Thursday, August 19, 2004

Its always personal

War is a strange beast that affects us even if we are not on the front lines. My cousin was recently shot in Iraq and even though I am miles away as he recovers in Germany, I find myself thinking more and more of his situation and it became his situation in the first place.

My point is that a war of any significant duration will affect the lives of an entire nation. With this impact on the populace, as well as the enormous cost in real dollars and lives, it would seem that war should be the last choice of any administration. War should be the last tool of diplomacy and at times it is a necessary tool. However, I do not feel it was proper in Iraq.

It was clear that Iraq was not a clear danger to the United States, North Korea had the inside track on global danger at that time and for my money still does. Maybe they were sponsoring terrorism but if that is the rationale then we should have troops in Syria, Saudi country side and numerous sub-Saharan African nations. But for reasons that are best known by the Bush Administration a path was forged to pursue a war with Iraq. This was wrong and not just in hindsight.

It appears to me that our current administration did not use war as the last tool of diplomacy. Rather, they used the tools of diplomacy to justify a war. Mr. Powell was sent to the U.N. with the purpose of convincing the security counsel that Iraq was a danger to the international community and war was necessary. He put his own considerable credibility on the line to present this message. The U.N. refused to give us a rubber stamp, like the U.N. really matters anyway -- but that is another story. So we go anyway. Thousands are killed -- mostly Iraqi. Families shattered, towns and cities destroyed and power struggles ensue. All the positive imagery that wars are made of. Well not all the images, dead soldiers are not allowed to be filmed when they arrive at Dover, AFB.

Then we find out there are no weapons of mass destruction, a sanitary term used to describe a collection of very ugly things like blood agents, nerve gas, and other bio-toxins.

A big deal was made of these WMD. However, almost every nation in the world has WMD's and not just former soviet block nations. This is not a reason to put troops on the ground -- if the object was democracy through the barrel of a gun well maybe that is different. (It would probably make Mao proud) But Iraq was probably the only nation in the region without WMD's, because the U.S. embargo had actually worked.

In the end, I am offended that my government disrespected our soldiers by not using war as the last tool of diplomacy. I am offended that my cousin was sent to war where there was no clear exit or occupation plan. I am offended that the planners decided to "experiment" with the effectiveness of a small number light troops rather using methods proven to work. In short, what I see is Vietnamization in the prosecution of regime change in Iraq. In essence a propped up government that is beholden to a foreign power for its sovereignty. I don't believe I am in the minority any more in my criticism of the government on Iraq. It is personal for me and I respectfully disagree with my government's handling of this situation.

1 comment:

Christian Johnson said...

Hey Rob. Good comments. As a person who has friends and family in the line of fire, I too find this to be a personal issue. My friends in action are a little more gung ho than you, but I share some of your reservations.

I do think that the Vietnam thing is overblown though. Yes, we are now in Urban warfare, yes there was an oppressive regime. But what I see as the big difference here is that in Vietnam we had an existing civil war (both religious and political in nature) with a well organized and entrenched terrorist force the Viet Cong. Whereas in this case we co-opted the equivalent by having Kurdish and Shiite support. Not complete support, but a great deal. In addition, we ensured that the Sunni contingent would retain some power. So Vietnam this isn't, but this still is the Middle East and as we know every village is a new country there so it has its own unique problems.

My largest problem was the DOD's trust in Chalabi. They essentially assured us, and the President, that this guy knew everybody and everything and that he would be a natural new leader. They were wrong and it cost lives during the occupation, an occupation that was deadlier than the initial conflict. I understand plans change, but that was ridiculous. If by more sensitive, Kerry meant that he would have looked more carefully into reconstruction then that is exactly what was needed.

I also agree with your criticism of Rumsfeld's unnatural affection for the special forces capabilities. I have a buddy who is in a Marine Recon unit and know that he is an extremely capable individual. Special Forces are great for surgical strikes, but what about conquest and occupation? How do you retain what is taken? You can't with special forces. You need Mechanized Infantry and the beloved Bradley and Armored Divisions. I dunno, maybe Rummy never read his Caesar, Sun Tsu, or Clauswitz. Probably not.