Thursday, July 10, 2008

The "100 years" war

If you follow the news, especially the New York Times or CNN, then you certainly have seen John McCain's comment about America's future in Iraq. It happened at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire in January. A voter said to McCain that Pres. Bush has talked about staying in Iraq for 50 years. McCain's response was: "make it a hundred". This is what all the media outlets have pounced upon, and what Obama (who claims to practice a "new" kind of politics) has adopted as a quasi-campaing slogan. Of course, there is little mention of what McCain said immediately afterward: "We've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

McCain is right. There is nothing about his statement that is inappropriate or inaccurate. America helps protect its allies with a military presence. We're also based in the UK, Germany, Turkey, Guam, and many former Soviet republics. It's a fact and there is no reason to assume that we wouldn't have a permanent military presence in Iraq once the fledgling democracy is on its feet, especially given Iraq's strategic importance. The MSM has misrepresented McCain's comment, as has Obama (who claims to practice a "new" kind of politics), as some kind of endorsement of 100 years of war in Iraq without end. This is dishonest to say the least, and Obama should know better since he has been the victim of similar misrepresentations, ie the "typical white person" comment. The non-partisan watchdog group factcheck.org has said that "Obama's claim that McCain wants 100 years in Iraq is a serious distortion to the point of rank falsehood". Obama is getting muddy and it's not becoming of him, especially since he claims to practice a "new" kind of politics.

McCain isn't backing down and he has challenged Obama on the deliberate misrepresentation. Obama's response was that we have no business in a country that has nothing to do with the war on terror. This caught my attention, and warrants a response from WEP.

It's true that I've grown tired of trying to explain to liberals why war in Iraq was necessary...tragic but necessary. Either you get it or you don't, the debate is basically fruitless. They always come back with this ridiculous assertion that Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror, and they think that our presence there detracts from the "actual" war on terror and ties up badly needed resources. I wonder who they think we're fighting in Iraq? I always thought we were fighting Islamic terrorists.

If you ask a typical liberal about the war on terror (or the "so called war on terror" as they like to say) you will discover that this war begins and ends with Osama Bin Laden. Apparently, once we capture him it is all over. All we need to do is withdraw from Iraq, focus all our efforts on Bin Laden and we can end this so called war on terror and get back to our ipods and Sex in the City reruns. Simple enough, right?

Well, I'm sorry, but fighting a complex war like this is not the same as playing a game of Stratego, which is basically what Obama's military strategy would be. Bin Laden is one of many Islamic terrorists who want all of us to worship their god or die. Yes, he is high profile but capturing or killing him would hardly end the war. Victory only comes with a change in mindset, governance, and perception in a culture that knows much of violence and little of tolerance. Bin Laden's capture wouldn't do much in that regard. If anything, it would inspire more fight in our enemies since they so admire the whole martyrdom thing.

So while Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11, saying it has nothing to do with the war on terror reflects a jaw-droppingly vast and dangerous lack of understanding of this conflict. Our troops are actively engaged with the enemy and they are winning. We have established a front line of battle in the war on terror and it is very far from main street America where the terrorists would prefer to fight. Where once they were hiding in the shadows, our conflict in Iraq has drawn them into a fight with our military, where they are greatly overmatched, as opposed to killing unarmed and untrained civilians as they would prefer. The enemy's focus is on driving our troops out of Iraq, more so than attacking our families here at home, and they are fighting this battle at great cost. Disengaging in Iraq would mean losing that front line and our enemies would creep back into the shadows looking for their next target, likely somewhere on main street America.

I think someone should sit down with Obama and explain this to him because he has no business being our next Commander in Chief if he doesn't understand such a fundamental military concept. Against a guerrilla enemy, it is much better to establish a line and provide them motivation to attack you and thus draw them into you strength rather than seek them amongst the shadows in their line of strength. The enemy's strength is their anonymity and invisibility which is lost when they are attacking our line of strength. Basically, our troops are fighting over there so we won't have to over here. It's simple, and believe me no one understands this more than the troops who are doing the fighting.

Obama clearly doesn't get it and neither do most libs who say Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror.

We have paid a dear price in this fight. We've lost many brave soldiers and spent large amounts of treasure. But what is the alternative? Are we to simply give up and stop fighting altogether? Yes, we could disengage in Iraq and focus our efforts on seek-and-destroy missions, kill a terrorist here, capture another there. But we wouldn't come close to inflicting the kind of damage on these networks that we are currently inflicting in Iraq, not to mention the most damaging of all...establishing a democratic Islamic state in the heart of the middle east. When we began this fight in September 2001, President Bush said it was going to be long, costly and difficult. Were we not listening? Did we not believe him?

