Deo volente.

Republican Dissatisfaction … with the GWOT

Ace is part right …

Why Are Conservatives So Down On The GOP? … The reasons offered, usually, are immigration, overspending, corruption, and general political ineptness. But I wonder about that. At least, I wonder about the first three. One that’s not mentioned as frequently is the War in Iraq. Which I think is more of a factor in conservative disatisfaction that many conservative war-supporters are willing to admit, perhaps even to themselves.

Good so far.

I also wonder if the War in Iraq has an effect. The war isn’t going well. We expected a fairly quick war and a fairly quick occupation; we got the former, but definitely not the latter.

See, I differ. I don’t think the issue is that the War isn’t going well. I’m not sure that any clear thinking person expects perfection or even competence in a war. War is a messy business, not least because fighting one successfully is at least as much art as science. An assymetrical war, which the Global War on Terrorism is, at least in part, has never really been fought on this scale with this technology. There is a learning curve for us that is driven by our enemies.

But The Battle of Iraq is certainly not assymetrical, at least in its essentials. Our strategy seems to be to localize the enemy, bring him out in the open, set the terms of his defeat. It is an attempt to negate the assymetrical character of our enemy’s tactics and turn this into a war drawn along lines. And we have been largely successful – enemy deaths are up, his ability to wage assymetrical war worldwide is down. He has had to concentrate his resources – men, money, materiel – in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. He has had to fight pitched battles in Fallujah, Kirkuk, Mosul where for a period of time we could engage the enemy “out in the open” (or “out in the streets”) where America is stronger, faster, and better.

For all of this, the enemy is stubborn, resourceful, and has a deep bench. When the “insurgency” in Iraq ran dry with the locals, they imported it from Syria and Iran and the Phillipines. For all their bluster, Al-Quaeda and the Shi’a states of Iran and Syria bought the premise that Iraq is a central battleground in the GWOT, and they poured in to stop America. They didn’t have to fight together – they were fighting in the same area against a common foe.

Put another way, if Iraq had been quick, it wouldn’t have had the chance to be decisive. And because it is decisive, it simply wasn’t going to be quick.

If Iraq had really been over in 3 months, the battlefield would have moved – perhaps to Sudan or Somalia, perhaps to the Phillipines, perhaps to Pakistan, perhaps to Indochina, perhaps to Tunisia, or Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan. Perhaps even Turkey. And then the Democrats would be crying that we couldn’t bring the enemy to the battlefield, that we were chasing our tails, &c.

So let’s be clear: both we and our enemies believe that The Battle for Iraq is central to the GWOT (everybody agrees except the Democrats). So this Battle is not only decisive in and of itself, but to the larger War. It is decisive in the same way that Midway was decisive – the elusive enemy made a strategic calculation and tactical mistake and has suffered losses that are crippling. Or they should be.

What didn’t happen – and what conservatives, RINOs, and Republicans are mad about – is that we didn’t do what was easily within our power to win what we could once we made the battle decisive. We have not

  • Engaged Syria – we could have diplomatically or militarily engaged, cut off, and diminished Syria as a threat. Given that Syria was both a base for the Insurgency, a freeway for Hezbollah, and a threat to Israel, this would have been a potential move that would have furthered our regional advantage and brought the war closer to being completed
  • Strategically and decisively engaged Iran – There are many accounts of Iran sending insurgents into Iraq as early as the Summer of 2003. They clearly have pulled Syria’s and Hezbollah’s strings. They have engaged America and the West by proxy at every opportunity. Certainly decisive diplomatic or military action was warranted in 2003 when America and Iran first started going toe to toe. Instead we chose to allow the enemy his facade.
  • Destroyed the Iraqi Insurgency – This was militarily possible by doing one of the above, or by curfews, or by assassinations, or by effective control of Iraq. We chose to nurse the crippled democratic Iraq along, letting her have the successes. There was a cost.
  • Destroyed the regional non-state actors that are puppets of Syria, Iran, etc. – It was a reasonable expectation that having established an effective beachhead in the region that we would be able to strike at the non-state actors therein. Based in Iraq, SEALS and other SpecOps were within striking distance of every major terrorist organization. Not all of them are hiding in caves in Pakistan – I bet you could look Hezbollah up in a phone book in Tehran.
  • Eliminated the regional non-state powers supporting Terrorism as threats – It was not unreasonable to expect a severe restriction on, say, the House of Saud’s support of Al Quaeda or Wahabbiism, no matter how unofficial. Fatah and Hamas should have ceased to exist as regional centers for funding. The Palestinian state should have remained on a wish list until a more apropriate time.

You can put all of the successes that you want against that list. Had we or our allies done any two effectively, Republicans would feel justified in the course of the war. People would have accepted as the nature of this war another attack on America – as long as we were taking 100 of the enemy to their graves every day. We’re not talking about democratizing (in the short term) or about saving Israel. We are talking about winning. Patton was right:

[Y]ou are here because you are real men and all real men like to fight. When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.

So Ace is missing the salient point.

So I wonder if there’s a bit of buyer’s remorse here, magnifying the GOP’s failings on other issues due to a possibly-unconscious need to lash out at Bush for the continuing chaos and violence in Iraq.

