Iraq: A Bridge Too Far?

Update: US News & World Report has an extensive article on the involvement of Iran in destabilizing Iraq: The Iran Connection. Well worth reading.

I’ve got an increasingly sickening feeling that the war in Iraq is being lost. An insurgency can only be defeated by locals. All the firepower on earth will not avail you if you do not have the active support of the people on whose behalf you are fighting. This is self evident, really. They know who the insurgents are. They know when sabotage is being planned. They know when an ambush is being planned. They know. You don’t. Without them you simply can’t win.

More importantly, the indigenous population (the IP’s, in Viet Nam parlance) must be willing to lead the fight. In Iraq, the police seem unwilling even to defend their own police stations much less seek out and confront the terrorists and insurgents operating in their midst. The Iraqi national guard troops seem capable of little more than following behind the US Marines and patrolling the streets. Many, including commanders, seems to desert at the first hint of real trouble. Reports are that both the rank and file and leadership of the police and national guard are infested with informants and resistance sympathizers.

Here’re some excerpts from Zeyad at Healing Iraq:

The general situation in Baghdad these days is sinisterly reminiscent of the war. You keep hearing distant and sometimes not so distant thuds and explosions that make windows rattle. Helicopters hovering 24 hours a day almost at palm tree levels and jet fighters screeching high above with an increasing urgency that makes one cringe from apprehension. Electric power is almost non-existent and there has been a serious shortage in petrol since Tuesday, most gas stations have been closed for days and it’s hard to find even on the black market, which means less electrical generator time for Iraqi households.

Fighting seems to have spread to several areas in Baghdad, including my neighborhood. Haifa street, Dora, Amiriya, Khadhraa’, Bayaa’, Adhamiya and Zayuna districts have all witnessed clashes, mostly between hit-and-run armed groups and IP or NG’s. IED’s are all over the capital and several key roads and bridges have been blocked.

Nobody is following the situation in Fallujah anymore since the whole country seems to have plunged into chaos. There has been fighting in Ramadi, Khaldiya, Hit, Haditha, Garma, Abu Ghraib, Qaim, Mosul, Kirkuk, Hawija, Baiji, Tikrit, Samarra, Tarmiya, Balad, Muqdadiya, Salman Pak, Jurf Al-Naddaf, and most likely in dozens more areas that go unreported.

That from one of the most consistently optimistic and pro-western Iraqis I’ve read. Or how about this assessment from Newsweek magazine:

But the truth is, neither party is fully reckoning with the reality of Iraq—which is that the insurgents, by most accounts, are winning. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general who stays in touch with the Joint Chiefs, has acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks, NEWSWEEK has learned. The insurgents have effectively created a reign of terror throughout the country, killing thousands, driving Iraqi elites and technocrats into exile and scaring foreigners out. “Things are getting really bad,” a senior Iraqi official in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s government told NEWSWEEK last week. “The initiative is in [the insurgents’] hands right now.

A year ago the insurgents were relegated to sabotaging power and gas lines hundreds of miles outside Baghdad. Today they are moving into once safe neighborhoods in the heart of the capital, choking off what remains of “normal” Iraqi society like a creeping jungle. And they are increasingly brazen. At one point in Ramadi last week, while U.S. soldiers were negotiating with the mayor (who declared himself governor after the appointed governor fled), two insurgents rode by shooting AK-47s—from bicycles. Now even Baghdad’s Green Zone, the four-square-mile U.S. compound cordoned off by blast walls and barbed wire, is under nearly daily assault by gunmen, mortars and even suicide bombers.

Throughout much of Iraq, but especially in the Sunni Triangle at the heart of the country, U.S. troops are unable to control streets and highways, towns and cities. And allied Iraqi troops are simply not numerous, well trained or trustworthy enough. Attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces are now in the range of 100 a day; casualties among Iraqis are far greater. More than 900 policemen have been killed in the past year, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The Iraqi media have been targeted, too: in just the past three weeks, assassins have killed two Iraqi journalists, both female TV personalities. On Saturday, a car bomb detonated near Al Arabiya TV in Baghdad, killing seven.