We've lost over 3,000 Americans in Iraq in 5 years of fighting. We lost more than that in one day on 9-11. We have options but to me the alternative to what we are currently doing seems much worse. It's the lesser of two evils once again. In 1945, Truman faced something similar and he chose to inflict misery on the enemy rather than allow the enemy to inflict misery on us. What are we to do today? Obama? McCain? This is the most important question of this year's election.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doc,

With all due respect. The person who doesn't get it, is you. I am going to start by asking you a few questions, the first of which is, what do you know about Iraq?

I am not asking about our invasion or the evil acts of despotism practiced by Saddam Hussein, I am asking you what do you know about the history and culture of Iraq?

Have you ever read T.E. Lawrence? Gertrude Bell? David Fromkin? How about Wipedia?

If you, and by extension, anyone else who proposed or supported the invasion of Iraq, knew anything about the country or its people, you could have only reached one conclusion. That conclusion would be, deposing Saddam Hussein would open such a Pandora's box that the result would be beyond our power to control the outcome.

I am tired to death to hear about Iraq's "fledgling democracy." It hasn't reached the fledgling stage as fledglings are birds who are on the verge of flight and who are close to becoming self sufficient.

"I propose to invsde a country; depose its tyrant; and institute democracy! The people of the country and largely tribal; they have no history of representative government; they are loyal to their sheiks or other tribal leaders; they marry their cousins to strengthen family ties and loyalty. Oh and by the way, this country is comprised of separate ethnic groups who are loyal to the group rather than the country. One other thing, this country is the seat of a religious schism that is over 1,300 years old and for the past 28 years, one faction has been oppressing the other and committing acts of genocide. I think I should tell you that this culture exhibits a certain characteristic called "sahel" in which you do not merely defeat your enemy, you kill and humuilate him. Please do not worry about corruption. What we consider to be corruption and nepotism is a way of life in this country b/c that is how you take care of your family and your tribe. By the way, few, if any, of our armed forces speak the language or understand the culture of this country."

Sounds like a good idea, right?

Now Doctor we ar enot even going to discuss the execution of thhe policy. Nor are we going to discusspost WW II Japan or Germany b/c I can tell you how they are different from Iraq and democracy could succeed in those places and in S. Korea also.

With all due respect, Doctor, the basic flaw in your vision of Iraq is that think that Iraqis are just like you; that they want the things you want; that their vision of the world is just like yours.

Would to God that it were, b/c if it were, then the end, by which I mean the intended result, of the invasion would have some chance of success.

One more question. What do you know about the history of this country? Surely you remember the 150 years of representative government b/f we declared our Independence from Great Britain? Do you remember the failure of initial government undere the Articles of Confederation? The Civil War? I know you remember that b/c you believe the Confederacy should have allowed to secede and by extension, that slavery, perhaps the greatest abomination of human history, should have been allowed to continue. Therefore, I asssume you have no problem if the Kurds want to form their own country or if Southern Iraq goes its own way?

Surely you remeber that after the end of th eCivil War, it took another century b/f people of color in this country were afforded basic rights.

I remind you of these things not b/c I wish to critcize th eUnited States. This is our history. We are unique in some ways but please recall that it took us nearly four centuries to accomplish what we have.

I could go on. But if you want to talk about "who gets it" do not consider yourself one of the initiated.

Regards.

TLGK

John Washburn said...

Loop, you make a good argument against invading Iraq. Unfortunately, this argument has no relevance today. We invaded 5 years ago.

What you don't address is what to do now. Obama wants to withdraw immediately and unconditionally. My post argues against that. Your response takes no position on that matter.

If the people of Iraq wish to have democracy, they will. They now have a choice in that matter, something they didn't have before our arrival. If they fail, so be it. They had their chance. Democracy in Iraq would be a wonderful thing, but that's not a PRIMARY reason for our invasion, as you seem to think. We don't just invade countries for the sole reason of forcing our style of government on someone. I don't recall a single moment in history when that was the case.

The primary reason for our invasion was to disarm a murderous dictator who possessed dangerous weapons that he could pass to international terrorists, who was in direct violation of the cease fire agreement of the first Gulf War and numerous UN resolutions, who was starving and murdering his own people, who was shooting at US and British pilots enforcing the no fly zone.

