Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iraq: No End in Sight?

The news today is all about the "troop surge" that president Bush
announced last night on television... It seems that any time
there is talk of "a new strategy" for Iraq, the strategy turns
out to be the same: More troops, More money.

I am very reticent about talking Politics in these posts;
but it occurs to me this morning that the similarities between
Iraq and Viet Nam have never been more striking; in both, the
United States has:
    Fought in a country in another hemisphere,
    Engulfed in a culture we do not understand,
    Against a "philosophy" (an "ISM") largely undefined,
    Engaged with an enemy exceedingly difficult to identify,
    Despite eroding support at home,
    Borne along by an "escalation will yield victory" mentality,
    Lacking clear, achievable Objectives, and
    Missing all talk of an Exit strategy

I've said here before that I think highly of Mr. Bush
as a person, and that I never did support this war;
but as I watch how the US picks and chooses what
countries to invade, and as I hear news of more BILLIONS
going to a floundering Iraq effort, I just have to
wonder out loud, what about the REST of the problems
in this country, and around the world, where more GOOD
could be done with all that Money and Manpower?

How many Schools could we completely revolutionize
with 1 Billion dollars? How much faster would the
rebuilding work get done if 20,000 soldiers were
deployed to New Orleans on a special assignment to
lend a hand there? How much more respect, around
the world, would the US gain by taking a much less
Unilateral approach to the "war on terrorism"?

Regardless of what each of us believes about Bush
or the military or terrorism, shouldn't SOMEBODY get
a straight answer -- a CLEAR answer -- to the
questions, 1) Why are we there, and 2) When will it
be over? So far, none have been forthcoming...


Atchisson said...

Despite the fact that I am reading this/commenting nearly 11 months after its initial posting when the successes of the surge are evident, I think your comments do pose an interesting and fair set of questions that deserve anwers.

Of course the US picks and chooses, otherwise we would be the bully nobody wants living on their block. But, and I wonder why you don't mention this before, what if we are the kid that stands UP to the bully on the block? What if we make him leave somebody else's house --one that he has entered illegally and held the resident hostage after bloddying their nose? That sounds strangely like Kuwait, doesn't it?

And what if, as part of our agreement NOT to beat him to a pulp or sned him to jail, we say "Okay, you can keep living on this block, but you better behave, get rid of all your brass knuckles, be a good neighbor, and not let other bullies hang out at your place"? Once he agreed to those terms and broke ALL of them, knowing that everyone on the block wanted those enforced, what then?

What if only one person was willing to stand up to this bully because other bullies had begun exercising their ill will and were emboldened by this bully's refusal to play nice?

Extended analogy aside, you spend a great deal of time analyzing the intricacies of religion so it is surprising that you don't have the answer to the central question you pose: We are there because freedom is a God-given right for all human beings. If that argument isn't compelling, try this one: that bully, his rape rooms, his friends and their agression, well they are no longer confined to his block. They are exporting their particularly evil bullying on a large scale now. And while many like to decry it, few will stand up to it.

All the money in the world does not raise test scores or help schools. Trust me on this one. I know from painful experience in two of the worst districts in the state of Missouri. Technology, teachers salaries, better books -- all of this is for naught until people themselves take responsibility for themselves. Responsibility is an interesting word missing from your analysis of KAtrina -- folks were forewarned as were the leaders. Not everyone moved. Granted, not everyone could, but even within the confines of makeshift shelters, horrible acts such as rape and murder occurred. Are we to blame for that too? Or can we simply point out that personal responsibility is lacking in segments of society that have become so dependent upon government intervention and regulation that they have become automatons devoid of any semblance of individual accountability?

Speaking of respect, why is it so important to be respected by others in the world? Not that we aren't. As proof I offer the fact that the latest figures show that a new immigrant enters this counrty (legally and illegally) every 30 seconds. We must be doing some things right.

And one of those things is standing up to the geo-bully that is Islam. This bully has stated overtly that he cannot and will not co-exist with anyone else that does not submit to his belief system or, at the very least, pay an excessive tribute for the "honor".

Maybe, just maybe, every 30 seconds someone recognizes that a country that stands for freedom and is willing to pick and choose the most dangerous bully on the block before he steps into our backyard (again) or that of others. We didn't stand guard at our house, we went to his. And, as even our most ardent critiques (within and without) have now bregrusgingly admitted -- he seems to be the one with az bloody nose and a deeply-rooted sense of fear that not everyone will be bullied or allow others to be so.

