Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Lesson Unlearned and the Coming “New War”

Today's second article:

Although I have since gone into “retirement”, I come from a family of wrestlers. My dad, a grappler himself, would often impress upon me the benefits of proficiency with at least two moves. “You have to have a Plan A and a Plan B,” he would instruct, “and plan B can't be to try Plan A harder.” Wise words, and ones which apply to more than man's oldest sport, though I reckon George H. Bush never talked to his son about the virtues of having a Plan B. Faced with growing disappointment in Iraq—inevitable defeat really, but you can't say that—Bush orchestrated a troop surge. In other words, he tried Plan A harder. My old man would not be pleased.

The neo-conservatives are beside themselves with happiness—glorious slaughter, liberty marching ever onward, democracy triumphing, and all that. This is less than surprising. War mongers like war, and will always rejoice when blood shows slight promise of being shed. These are, after all, the same fellows who have been clamoring to bring on the Iranians for some time now.

More surprising are the comments of the (probable) next President of the United States, one Hillary Rodham Clinton: “[The surge is] working. We're just years too late in changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war." A bit surprising for leftists anyway, whose memories tend to reach as far as back at the first Clinton administration. But Democrats have been traditionally hawkish and Hillary is no exception. After all, she voted for “the last war”.

She concedes that trying Plan A harder is a good strategy, indeed, one that works. She even implies that throwing more troops into the battle is indicative of a change in tactics, something it assuredly is not. Then she reveals what she believes has been problematic with our empiric endeavor in Iraq. Absent is admission that the war was immoral because we were the aggressors. Missing too are any statements regarding the false pretenses upon which we were led into it. The leading Democratic presidential candidate, the ostensible standard bearer for those who are tired of Bush's interventionism, has one objection to the War in Iraq: we were too slow at changing tactics. In a word, the tragedy of the Iraq War was one of—mismanagement.

Now, everyone admits that the war was managed poorly. Bush failed—sorry, is failing—in his attempts to secure Iraq. But the United States military has never been particularly successful at fighting guerrilla style warfare; nor are they expert at keeping the peace in foreign lands, especially when the inhabitants are hostile. Unlike the Romans of antiquity or the British of a century ago, Americans lack the will to play empire, at least in the conventional sense. But this is no new lesson; anyone who has studied American history at an even ephemeral level was well aware of this. The sacrifice of the troops in Iraq has already been largely in vain; if we retain only this lesson, I fear their efforts will have been entirely so.

The real problem with the War in Iraq was that it was a war of aggression, and, thus, immoral. Even had Saddam been working on weapons of mass destruction, even had he teamed with Al-Qaeda, even had our endeavor succeeded and liberty and democracy spread like wild fire in the Middle East, the war would still have been wrong. That there were no WMDs, that the connections between Saddam and Al-Qaeda were dubious to non-existent, that liberty and democracy have not spread in the Middle East are interesting facts, but they are beside the point. As Ilana Mercer noted back in 2002, prior to the invasion of Iraq: “There is no moral argument for attacking a nation that has not aggressed against the United States.”

It doesn't sound like Hillary, or any of the other major Presidential candidates, understand this basic concept. Instead, “We have to keep preparing to fight the new war.” On Iran.

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