He was removed from power, thus leaving a power vacuum. You seem critical of our attempt to fill that vacuum with a representative government. I'm wondering what you think we should have filled it with?

You may be right about Iraq having little chance at succeeding in democracy. Again, that's their choice. But my argument was that this war was very much a part of the war on terror and that disengaging from it would be dangerous for America and certainly for the Middle East. Obama disagrees. McCain seems determined to stay on the offensive.

The voters will ultimately decide what they feel is best.

Robert M. said...

Only the New Right could possibly take such a gaffe and make it into a positive.

I'm not a fan of Obama. I'm certainly not voting for him (nor McCain), but what possible advantage can spending another century in Iraq bring? You compare it to the occupation of Korea and Germany, but, come to that, what good does that do either? South Korea has enough money and weapons to beat back any approach by North Korea. And what's with Germany? How does being there protect us? Is Hitler coming back anytime soon? The Germans are perfectly capable of self-government without us keeping an eye on them. Frankly, I think it fairly insulting to their national character to keep babysitting them like this.

In addition, occupying other countries causes more problems than solutions. In fact, Germany and Korea are the only countries we have been able to occupy. Vietnam didn't work so well. Neither did Beirut.

Furthermore, our intervention, more often than not, causes our own problems. As I recall, Al-Qaeda got their weapons because we intervened in the Soviet-Afghani war in the 1970s. The government, as you know, screws up everything it touches. It baffles me as to why conservatives would trust it when it comes to something as important as foreign policy.

The rationale conservatives give for the war is "spreading freedom." But freedom doesn't mean being occupied by a foreign power. We want liberty at home, freedom from the government, and rightly so. But we can't speak about freedom and democracy while we try to use government force to coerce others to accept same.

I don't like Obama, and I wouldn't like to see him run the country. But in all probability he will. The reason is simply because most Americans are tired of the Bush administration's foreign policy, and the conservatives are desperately hanging on to an unpopular ideal which conflicts with their own stated ideology of smaller government. It's not a winning formula.

Anonymous said...

Doc,

I accept your criticisms of my position and in truth, I do not see any way of completely disengaging from Iraq. As I have said previoiusly, look for some type of military coup once the military is strong enough.

I disagree w/ you assessment of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein during the years between GW I and GW II. I have, in my more cynical moments posed the argument that the Bush administration planned th einvasion of Iraq pre 9/11 and a means to be reelected as Americans are loathe to change leaders during war time. 9/11 obviated the need to start a war, yet the Neocons in the administration, proceeded anyway.

If our goal was to fight terrorism and Islamic extremism, invading Iraq was a poor strategy w/ the unfortunate result of inhibiting our ability to fight our enemies elsewhere. So my issue is how do we return to the place where we can take the fight to where battle front is actually located?

TLGK

John Washburn said...

Ugh...Robert there are so many inaccuracies in your response that I don't know where to begin.

First, your cavalier use of the word "occupy". We don't occupy Germany, South Korea or Japan. We have a permanent military presence in those countries in the form of forward military bases. These countries are sovereign, self-governing entities that ALLOW our military presence to continue. This is FAR from a military "occupation". John McCain and George Bush are proposing the same thing in Iraq, that is if the Iraqi people will allow it.

South Korea hardly has the resources to withstand an invasion from North Korea. Kim Il has poured all of his countries resources into the army, while South Korea has focused on domestic development. If we weren't in S Korea then Il would quickly pounce and absorb them into his regime, no doubt while China watched over his shoulder.

The bases we have in Germany, Turkey and other parts of Europe have been invaluable in our ability to protect the interests of America and our allies abroad. Without them, our ability to respond to rapid threats would be limited to what our Navy and continental US forces could do. Obviously, such a response wouldn't be nearly as formidable. Plus, the medical care our troops receive in theater in the past decade has been unprecedented. This is mainly due to the fact that we have state-of-the-art medical facilities at our bases in Germany and Europe. Without them, our troops wouldn't receive definitive medical care until they arrived in the US. Obviously the rate of survival would be much lower.

No, Germany doesn't "need" us to protect them, but those bases serve a vital role in America's ability to protect itself. Our worldwide forward bases allow us to respond to ANY threat within minutes. Having a similar presence in the Middle East, the big hot-spot of the world, has obvious advantages in this regard.