Does this sound like a war that we’re winning? There is no possible way for 150,000 troops to control a country of 28 million without the active support of its inhabitants. And don’t tell me about the British Empire. This is not 1850. Today, support can stream in from across the globe to supply weapons and fighters to a guerrilla insurgency allowing them to wreak havoc for decades.

Why isn’t this happening in Afghanistan? Quite simply because there’s no support for it. For starters, twenty years of civil war have simply worn them out. More importantly, in Afghanistan, by contrast with Iraq, the war was led by Afghanis, with the US merely supplying the overwhelming firepower when needed. Finally, the international community, much as it pains many Americans to admit it, provided the necessary political framework for the war to succeed, from the political meetings held in Bonn, Germany, to the active help of neighboring countries like Russia, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. All of which are missing in Iraq.

I’m not optimistic. As I heard one commentator recently put it, Iraq may simply prove to be a bridge too far.

42 thoughts on “Iraq: A Bridge Too Far?”

  1. Michael, there is no need for you to be optimistic. Be as pessimistic as you like, if it makes you feel better. But people are giving their lives for the dream of a free, peaceful, and prosperous democratic Iraq, better people than you.

    There is a very large whine-chorus which you can easily join. Being a whine-o doesn’t lead to many good ideas for improving things, but it revs up the self-righteousness somehow.

    If you have no good ideas, simply say so and get out of the way. But if you use your negative message to shout down people who are trying to achieve a great thing–perhaps an impossible thing, but a great thing nonetheless–then you are part of the problem.

  2. I don’t think Michael was whining. I think he was constructively pointing out some problems he sees with the Iraq situation. I’m sure that Michael is as aware as you and I that there is little that we can do from here to suppress the insurgency in Iraq. I am not familiar with Michael’s posts, but I would be surprised to find anyone posting on here that was prone to useless whining about a sitiuation without at least expecting that the situation CAN be improved.

    Personally, this post struck me as an internal fear of the same nature as those I had prior to the election, late at night trying to posit what a Kerry Presidency would be like and fearing that enough of my fellow Americans would vote for him, not realizing how important Bush’s Presidency actually has been while allowing the controversy surrounding his first election color their entire image of him. I was most often optimistic about a Bush victory, but I did try to imagine a worst-case scenario so that I would be better prepared with the situation if it came to pass or more appreciative if it didn’t.

    It doesn’t cause harm to point out legitimate problems with a situation as long as they are both honest and reparable. I pointed out what issues I had with the Bush campaign and debates, all the while knowing that he could do better than he was and hoping that he would. Michael, I believe, was being constructive and not as destructive as our distinguished opposition has been this year.

    I hope that Michael is wrong on Iraq while recognizing that he has legitimate points.

    I suspect, hoewver, that this increased insurgent activity is more in anticipation of destroying Iraq’s elections than a general increase due to chaos and entropy.

  3. A price has to be paid.
    The Afgan’s appear to have been spared (bless them), it has falled to Iraq to host the great fight.

  4. Conrad, I don’t see any whining in Michael’s post. The question is: How do we bring this war to some kind of successful conclusion? The election is over. I was sure that Kerry would be a disaster, so I voted against him. But Bush gets no free pass, and he has not yet convinced me that he is not going to be a disaster, too.

    It is fair game to try to figure out what is going on and how likely we really are to win the war in Iraq. Whistling a happy tune to show our loyalty is not the right approach.

    If it is humanly possible to establish a decent Iraq by means of American military power, our soldiers will do it. If it is not literally impossible, they will do it. But I don’t know if they have been asked to the impossible, and like Michael, I fear they have been.

    Let’s not confuse support for our troops and support for a successful outcome of the war with some kind of groupthink where we can’t ask any hard questions or point to any bad facts.

    I think the key question is, if an attempt to establish a peaceful democracy is not working out — which even you, Conrad, say is a quite possibly unattainable — What is plan B? How do we impose some kind of stability over there so that we can make some long-term progress and enhance our security.

    The last thing I want is for our heroic soldiers, airmen and marines to have gone into danger, and in some case to their deaths or to life-destroying wounds, to have nothing good to show for their sacrifices. The American government and to some extent the American people betrayed the army that fought in Vietnam. I don’t want this army to be betrayed as well. That means, unlike in Vietnam, we don’t just accept the word of the civiliand and military leadership that all is well, the light is at the end of the tunnel. No, we need to continously demand facts and explanations.

