In Answer to Oliver

Following Lex’s advice, I e-mailed Michael Yon about an answer to our Oliver’s question on my previous post. Irene Pinsonneault responded that the best example was in Yon’s two-part dispatch:

1) Desires of the Human Heart I, which describes the respect with which the The 1-4 Cavalry from Fort Riley, Kansas take over the The Pontifical Babel College.


2) Desires of the Human Heart, II

In the latter, Yon observes:

Some people at home complain that we will lose more soldiers by putting more out with Iraqis. They probably are right. Heavily armed Iraqi police and soldiers have had hundreds of chances to kill me personally, and haven’t done so yet. They are not all our enemies.

Though we will almost certainly lose more soldiers by weaving them more tightly with Iraqi forces and people, this is a price we must be willing to face. I might feel guilty writing that we have to take these chances if I were not planning to stay out with them.

The new troops who are flooding into Iraq are coming with an entirely new plan in mind. They will move out into the neighborhoods. In each of nearly 80 neighborhoods, our people will make “Combat Outposts” and staff those with American and Iraqi forces or police.

These dispatches were from April 25 and April 30. Comments like this should have prepared us for more casualties in the early summer months; they also should have prepared us for the more positive news in the months following.

Picked up by other services, these describe areas in which many have abandoned their homes.  As Americans moved into emptied buildings, the commanding officers repeatedly gave orders of ways to care and renovate – they are clearly treating the buildings and what’s left not as the bounty of battle but see themselves as caretakers of the property of those who will return – e.g., look at the attitude toward the books of the college library.  (Of course, given that it was a battle area, one of the first things they do is set up a garbage site and haul off what they and the inhabitants see as trash.)

This is well after Petraeus has been confirmed – and well before the full component of the surge has arrived.

We have free will and some will act heroically and some will not when tested. However, we might ask how much better are we likely to act if we see ourselves through Michael Yon’s lens than if we see ourselves through Scott Thomas’s? And while I have no doubt that it is important to recognize the extent of human evil (which Yon, by immersing himself in the battle has a stronger notion and describes more horrifically than someone like Thomas), it is also important to recognize the extent of human good. Yon helps us all by describing those (American and Iraqi) who demonstrate human possibility.

11 thoughts on “In Answer to Oliver”

  1. Once the decision had been made to invade and occupy Iraq, the US military should have been involved with the people from the start. It would have helped if they had stopped the looting, had a plan for the reconstruction, had Iraq experts on their staff, had a plan for dealing with the Baath party and the military, been aware of the potential for civil war, and not retreated into the Green Zone and heavily fortified bases in the desert. Now they’re going to put overstretched and exhausted soldiers in exposed command posts in the neighborhoods. It’s too late….

  2. Marvelous Outraged. If you could only run the world – but I suspect you would only want to run it if you could run it backward and keep reshooting the scenes until you got it right. In your world WWII would have been over in 1939 and America need not have entered; in your world, the Civil War would have ended at Bull Run. In your world there was no plan because you didn’t see the script; since you didn’t see the script, you are sure others made mistakes that you would not have made. And, finally, to conclude: in your world it is over when you say it is over because you have no plan and no idea of how it can not be over. Others are just foolish enough to think they do.

  3. A very wide consensus is emerging among conservatives and liberals alike that the war was disastrously underplanned.

    The breadth of opposition to the war, and specifically to the Bush administration’s approach to starting and fighting it, is breathtaking and unique in American history. Not even in the worst days of the Vietnam war did so many in leadership positions in the military itself, along with conservative academics and mainstream media conservatives oppose the U.S. role.

    A common conservative defense of the war, in fact, is now that the failure was not in its genesis but in its astonishingly ineffective execution.

    I tend to think the war’s poor execution is of a piece with its preposterously hubristic conception.

  4. The ability to comment anonymously on Chicago Boyz reduces the credibility of comments – like those above.

    Long-held opinions appear in comments to be erudite evaluations, backed up by facts.