And you are baffled by conservatives and our "trust" of the government on matters of foreign policy. Well, that's because conservatives believe in the Constitution as it is written, and the Constitution MANDATES that the federal government provide a standing army for the purpose of protecting the nation. Maintaining a standing army has close ties to foreign policy, and foreign policy is determined by the executive branch of the government, not the government as a whole despite what some congressmen believe. That's why we demand the federal government do it and do it right. There is no other Constitutional mandate on the government when it comes to providing for the people.

That represents one of the major differences between conservatives and libertarians. We want small government, but we also recognize the importance of a centralized military. If you remove ALL government influence then you decentralize the military into multiple non-coordinated militias and you put yourself at risk. The founders learned this lesson during the Revolutionary War when we were nearly wiped out due to our limited ability to coordinate our scattered militias.

Robert M. said...

In response to your first point, I don't think we need play semantics. The word occupy is just as valid, and doesn't necessarily mean I'm unaware of those countries' consent. However, the consent is not between people, but governments. If China wished to put a military base on our soil, what would be your reaction? What if the United States government approved? Would that still be okay with you. Certainly I would object. The consent you speak of is given by the government, not the people, especially in countries where democracy is not prevalent.

Speaking of which, I mentioned Vietnam and Beirut, two of several historical occupation attempts that didn't work out so well. These were not addressed in you response. I mentioned the rather unfortunate role we had in giving Al-Qaeda weapons. This also was not addressed in your response.

In response to your second point, I'd like to call you on a historical inaccuracy, whether intentional or not. You stated that the Constitution "MANDATES that the federal government provide a standing army for the purpose of protecting the nation".

Now, I don't have a degree in history or anything (yet), but I've read the Constitution, and studied early-antebellum American history fairly well, and, of course, I've read the Constitution. Far from mandating a standing army, the Constitution never mentions the term. In fact, many of the founders, far from supporting one, feared the idea of a standing army. This idea of state militia over a standing army was held by Jefferson, among others, and the debate over, and resistance to, a standing army was continued all the way up until the Civil War. Henry David Thoreau mentions "the objections which have been brought against a standing army" in one of his speeches - published over half a century after the Constitution was written!

The notion that the Constitution somehow mandates a standing army is patently absurd. Simply reading the text of the Constitution will prove this. And any historical research into the antebellum debate over the standing army will lend evidence to the people's suspicion of it long after the founders had died.

SNAKE HUNTERS said...

============================================

Great thinkers, Thomas Jefferson & Henry David Thoreau, but they never saw man fly, or communicate by bouncing a signal off a satellite, or saw a city die from a thermo-nuclear blast, or humans walk on the surface of the moon, and safely return to earth!

>>

Loop Garoo forgets that Saddam's Iraq was a 30 year reign of despotism, and the suffering masses
longed to be free of his terror.

After the U.S. Invasion, these tribal groups Eagerly Risked Death To Cast a Vote for Freedom, both men and women, and proudly showed the Camera-lens their Ink-Purpled finger...those smiling faces!

Is that desperate reaction even possible for future Saudi and Iranian citizens? Who can say, with any degree of certainty?

The Educated Muslim World Is Waiting; Will The Americans Leave Now, on the Brink of Victory? Will There Be A Continuum of War?

Jesus, Allah, and the al Madhi Prophet Are Mute. reb

============================================
www.lazyonebenn.blogspot.com

Robert M. said...

I assume your first point is directed at me. Are you suggesting the Constitution and the founding fathers' ideas are outdated? I'm not surprised, given the way conservatives frequently ignore the Constitution.

However, such an argument is a double-edged sword. It is one which liberals use often, to attack the second amendment. They claim that firearms technology has made the second amendment obsolete. This, of course is absurd.

The argument that these ideas can somehow become outdated is false, because, when the founding fathers made these principles, they had the latest technology for their time.

Furthermore, the founding fathers believed a republic could work, even though the last republic was that of the Romans, over 600 years prior! They weren't afraid that their modern technology would inhibit the same system.

Take the second amendment example. Liberals like to claim that the second amendment is outdated because we have more advanced weapons. But it's not outdated, because the single-shot musket was equivalent, in their day, with the automatic weapon. Furthermore, since everyone gets the same technology, it never actually gets more dangerous, just more efficient. Thus, the second amendment is never outdated.

Ideals don't change; that's why we still study Plato and Aristotle. In the future, there will be technologies we can't conceive, that will make our "high-tech" world look primitive. Does that mean we should abandon the ideals of liberty?

If you think so, you're just using the same argument as any common liberal, and arguing against what the founding fathers understood completely, that ideals remain constant even as the world changes, and that good philosophy never dies.