    The people on this blog generally supported the war and mostly support the President and unanimously support our soldiers. But we want believable answers beyond generalities about how the United States and its allies are going to bring this war to some acceptable conclusion.

    You don’t get answers if you don’t ask.

  5. Conrad, I disagree with some of Michael’s points but he is certainly not shouting anyone down, and no one is preventing you from responding in the comments or in any other forum.

  6. Strategy page has this about the improving competence of the insurgencies in terms of combat skills and the reestablishment of Saddam’s security and spy network. The enemy is getting stronger.

    This does not mean we cannot win. It does mean that we had better figure out that we are facing a growing, not a diminishing, threat. We are not, now, today “winning”.

  7. Gotta disagree, Joe. Take a look at Elliot Cohen’s book, Supreme Command. The lesson there is the opposite of what you are saying. The so-called professionals often don’t know what they are doing. I am not referring to the tactical skill of our troops in the field. They are professional warriors. I would not dream of second-guessing the tactical decisions they make. But The senior military and political leadership should be held to constant, public accountability. This is not inconsistent with prosecuting a war successfully. To the contrary. Take a look at Winston Churchill’s war speeches in the House of Commons. He gave detailed reports, lengthy reports, with the good and the bad included. Adult citizens of a democracy are capable of understanding these issues, and can handle bad news, but not surprises when they’ve been told that things are going just great. It is not backseat driving. It making sure the people who work for you are doing their jobs. We are citizens not subjects, and Bush and all the four-stars in the Pentagon work for us, not the other way around.

  8. But people are giving their lives for the dream of a free, peaceful, and prosperous democratic Iraq, better people than you.

    That would be people like my son, who supported Apaches as a private contractor from Kuwait (after serving in Korea and Kosovo with the US Army) and my daughter’s boyfriend, who’s a sergeant in the Marines and is fighting in Fallujah as we speak. So spare me the self-righteousness if you don’t mind.

  9. Let the professionals do their job. Backseat driving will never get you to your destination.

    Joe, Lex beat me to it but let me add a few words. The problem we’re facing is not a tactical one, like how to take Fallujah (I have no doubt the Marines/Navy/USAF can crush any opponent in their path), it a political/strategic problem: how do you defeat a violent insurgency? We can crush every town in Iraq and not be any closer to solving the political problem.

    One of the primary reasons we failed to win in Viet Nam was that the South Vietnamese never took responsibility for winning the war. They simply sat back and assumed Uncle Sam was gonna win it for ’em. They took the shiny new guns and uniforms, the paychecks, the jeeps, all the trappings their American sponsors were handing out, but when the shit hit the fan all you saw of them was the dust from their heels as they retreated. I’m seeing the same thing from the Iraqis. Americans can’t be everywhere all the time. Iraqis have to take responsibility for winning. They’re not. We can’t win for them. We can only help them win.

    Another scary parallel I see with Viet Nam is what I’d call the propoganda war. We’re losing that big time. The war is across the globe as illegitimate. Now we can debate that point ad nauseum (I think it was, but so what?) but thoughout the Middle East the cause of Jihad is ringing in the air. We didn’t see that during Afghanistan except for a few of the most extreme outlets. In fact, I remember reading a quote from a Hamas(?) spokesman who was asked how he felt the US campaign in Afghanistan. He replied that AQ had attacked the US unprovoked, that the US had a right to defend itself, and that the US troops were providing new drinking wells for Afghanis. I remember being stunned when I read that. All the major players in the Middle East were either on board or neutral in the Afghan war. That made a huge difference. We’ve got the opposite situation in Iraq. These are political problems. There’s nothing the most experienced general can do to counteract them.

    I want this war to be won as much as the next person. But all the indicators I’m seeing are bad and getting worse. I expected an uptick in violence as the elections approached. What I also expected was to see Iraqis doing more to take back their country. They’re failing miserably.

  10. It’ll be disappointing, but not disastrous, if we have to do a long-term occupation.

    The strategic reason for getting rid of Saddam are as valid as ever. We need a way to put pressure on Iran and invade if need be to keep nukes out of the mullahs’ hands, and going direct from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia ain’t going to cut it. Containment was all well and good, but containment doesn’t last forever, and one thing more dangerous than a murderous dictator working on WMD’s is a murderous dictator working on WMD’s and gunning for revenge.