    Maybe it’s time for Chicao Boys to re-evaluate its policy of allowing commenters to post anonymously. Evidently some humans can’t resist the temptation to megalomania when their true identity is hidden from sight.

  5. A very wide consensus is emerging among conservatives and liberals alike that the war was disastrously underplanned.

    Comments by people without practical military experience.

    After literally years of planning and with the use of massive force, the allies were stuck on Normandy for over a month, falling way behind their projected progress lines every day. Why? Because even the professionals hadn’t anticipated the effect that the Normandy bocage countryside would have upon tactics, giving the defender a significant advantage. Given today’s environment demands for Ike’s sacking would have hit about week two.

    Strangely enough, the solution to the tactical problem was found by the common US soldier. While historians may argue who and exactly what unit gets credit for the innovation, it was one that happened at the lowest level. It still happens today and its an American trait.

    To make up for the now unusable Normandy exploitation plan, the allies adapted, modified, and overcame with a new Breakout plan. As Clausewitz, the military theorist espoused, war is friction. Things don’t usually go as planned. Those with ridge plans and expectations are more likely to fail.

    Gen. Buford: Meade will come in slowly, cautiously, new to command… And then, after Lee’s army is entrenched behind nice fat rocks, Meade will attack finally, if he can coordinate the army. He’ll attack right up that rocky slope, and up that gorgeous field of fire. And we will charge valiantly, and be butchered valiantly. And afterwards men in tall hats and gold watch fobs will thump their chest and say what a brave charge it was. Devin, I’ve led a soldier’s life, and I’ve never seen anything as brutally clear as this. Gettysburg, the movie, 1993

    There are a lot of men in tall hats with gold watch fobs back in, literally and figuratively, Washington today.

  6. The consequences of the Great Society program were complicated and sometimes counterproductive. Did that mean it wasn’t planned? Generally, I suspect, it meant that some of us lacked the imagination to see where it might go wrong and why – because we understood human nature too little and liked our plans too much. But, as Don’s example demonstrates, that, too, is likely to be true of any large endeavor. And rigid plans, given the variables, are seldom successful.

  7. Maybe it’s time for Chicao Boys to re-evaluate its policy of allowing commenters to post anonymously.

    On balance, we probably get worse comments from anonymous commenters. However, allowing anonymous comments also means that some extremely good comments are posted that might not be posted otherwise. Also, some low-quality comments get posted by people posting under their real names. And even people who usually leave unproductive comments occasionally leave a good one. I don’t think there’s a problem as long as commenters use consistent pseudonyms. If you don’t like a commenter, you can scroll past his comments. Ideally, readers would have as much control as possible and would make their own decisions in this area. (I would like to see a user-configurable “ignore this commenter” feature in WordPress.) In the meantime we usually leave it up to the common sense of the reader, with the caveat that some of the contributors here may have their own preferences WRT comments.

  8. As someone with practical military experience, surely Don understands the vasts differences between WWII and the invasion fo Iraq and, clearly, storming a beach in France with occupying a third-world country.

    I’m with Don as far as whether better planning may not have led to better results in Iraq. I tend to think that even if the U.S. had sent 300,000 troops as some had suggested, the outcome might not have been too different.

    I have a feeling that “deBaathification” might have been undertaken nonetheless and that Abu Ghraib would have happened anyway. Those were the events that doomed America in Iraq.

  9. Johnathan,

    I agree that the net value of anonymous posts is positive.

    For blogs that allow an outright “anonymous” post, the content of those is usually just a flame, no matter how long or short.

    But, if a pseudonym is held constant from post to post, and blog to blog, it is easy for readers to ignore posts that one learns are valueless. Yes, an “ignore this commenter” tag would save time for those of us who scan many blogs a day.

  10. John J. Coupal: There’s not much that I can do until someone writes a WordPress plugin that allows users to ignore comments by specified commenters.

  11. Outraged needs to study the CAP program in Vietnam, which was subject to the same criticism, but worked better than most US endeavors, for the reasons Zenpundit pointed out elsewhere – we got to punish our enemies and reward our friends more often and with more precision than the NVA did.

Comments are closed.