It’s neither the battle nor the occupation nor the war nor the casualties nor the timeline – it is the way that Americans are fighting. Americans fight to win. When we are not fighting to win, we ask why not. When we our leaders who were fighting to win suddenly stop fighting to win, they lose our support.

People would be fine with an extended occupation if we could point and say, for example, “Hezbollah ceased to be an effective organization” or “Iran chose to go nuclear. Iran chose wrong.” People would have accepted a major strategic initiative in the Phillipines or in the Tri_border area if it had been to engage the terrorists decisively. To win. Americans would have supported greater intrusion in American phone records and bank accounts if it would have led to arrests, convictions, incarcerations, and executions for treason. That would have been decisive. People would have been fine with more troops in Iraq if it had been to engage the Syrian border – decisively. To win.

But we are losing, or have lost, whatever decisive characteristic the Battle of Iraq had.

The Generals of WWII knew a little more about PR than most people give them credit for. MacArthur knew that he had to island hop to Japan, and he told the press that he had to island hop to Japan, and the people accepted that this was the course of the war and he island hopped to Japan. It was a long, bloody business. But it was also goal-oriented and decisive. When we took Iwo Jima, it was definitively gave America an air base within striking distance of both Okinawa and Japan. People understood that.

People also understood Iraq. You could almost sense the “Good … we’re taking the fight to the enemy.” And a hard fight was expected – remember the surprise when Sadaam’s forces collapsed (again). And people expected an insurgency – remember Sadaam’s hand picked insurgency which we kept hearing about in June and July- the Fedajeen? Baathist money was flowing in the country inciting rebellion against the evil imperialists, etc. We were told to expect the insurgency. But we were ready to stay the course. To win.

Look at Israel this summer. Remember the sense of relief when Hezbollah pulled the trigger. “Ah, at last, Bush will unleash the dogs of war, even if only by proxy.” Nope. A bunch of people got killed, and the only thing people hate more than their war dead are war dead who died in vain.

I’m not saying that Iraq was wrong, and I’m not saying it’s wrong now. But what was clearly a leap into the heart of the enemy is … still … going … on … We’re not leaping to the next fight. We’re not taking the fight to the enemy. We’re not winning. And when you’re not winning a war, you are losing. And Americans are simply asking not was Iraq right or wrong, but are we still fighting to win?

It’s as if Bush decided to listen to his critics. The daring and determination that we saw in 2001, 2002, 2003 went away. The active impatience with the UN was replaced with a quiet acceptance of process. The active seeking of the enemy was replaced with a slow churn. The Supreme Court found Guantanamo unconstitutional and Bush accepted that. The NY Times found SWIFT subpoenas unconstitutional, and Bush accepted that.

And Bush reined in Rumsfeld who acted decisively. He reined in Cheney who seemed to steer a decisive path. He let Frist run the Senate. And he reined in Israel, who in our stead could have struck a decisive blow for the West. Conservatives of all stripes are mad at the Republicans because they started acting like a party in power instead of a war party. The rest is anecdote.

And if you want proof, watch the newly conservative Britain or the resurgent Australian administration – the conservatives will win in those countries because they are acting like conservatives.

One more quote by Patton:

“Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin”, he yelled, “I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!”


October 13, 2006 Posted by | Battle of Iran, Battle of Iraq, Battle of Israel, GWOT | 4 Comments

German ReArmament after WWI and Iran

I have just started reading Chuchill’s History of the Second World War. It is fascinating in particular to read The Gathering Storm, the portion of the history from 1919 until 1938 or so. He goes into great detail about the German re-armament.

After discarding the majority of the WWI military technology to appease the rest of Europe, Germany engaged in a strengthening of its officer corps and put in place an extensive program to modernize factories. When the time came to recruit the majority of the 63 or so divisions that existed on paper, the country was ready with training and infrastructure. When it came time to throw off the restraining limitations on the Navy, the shipyards were prepared with advanced machinery to make advanced weaponry.

The statement was made, and I’m paraphrasing, that the country unfettered by old technology would have a huge advantage at the beginning of the next war. Consider this in the light of Iran.

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August 23, 2006 Posted by | Battle of Iran, GWOT | Leave a comment

The Iraq Partition Question – Iran Benefits

Stratfor, via Ace:

In [Stratfor’s] view, the fundamental question was whether the Sunnis would buy into the political process in Iraq. We expected a sign, and we got it in June, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed — in our view, through intelligence provided by the Sunni leadership. The same night al-Zarqawi was killed, the Iraqis announced the completion of the Cabinet: As part of a deal that finalized the three security positions (defense, interior and national security), the defense ministry went to a Sunni. The United States followed that move by announcing a drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq, starting with two brigades. All that was needed was a similar signal of buy-in from the Shia — meaning they would place controls on the Shiite militias that were attacking Sunnis. The break point seemed very much to favor a political resolution in Iraq.

This is a good analysis on several levels. It highlights the concrete give and take necessary when disparate peoples live and work together. It shows the US as a moderating, facilitating influence, with our own stake in the game. And it shows, pretty clearly, that we are engaged to win this struggle – we aren’t cutting and running. Pulling troops is a matter of strategic withdrawal in return for political concessions by the parties.

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August 11, 2006 Posted by | Battle of Iran, Battle of Iraq, Politics | 3 Comments