    So Iraq it is, insurgency or no insurgency. The good news is that we can keep this up until Hell freezes. Any conflict is over when the loser says it’s over. We can’t be forced from the field – we can throw in the towel, but if we don’t repeat the disastrous mistake of using conscription, we can have a lot more staying power than we did in Vietnam.

    For how long? As long as it takes.

  11. I’ve read your points and can understand what you are saying. I still disagree. Past wars are different. Strategy wasn’t being discussed with tactical reports on the 5:00 news. We’re one step away from poll tactics and strategy.

    Everyone knows what a camel is. The Vietnam war was a camel. No more camels.

    Let the professionals do their jobs. At both a tactical and strategic level.

  12. Need I say more than El Salvador, Nicaragua, Kosovo. All belied the experts.

    Again conventional wisdom, and may I add the USN&W, predicted El Salvador was doomed. The experts said that democracy would not take root against the terrorists. Then the experts also correctly called Nicaragua a lost cause. Need I speak of Kosovo? We could never get the situation turned around. How naive we Americans must be to second-guess the ever so intelligent Europeans who really understand the world.

    Sorry, victory demands confidence and determination. Fear of pain and disappointment are enemies of progress.

    Iraq is a mess as it should be after years of tyranny. The process of instituting a democratic government will take time. As for the assertion that there is limited Iraqi support for democracy – nonsense. Many Iraqi citizens are dying each day for this dream. Gallup finds that Iraqis remain hopeful for a brighter future where they can self determine.

    With that being said, I applaud the questioning (that initiated this thread) of our government and its leaders to ensure that they stay fully committed to liberty and justice. I only ask that we do not give up before we give an honest try.

  13. “What I also expected was to see Iraqis doing more to take back their country. They’re failing miserably.”

    What does it look like, exactly, Michael, when Iraqis are taking back their country?

    Me, I thought they are on their way as their new army is being raised and starting to participate in campaigns against the enemy, most recently seen in Fallujah. But it takes a lot of time to do this, and I certainly don’t expect to see an Iraqi army capable of indepedent operations for at least another year, ditto for internal security services.

    In the mean time, what do you expect to see? Mobs of irate Iraqis taking to the streets with pitchforks and torches? I don’t think one sees this even in successful counterinsurgencies. The fact that Iraqis continue to line up to join the police and army despite the attacks against those who do is a pretty encouraging sign.

  14. PS – my comment was repeatedly rejected for “questionable content” because, as it turns out, I used a bogus address for my email address. What is questionable about that? I am loathe to put a real address up there because I don’t want a bot to snag it.

    It seems just mentioning the common term for unsolicited email causes the post to be rejected. Weird.

  15. Calm. I can be calm. The election is over and I can be calm.

    No Time early doctors appointment. must go to bed.

    VietNam. No analogy. No North VietNam. No China No Soviet Union. No Supply lines. No NVA.

    Time frame. 18 Months. Will need most of next 4 years. Shia Areas Calm, Kurd area Calm. “Insurgency in sunni area.”

    Newsweek not to be cited as authority. Corrupt. Hip pocket of DNC. Bitter over election Dog in manger.

    Good Night.

  16. The occupation and the transformance of Iraq can be compared, I think, to the transformance of a group of raw marine recruits into a part of an effective fighting force.

    The thing that is most effective and needed is draconian discipline. The breakdown of old habits and responses are most quickly broken down in the recruit by strict adherence to a new order and deviance from desired behavior is summarily punished by the drill instructors. The Iraqui population should be (and should have been from the first days…ie looters shot on sight, etc.) treated like the marine recruits to get the job done. The people in Iraq are, in a sense, (drafted) recruits into the modern world
    of western democracies.

    Once the period of transformance (boot camp in the analogy of the recruits) new habits and confidence are installed and draconian measures can be relaxed to some degree.

  17. Difficulties? Go read about the Korean experience, the staying power of Korean troops, and the political difficulties. Because we didn’t get a traditional win out of the fighting, many commentators considered Korea to be our first lost war [though the Seminoles get that credit from my view]. It wasn’t till Korea achieved a stable democracy in the 1980s and the economic clout it has today, that people could grasp, that indeed we did win.

