAY on the beaches of Omaha? Perhaps you've been brainwashed by Big Media (like apparently half of the electorate has) and forgotton that this is a war. Things don't always go well in war. Ask the survivors of the Bulge or Tet. Things are unpredictable as they are, but that unpredictability is magnified by orders of magnitude in the fog of war. Not just battle, but war in general. Iraq won't slip into civil war or general mayhem, ass covering intel assesments aside (no alliteration intended.) Iraq will hold elections. The sovereign Iraqi government will assert effective control and with our help, defeat their (and our) enemies. Historians a generation from now will credit Bush the same way they did Reagan and possibly even Churchill or FDR before him as a visionary willing to take the risks necessary to see through the tough decisions that he's made.
Well Nem, I seem to have gotten your attention. ;o)

That was a preface, not the essay itself which I think, given your convictions, you will be much happier with once you read that( I hope to have it finished by Sunday)and judge my arguments in the entirety of their context.

I don't think we have "lost the peace" but I want us to restructure and reposition ourselves in order to go on the offensive again. Iraq was an important piece to the puzzle but it's not the only piece. In an unconventional war, which we are in, we need greater freedom and mobility to strike our transnational enemies even as we stabilize Iraq. We struck down Saddam but there are a number of other states - Iran concerns me most at present - that form the core of our strategic problems in this war.

As to what I would have done in Iraq, I would have begun with a strong military governorship and martial law -not the mix of CENTCOM, Iraq command, Garner-Bremer plus the odd assistant defense secretary flying in to Baghdad. Too many chiefs but no accountability ( I have heard this from an intel guy on the ground right now in Iraq who is very committed to the cause and can " blend" with the Iraqis. He has huge problems getting people in the chain of command to move on actionable intel on a timely basis. I trust his expertise).

Lastly, this is no brief for John Kerry, who is in my view, either a fool or a leftist poseur. Bush understands the strategic problem, it's the execution that I would like to see improved.
While I'm fairly new to your post, I have up until now always trusted your analysis. The problems with Monday morning quarterbacking and armchair generalling are that anyone can see the problems, say what they would have done differently and viola! your an instagenuis. While I would agree with your assesment of what we SHOULD have done, was anyone (including you) propounding this argument BEFORE the war? No? Then stop saying what we should have done in Iraq (just like the Left, you're arguing about a war we won over a year ago) and say what we should do in the future when other hostile regimes are replaced either by force of American arms or indigenous uprisings with our support. As for your intel friend's expertise, it's the same argument (no matter how true it is) levied against all command chains in all wars and in all peaces: it doesn't respond soon enough. I'll grant that (I'm familiar enough with large bureaucracies to understand the phenomenon.) But that doesn't mean our operations are an unmitigated disaster. Far from it. These cavills are tactical at best and distracting at worst. Are things getting better? Certainly? Will things be tough? Definitely? Are results happening because there's more competence rather than bungling in our handling of the whole affair? Without question.
"While I would agree with your assesment of what we SHOULD have done, was anyone (including you) propounding this argument BEFORE the war? No?"

Actually, in terms of the military governorship/MacArthur model I propounded that prior to the invasion on H-Diplo but that was in my pre-blogging days. The readership for an academic Listserv however is not as wide as on HNN or the blogosphere. In my articles on HNN I envisioned a tightly run occupation as we did with Germany and Japan.

My best guess is that aside from manpower cost of that kind of occupation there were deep and unresolved policy differences between State and DoD that prevented that robust model from being implemented. The CPA was meant to paper them over institutionally. Ultimately it would have been cheaper even if the price would be greater political " sticker shock " initially.
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