Skip to comments.Victor Davis Hanson: Triangulating the War, Yesterday’s genius, today’s fool, tomorrow’s what?
Posted on 01/14/2005 6:07:02 AM PST by Tolik
Do we think other wars were easy?
Platitudes follow: "We can't just leave now," followed by no real advice on how a fascist society can be jumpstarted into a modern liberal republic. After all, there is no government handbook entitled, "Operation 1A: How to remove a Middle East fascist regime in three weeks, reconstruct the countryside, and hold the first elections in the nation's history all within two years." Almost all who supported the war now are bailing on the pretext that their version of the reconstruction was not followed: While a three-week war was their idea, a 20-month messy reconstruction was surely someone else's. Yesterday genius is today's fool and who knows next month if the elections work? Witness Afghanistan where all those who recently said the victory was "lost" to warlords are now suddenly quiet.
Massive construction projects were hogged by gargantuan American firms, ensconced in the Green Zone that did not engage either local Iraqi workers or small companies and thus squandered precious good will. Or, indigenous contractors proved irresponsible and unreliable, evidence for why Iraq was in such bad shape to begin with. And when we did put exclusive reliance on them, it ensured only lackadaisical and half-hearted reconstruction.
We also lost hearts and minds by using GPS bombs to obliterate houses full of killers and take out blocks of insurgents. And yet we lost hearts and minds by failing to act decisively and de facto turning over large enclaves to terrorists and Saddamites whom we were afraid to root out. Elections should have been held earlier; no, they must be delayed since they come too soon when the country is still unsecured.
Our helmeted soldiers with sunglasses are holed up in enclaves, don't mingle, and perpetuated the heavy-handed image of snooty occupiers. But leaving the Green Zone is an open invitation to kidnapping and worse. So we are both too well hidden and yet not hidden enough. Embedded media gave us a real-time picture of the fighting. But (if one is conservative) it left open the opportunity for sensationalism on the part of wannabe crusaders, and (if one is liberal) it created too close a psychological bond with the soldiers that impaired objectivity.
It was a mistake to postpone Iraqi sovereignty for so long; but it is an equal mistake to rush into elections while the country is so insecure. The CIA is impotent, out-of-touch, and clownish; somehow it mind-controlled Allawi, Chalabi, and a host of other Iraqi "puppets."
The litany from the mercurial Beltway always goes on: There were enough troops to take out Saddam in three weeks, but not enough to restore order to the countryside but still too many that resulted in too high an American profile on the streets of Baghdad. The transformations of Donald Rumsfeld (this week's genius, last week's fool) have left us stripped down and bereft of the muscle needed. Yet new, more mobile brigades in strikers and special forces with laptops are preferable to old armored divisions on the streets of Iraqi.
We cannot flee, but must not stay. Iraqis publicly say we should leave, but privately beg us to remain. We were after cheap oil, but gas prices somehow climbed almost immediately after we went in. Democracy won't work with these people, but somehow we are seeing three elections in the wake of the Taliban, Arafat, and Saddam.
There are many constants in all this pessimistic confusion beside the fact that we are becoming a near hysterical society. First, our miraculous efforts in toppling the Taliban and Saddam have apparently made us forget war is always a litany of mistakes. No conflict is conducted according to either antebellum planning or can proceed with the benefit of hindsight. Iraq was not Yemen or Qatar, but rather the most wicked regime in the world, in the heart of the Arab world, full of oil, terrorists, and mass graves. There were no helpful neighbors to keep a lid on their own infiltrating jihadists. Instead we had to go into the heart of the caliphate, take out a mass murderer, restore civil society after 30 years of brutality, and ward off Sunni and Baathist fomenters in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria all the while keeping out Iranian-Shiite agents bent on stopping democracy. The wonder is not that there is violence and gloom in Iraq, but that less than two years after Saddam was removed, elections are still on track.
Our armored vehicles were deathtraps and only improved days before the surrender. American torpedoes were often duds. Unescorted daylight bombing proved a disaster, but continued. Amphibious assaults like Anzio and Tarawa were bloodbaths and emblematic of terrible planning and command. The recapture of Manila was clumsy and far too costly. Okinawa was the worst of all operations, and yet was begun just over fourth months before the surrender without any planning for Kamikazes who were shortly to kill 5,000 American sailors. Patton, the one general that could have ended the western war in 1944, was relieved and then subordinated to an auxiliary position with near fatal results for the drive from Normandy; mediocrities like Mark Clark flourished and were promoted. Admiral King resisted the life-saving convoy system and unnecessarily sacrificed merchant ships; while Bull Halsey almost lost his unprepared feet to a storm.