  18. Difficulties? Go read about the Korean experience…

    Don, I have read about Korea. Frankly, I think Korea has more in common with WWI & WWII than Iraq.

    Your point about how it takes for a country to rebound after a war is well taken though.

  19. VietNam. No analogy. No North VietNam. No China No Soviet Union. No Supply lines. No NVA.

    Robert, please do remain calm. I’m old enough to remember Viet Nam. I don’t make the analogy lightly. I don’t make it because it gives me pleasure or because I’m secretly rooting for an American defeat.

    I make it because I’m seeing some of the very same shortcomings in the Iraqis that led to our loss in Viet Nam. First and foremost is the Iraqi reluctance to get out in front of this fight. We can rehash the history of the Viet Nam war if you’d like, but I think it’s sufficient to say while the US consistently won their head to head engagements with the enemy, the South Vietnamese were never able to confront the enemy effectively and were never able to effectively retain control of large areas of their country. The SVA was also riddled with informants, making it almost impossible for them to operate and making it impossible for the US to work with the SVA for fear of comprimising their own operations.

    In short, I don’t see sufficient will among Iraqis to win. The US can chase the insurgents around forever, but until the Iraqis start taking responsibility for taking their own country back the war is not going to be won. I hope I’m wrong.

  20. Stevely,

    Sorry about the problem with your comment. That was my fault because I added the term “spam” to the comment filter yesterday. (I just removed it.)

    You can post a comment with or without your name, email address or URL. Comments only get blocked if they include (even in the name, email and URL fields) particular words or word fragments that match entries on the filter list. Sometimes, as in your case, the filter generates false positives.

  21. You don’t hear professional pilots in a damaged aircraft yelling “oh shit we’re doomed, woe is us, it’s hopeless!” and so on. Defeatism is contagious. And defeatism is self-fulfilling.

    “I don’t think we can win this one, fellows.” And sure enough, you can’t win it because your mind was on losing.

    Like others have said before, there are plenty of people who are screaming doom and gloom. We don’t need to keep adding voices to the dirge. Get a job with the MSM if that’s all you’re capable of.

    But if you want to post something worthy of this great blog, come up with something constructive. That would be refreshing.

  22. “scraming doom and gloom”

    Michael’s post is written in a calm tone.

    There has to be some middle ground between hating Bush and our troops and wanting Saddam back and — cheering for whatever is happening because what is happening must be great.

    Strategy Page is not, say, Kos or Atrios. But they say the insurgency is getting more adept and that Saddam’s old security network is alive and expanding. Dunnigan and his team are not a bunch of nose-ringed war protesters. That is one example. It is worrisome. If it is true it is serious and bad news. We had setbacks in World War II and we won it. But we didn’t pretend they were not setbacks.

    Our marines will win in Falujah. They won in Hue City, too. But we lost that war. I don’t want that to happen again.

    Look, Bush won the election. The public has voted to prosecute this war to a successful conclusion. I concur in that. Winning this war is now a policy with a mandate.

    These comments are not about how to “cut and run” they are about, how to win, how to know when, or if, we are winning.

    How exactly victory will be achieved, and what, realistically, the American people and their soldiers are up against, are open questions. It is fair and reasonable to ask these questions. I’d say that the larger strategy or proclaimed goals — a liberalized greater middle east as an end state — are also open to question and if necessary, revision.

  23. First of all, the election is not over. The election is at the end of January. Iraqi elections are what matters. Getting the people of Iraq to stand up and say, this is my government. They’ll be completely through with the transition process in early 2006 with a new constitution, a new government elected under that document, and indisputably masters of their own fate.

    From what I understand, the current situation with Iraqi forces is a bad situation getting better. The first time I saw reports about an Iraqi unit cutting and running it was about a unit that lost 2/3rds of its strength. The most recent time I heard it, during the Fallujah campaign, it was 1/4 disappearing. Having a fourth of your strength melt away when you hit combat is bad, very bad. It needs improvement and I have no doubt that everybody responsible is working hard that there will not be repeats.