Anonymous said...

robert m.

I think the Roman Republic existed more than 600 year b/f the U.S.

reb,

The Kid forgets very little. Yeah, I remember Saddam. A thoroughly evil despot to be sure. The world is full of them regrettably (See Burma, N. Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Cuba, etc.)

Is it in our best interests to invade every country ruled by tyrants? It was not in our best interests to invade Iraq. As for victory, I have adopted the Doctor's definition. Victory is a democratic and stable Iraq.

I have read the history and in the words of Richard Penniman: "You should never try and put a tuxedo on the funky blues."

I am taking the under on democracy in Iraq. Therefore, at the end of the day, my conclusion is not only that the cost was not worth the benefit, but also that our entanglement in Iraq has prevented us from fighting the real battle to the best our ability.

If you believe that pap you wrote above, let me know how the weather is in Fantasy Land the next time you send me a postcard.

Rgegards.

TLGK

Anonymous said...

robert m.

I think the Roman Republic existed more than 600 year b/f the U.S.

reb,

The Kid forgets very little. Yeah, I remember Saddam. A thoroughly evil despot to be sure. The world is full of them regrettably (See Burma, N. Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Cuba, etc.)

Is it in our best interests to invade every country ruled by tyrants? It was not in our best interests to invade Iraq. As for victory, I have adopted the Doctor's definition. Victory is a democratic and stable Iraq.

I have read the history and in the words of Richard Penniman: "You should never try and put a tuxedo on the funky blues."

I am taking the under on democracy in Iraq. Therefore, at the end of the day, my conclusion is not only that the cost was not worth the benefit, but also that our entanglement in Iraq has prevented us from fighting the real battle to the best our ability.

If you believe that pap you wrote above, let me know how the weather is in Fantasy Land the next time you send me a postcard.

Rgegards.

TLGK

Robert M. said...

TLGK,

Sorry. My world history is a bit rusty. I was just trying to establish a safe point, and I figured 1100 was a late as Rome could possibly be considered still around.

Ask me anything about U.S. history. World history on the other hand...

Point still stands though, and, as it wasn't directed specifically at you, and, as I take it, you aren't one to argue with it, I'll leave it at that until someone disagrees with me...

Anonymous said...

Okay. The category is U.S,. history. Do you believe that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which President Clinton signed into law in 1999 which repealed the Glass-Steagall Sct of 1933 was a mistake?

Regards.

TLGK

Robert M. said...

I wasn't aware Bill Clinton actually did anything while in office. Besides interns.

I just figured a sarcastic question deserved a sarcastic answer.

Since we're being obscure, however, what do you think about possible adoption of the JK by the U.S. Army?

Anonymous said...

robert m.

I am afraid that I am stupid on this one as I cannot determine what "JK" designates. Obviously, it's a noun but I do not think you refer to a type of flip flop named for Jack Kirby and Juuni Kokki doesn't make much sense either so let me know.

Yes the above acts are obscure by name but not in effect. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 , inter alia, established the FDIC and prevented commercial banks from engaging in the securities industry. So commercial banks could not act like investment banks.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealed that aspect of the Glas-Steagall Act.

This seems obscure until you realize that the entire subprime mortgage fiasco occurred b/c the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed. But for the repeal, all of those banks that made subprime loans or bought subprime loans would not have been allowed by law to bundle them into securities in the form of "mortgage backed securities" or "collateralized debt obligations" nor could banks establish "structured investment vehicles."

The whole mess could have been averted had the regulation remained in place.

This event stands for the proposition that absolutely free markets are not ideal.

Regards.

TLGK

Robert M. said...

Actually it wasn't quite a fair question, as JK doesn't stand for anything; it's the designation for Jeep Wrangler models built from 2007 to the present. The military is thinking about adopting it, or a similar model from Chrysler LLC/Jeep, as a military vehicle under the designation "J8."

Obviously you'd be as likely to know that as I would be to know about the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.

Anyway, I was confused because we're both in agreement about the war, which is the issue discussed here. I wasn't aware you were going to try and debate about economics, so I assumed the question you were asking was sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

not quite sarcastic. You said "ask me about U.S. History."

Anyway, if the subprime mortgage fiasco wasn't so pernicious, it would be laughable. There havebeen a few things circulating around th einternet for months, on w/ stick figures. If Istill ahve a link to it and yur e-mail address is on yiur site, I will send it along.

TLGK

Robert M. said...

It's a figure of speech. And you may as well, since we seem to be the only people still in this thread...