The war's aftermath seemed worse, to be overseen by an untried president who was considered an abject lightweight. Not-so-quite collateral damage had ruined entire cities. Europe nearly starved in winter 1945-6. Millions were on the road in mass exoduses. After spending billions to destroy Nazi Germany we had to spend billions more to rebuild it and repair the devastation it had wrought on its neighbors. Our so-called partisan friends in Yugoslavia and Greece turned out to be hard-core Communist killers. Soon enough we learned that the guerrillas in the mountains of Europe whom we had idolized, in fact, fought as much for Communism as against fascism but never for democracy.
But at least there was clear-cut strategic success? Oh? The war started to keep Eastern Europe free of Nazis and ended up ensuring that it was enslaved by Stalinists. Poland was neither free in 1940 nor in 1946. By early 1946 we were already considering putting former Luftwaffe pilots in American jets improved with ample borrowing from Nazi technology to protect Europe from the Red Army carried westward on GM trucks. We put Nazis on trials for war crimes even as we invited their scientists to our shores to match their counterparts in the Soviet Union who were building even more lethal weapons to destroy us. Our utopian idea of a global U.N. immediately deteriorated into a mess decades of vetoes in the Security Council by Stalinists and Maoists, even as former colonial states turned thugocracies in the General Assembly ganged up on Israel and the survivors of the Holocaust.
After Americans had liberated France and restored his country, General de Gaulle created the myth of the French resistance and immediately triangulated with our enemies to reforge some pathetic sort of French grandeur. An exhausted England turned over to us a collapsing empire, with the warning that it might all turn Communist. Tired of the war and postbellum costs, Americans suddenly were asked to wage a new Cold War to keep a shrinking West and its allies free. The Department of War turned into the Department of Defense, along with weird new things like the U.S. Air Force, Strategic Air Command, Food for Peace, Alliance for Progress, Voice of America, and thousands of other costly entities never dreamed of just a few years earlier.
And yet our greatest generation thought by and large they had done pretty well. We in contrast would have given up in despair in 1942, New York Times columnists and NPR pundits pontificating "I told you so" as if we were better off sitting out the war all along.
So we are inching ahead as global television soon will air an elected and autonomous government fighting fascists for the chance of democracy. If the Kurds and the Shiite majorities vote for us to leave, then we must but to do so would be to ensure the return of the Baathists, the domination of Wahhabi fundamentalism, or the Lebanonization of the country. And so they probably won't. There is much talk of an Iranian takeover, but no evidence that an Iraqi Shiite sees himself as more an Iranian than an Arab.
All this we cannot see at the present as we in our weariness lament the losses of almost 1,100 combat dead and billions committed to people who appear from 30-second media streams to be singularly ungracious and not our sort of folk. We dwell on unmistakable lapses, never on amazing successes just as we were consumed with Afghanistan in its dark moments, but now ignore its road to success. But never mind all this: The long-term prospects are still as bright as things seem gloomy in the short-term but only if we emulate our grandfathers and press on with the third Middle East election in the last six months.
Satisfying learning BUMP!
VDH: Get a grip, people!!
Flight groups separated and instead of all coming in from one direction as planned, came in from three directions at 100' to 50' off the ground, flying toward and amongst each other as bombs, incendiaries and German guns all worked against the mission. Five MOH awarded on a single mission that was both an Allied disaster and an Allied victory.
The German defenders called it the most amazing flying exhibition they had ever seen. They actually thought it was done that way on purpose!
A slap upside the head with a reality fish is a good thing.
Reading the pages of foreign-policy journals, between the long tracts on Bush's "failures" and neoconservative "arrogance," one encounters mostly predictions of defeat and calls for phased withdrawal always with resounding criticism of the American "botched" occupation.
I look forward 5-6 years from now when Iraq is a free society too reading in these same journals how they were wrong and how George Bush and his team actually knew what they were doing.
When in trouble
or in doubt,
run in circles,
scream and shout.
Bump for later....
Thank you for posting this.
If every sane American could read this, the President's poll numbers on Iraq would turn around overnight. Somebody send it to the White House, for pity sake!
I love the sound of squealing leftys in the morning. It reminds me of...victory
"Ping" to Victor Davis Hanson on Bush, Iraq and his critics.....