    My perception of the trend line is that things are getting better, that another year of US training and NCO experience will drop the figures to numbers that can no longer be spun as disaster. It will take further time to identify and promote good men so that units will not only stand, they’ll fight effectively.

    Finally, the big unanswered question is whether the enemy is trying to run a slow motion Tet offensive on Iraqi election schedule. Are they sacrificing long-term military ability in order to try to kill elections? If they are, we’re going to see a lot of violence over the next year and then a flameout as they run out of fighters. I’m pretty much convinced that this is where we’re going to end up as long as we don’t lose our nerve.

  24. “Disaster spinning”, yes TM Lutas, that’s it exactly. A lot of people fall into the trap of spinning disaster, so much so that they forget how to do anything else. See that this excellent blog doesn’t fall into the trap.

    What you see in Iraq is the dreaded civil war, but few people seem to recognize it because it’s not an all-out war, but rather terrorist attacks. That’s because the US military is there and will squash any concentration of criminal Sunni terrorists that may gather.

    But with every terrorist criminal attack that kills Iraqis, the Sunni criminals are losing even the little Iraqi support they now have.

    This is what the disaster spinners seem incapable of understanding, through density or through obsession with their spinning, who knows? A real insurgency requires popular support. This criminal gang just don’t have it. And they won’t get it either, as long as they keep killing Iraqis and destroying a chance for a peaceful Iraq.

  25. Two comments:

    -In the political context, which is where this war is going to be won or lost, giving up on the idea of a democratized Iraq is cutting and running. It’s an admission of failure. That’s especially true now that the trend is, as TM Lutas points out, going our way, however slowly.

    -Don above mentioned Korea. Korea is worth remembering, not just because of how difficult it was but because we didn’t win. Certainly South Korea is a successful society, but the fact that we ended up in a stalemate that allowed the communists to regroup, rather than a decisive victory, is ultimately the cause of the current North Korean threat. There were reasons not to pursue the war against North Korea to a conclusion, and maybe they were good ones, but we are paying for them now, and we will pay even more if NK starts another war. Similarly, part of the cost we are now paying in Iraq results from our not destroying Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1991 when we had the chance. In this context it is extremely important not only that we win, but that we are seen to win on our terms before we leave. Anything less will encourage our enemies and potential enemies. I think that we will save the most lives in the long run by erring in the direction of excessive force.

  26. I should add that Ben makes a good point. The Fallujah insurgency is largely driven by Sunnis, who of all Iraqis stand to lose the most in a democratic system, relative to their status under the Hussein regime.

    I think it’s probably too late to partition the country (and the oil rights), though that might have been a good idea early on. What we should do, besides squashing the attackers to make clear that Sunni violence will not achieve its desired political goals, is to do whatever we can to encourage the current appointed Iraqi govt and its elected successor not to yield to majoritarian temptation to persecute the Sunnis. We have tried to do this, as evidenced by the varied ethnic makeup of the current governing council, but not everyone is going to believe it until after an election cycle or two (or more).

    The worst thing we could do would be to give up on Iraqi democratization and settle for some Musharraf-like dictator. That course of action would set the stage for endless inter-ethnic warfare and struggles for control of oil revenues.

  27. Again off-topic:

    Is it just me or hasn’t this whole thing moved awfully fast to be called a disaster yet? (It seems to me that real changes take a long time.)

    Don’t we need to keep in mind that oil is the devil’s excrement and/or that problems come to regimes that, as Friedman puts it, drill the earth instead of their people (see oil reserves as more important resources than the talents of their people). The Iraqis/the U.S. must begin with an awareness of that temptation–one probably as great as its promise.

  28. Rather than compare Iraq to Vietnam, it is best to compare Iraq to Iraq. The nation’s pre-Saddam history is replete with example of tribal chiefes fighting one another. Most of the population would just keep their heads down until a clear winner came out, to which they would express alleiance. To do anything beforehand would be too risky – after all, if your side lost, and you actively supported them, you and your family will become targets. So when you cannot take on the well-trained American troops, you attack the soft underbelly – the poorly trained Iraqi National Guard.

  29. Back on the 15th, ‘p’ mentioned Nicaragua and El Salvador. I think the intent was to claim they turned out badly, but…

    Let’s think Sandinistas for a minute. After the first election, Ortega lost but kept control of the bureaucracy, police and military. But the Sandinista party’s stranglehold on the government slowly withered, until it became, well, just another political party. Yes, it looks like they may do well in the next election, but that’s a far cry from making another Cuba on the Isthmus. Which is sort of what they were looking for.

    So what went right there? What made Central America stabilize before the Fall of the Wall? Was it simply elections? If so, Iraq may not be too far away from mending.

    I think there was more than that however. I think the Sandinistas became convinced that, unlike Vietnam, the US Congress wasn’t going to pull the funding. Well, we have a Republican Congress at the moment. Which means we seem to have 2 years at a minimum before Congress pulls the plug on the funding… Long enough? (long enough and just so long, tomorrow will not be too late…)

    On the other hand, the Sandinistas did not have a “Day of the Camel” to inspire them. The explosion of Islam, particularly through Persia, was a pretty spectacular victory against overwhelming odds. Almost as decisive as Subodtai beating Poland and Germany with 5K Mongols. I say “almost” because Subodtai was only trying for a diversion, since the real objective was Hungary. The invasion of Persia was intended to end in victory.

    Mythology is pretty important. In Iraq, we sort of have “Manifest Destiny vs. The Day of the Camel”. With a bit more support for Manifest Destiny, i think Michael’s morale might be a bit better. Unfortunately, Iraq, like Vietnam, is a war the US MSM is desperate to see us lose.

    But remember, we don’t have to be Iraq’s best friend in the world, and they don’t have to back us like Britian. A stable country with regular elections that does not pay the families of suicide bombers would not be such a bad result.

    Ginny: No, it is never too fast to call a situation a disaster if it means spreading mud on the face of someone you disagree with. At any rate, it works that way if you are a journalist…

    Matya no baka

  30. The press is certainly doing its best to make one heat-of-battle shooting incident (that doesn’t look unreasonable to me) into the next Mai Lai. That’s likely to get Americans killed, especially if the govt is stupid enough to try to buy media love by making an example of the Marine who was involved. The last thing our guys need is to worry about being prosecuted if they don’t give treacherous wounded enemies the benefit of the doubt.

  31. I think what has to be brought into the equation is the MSM. They are one of the main reasons the Vietnam war was lost and they are at it again. We really need to get the MSM to at least offer us some of the good news as well as the bad news from Iraq. They are effectively a fifth column for the Islamofascists and we need to find a way to get them back to reporting both sides of the story. The only way to get any idea of the good things our troops are doing and the support we are getting from the Iraqis is to go to the web. Even here we get some people telling us only the bad news.

    If the people of the US are to support our troops and give them the backing they need to finish the job, we need to at least get some idea of both sides of the picture in Iraq. From the MSM we do not get even an inkling of it. It seems as if they are hell bent on losing the war for us through the press. We are to be spared the pictures of the terrorists beheadings but we are shown over and over the US Marine who shot a terrorist the day after other Marines were killed by wounded terrorists blowing themselves up. Just what we need! Our boys are animals and worthless killers, murderers of the poor “insurgents” and they are the Minutemen of their country (the fact that they are Syrian or Iranian means nothing). We will end up with the creeps from ANSWER standing at the places where the US troops return from Iraq and spitting on them and calling them baby killers just like after Vietnam and all because of the MSM doing their worst again. A few of the reporters are doing good work, but all too many are looking for a “gotcha” against the military because they hate the military. The bosses send reporters who know nothing about the soldiers to report on them and then take the results as gospel. We are indeed being ill-served by our media these days.

  32. I blame the Bush administration for not constantly and actively making its case to the American people. Instead they have abandoned the field to the MSM not counting W once in a while saying “we will stand firm” or something vague like that. There should be a press conference at the White House where the fact that the terrorists are routinely violating the laws of war is hammered home. Our Marines are fighting an enemy that feigns wounds or is actually wounded and then suicides to kill his rescuers. This is as bad as what the Japanese did in WWII. If that is playing field, we should play on it. If an enemy is moving, shoot. If he is surrendering and wounded, but disobeys instructions in any way or makes any false move, shoot.

    The MSM is what it is. It won’t change. It is up to the administration to get into the fray. They are failing to do this. There is no excuse for this. These Marines are expending their lives. Bush and his team could expend some time and effort and policial capital supporting them.

    The MAIN FRONT in the war is the American mind and will. The enemy is the terrorists and their allies in the MSM. Bush needs to wage this war with the appropriate weapons against both enemies or we will lose.

  33. Yes, Bush has done a poor job at handling the critical rhetorical side of the war. As Thomas Sowell points out, by removing from his unit the Marine who shot a wounded terrorist, the Administration makes clear to our troops that they will be second-guessed and will be not receive the support they deserve. By not conspicuously publishing on the Internet photos and videos of the terrible things the troops are finding in Falluja, the Administration concedes the narrative to the anti-war media. (It’s no accident that the MSM are as loath to show images of Falluja torture rooms as they are of Sept. 11.) Press conferences alone are not enough, though Bush should use them more to make his case. Bush should give more speeches, and should send more surrogates out to do the same thing. It’s important, but not enough, to have a good argument. It’s also necessary to repeat that argument over and over. That’s what the Left has long done successfully in its subversion of our culture via mass media and entertainment. That’s what the Bush administration needs to do now to bolster public support for this necessary war.

  34. I agree with all of that and more.

    The woman who was just murdered on video is not news to the MSM. Why? It would help Bush if people knew what these terrorists are all about. Al Jazeera is not showing it.

    Condoleeza Rice should call a press conference, make them all sit down, and show the video on a wall-sized screen of her being shot in the head and make them watch it. Then, say, “this is what we are fighting”.

    Then, have this picture on the screen for the rest of the press conference, wall-sized.

    In fact, I think that she should do it more than once. When she has them sit down and watch it the third time, they’d say “how many times are you going to make us watch this?” She could say, “I don’t know. If you don’t like looking at it send someone else. How many times am I going to have to explain to you what this war is about?”

    I mean these as a literal suggestions. The MSM is the most powerful weapon in the enemy arsenal.

    A very aggressive strategy of media manipulation and creating media events which show the evil of the enemy and the active cooperation of the MSM would be a good strategy.

  35. Yeah, whatever the MSM and al Jazeera don’t want to show, our govt should go out of its way to show, repeatedly. And not just at press conferences, where it’s too easy to bury because the MSM ultimately control what the audience sees. Put it all on the Web. Make a website just for this purpose. Hire someone like Patrick Ruffini to run it. Make sure it’s available in Arabic and other languages too.

  36. “The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.”

    We have been in Iraq for 18 months. We were in Vietnam for more than 11 years. 1963 Assassination of Diem to 1974 Evacuation of Siagon.

    The Iraq War is not like Vietnam. There is no North VietNam. There is no China. There is no Soviet Union. There is no HoChiMihn Trail.

    More importantly. The time frame is off. If Iraq is Vietnam. It is 1964 and we have already had Tet.

    I also think that this is going to be a long process and that no firm judgments can be made for quite some time. I have been amazed at the number of people who are willing, on the basis of the trickle of information available in the highly partisan and tendentious MSM, to make judgments that should not be made for years.

    We had a 100,000 soldiers in Germany for 60 years. We will probably do the same in Iraq. We will be in trouble if we are fighting the same type of battles in 2 years that we fought last week. But I don’t thing that we will be. The plan is to train an Iraqi Army and bring it along. When they are capable of defending the country against insurgents, our soldiers can be in garrison to guard against Iran, Syria and Arabia.

    We are not there yet, but we were able to bring iraqi units with us into Falluja. That was more than we could do in April.

    Time. Patience. Time. Owls. Dusk. Time. Patience.

  37. Robert, I never claimed Iraq was just like Viet Nam. I’m simply pointing out that one of the big problems we had with the South Vietnamese, and the major reason we lost that war, we’re also having with the Iraqis. I hope I’m proven wrong.

  38. The description of South Vietnamese forces is inaccurate – by the time US ground forces had been withdrawn the RVN forces were well-trained, well-armed, and competent. They did, after all, repel a major North Vietnamese invasion in 1972 with the help of US air and naval support. By the time of the 1975 invasion Congress had cut off US material aid and prohibited air and naval support. Even then the RVN forces fought valiantly until their government decided to cede large swaths of northern South Viet Nam to the enemy, thus precipitating the panic and subsequent rout of RVN forces.

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