GregK said...

Hi B! Nice of you to post, brother...

I'm not disagreeing with you, and in fact, I agree with a number of your points, most especially the idea that America must -- by anybody's account -- get some props for being (by a long shot) the primary country willing to stand up to al-Qeada, bin Laden, Terrorism and militant Islam...

The thrust of my point was in the fact that we don't seem to be following a CLEAR, WELL-DEFINED STRATEGY, with CAPS on spending, in this Iraq situation... It seems that whenever the call comes up for the Bush administration to be accountable on Strategy and Cost issues, all that is returned is a lot of flag-waving, "war on terrorism" Rhetoric, using some of the same "standing up to the bully" verbiage that you used in your reply...

Nobody (that I know of) disagrees with the idea that SOMEONE has to stand up to the bin Ladens of the world; what is at issue is HOW that is done, strategically (how will we know when we've won??), and how much it's going to COST...

What's the difference between "Tax and Spend" on social programs -- the traditionally Democratic methodology -- and "Tax and Spend" on seemingly bottomless military efforts (and all the corporations, such as Halliburton) standing in line to get their portion -- the typically Republican methodology??

And it's no good standing up to the Bully if you're not prepared enough not only to not get your ass whupped but to flat out WIN the fight... And what do you do if this whole BLOCK is fully of bullies? Whom do you choose to engage with?

I agree with you about personal responsibility... AMEN!! But the point was that we see BILLIONS going to this Iraq thing, and what do we have to show for it? Our borders are still wide open, weapons still routinely make it through airport screening, our vets are still dying by the dozens or coming home with their bodies and/or minds ruined, and the money flows out of Washington every day in the millions-per-minute... and for what?? So that angry, flag-waving supporters of this Administration can "feel good" about this ambiguous "war on terror"?

I was in the military, so I can say first-hand that the giant, slow-moving, 1,000 pound elephant known as the Military needs to get a WHOLE lot more efficient: Why can we have 30-man "strike" teams go in silently, kill the people we know are true war-time Adversaries, and save a whole lot of money and personnel?? That's just one man's perspective...

One more thing: The fact that this war BEGAN as "we're looking for WMD " and then suddenly MORPHED into "freedom for the Iraqi people" (immediately raising the Strategy and Cost questions) has never been addressed by Bush, that I know of... That bothers me...

atchisson said...

I would honestly agree with the last part. I truly believe that had the administration come right out and said Bad Man + Broken Agreement = Bye Bye Bad Man PERIOD

I can see how politics necessitates a certain diplomacy of wording and the like, but, then again, that is what bothers me about politics proper -- the word gaming. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

As a former member of the military, I am sure you can attest to the fact that having your hands tied is no way to approach any operation. It is my belief that in the interest of keeping the peace (strangely dichotomous as that may be in this instance) and appeasing those opposed to his policy, Bush (and by extension, his administration) did not execute this with the full force at our disposal. Had he/we, this would have been an entirely different war. A shorter war. A decidedly victorious war, I've no doubt.

Which would open the trick bag into which we have fallen anyway -- the world's perception of us. And that is why I would be a lousy politician. I frankly do not care about their perception. We are the ones to whom they look time and again no matter what they say from their pulpit, podium, or editorial pages.

Imagine the headlines had we truly done that of which we are capable. Imagine the headlines had we actually done that of which we are repeatedly (albeit in hushed tones so as to not truly offend) been accused. Now imagine the headlines if we, as suggested by the Pat Buchanans and Ron Pauls of the world actually turned our backs and said -- "You're problem. Not ours."

While I understand the radically dangerous diplomatic, military, and economic positions this posture might beget, part of me would love it for no other reason than to have Le Munde or the London Call or any other European paper have to admit from their op ed page that maybe, just maybe, we are the benevolent force with which to reckon. And by reckon I mean -- play nice with ALL the kids on the block. No more rape rooms. No more invasions. No more bombing our interests at home or abroad. And maybe, just maybe, we will let you live to hate us another day -- from a distance, and with all your body parts in tact.

The worst we can be accused of currently is playing too lightly with them -- kind of like the cat toying with the mouse. When it comes to that analogy, color me less Tom and Jerry and more mousetrap -- one snap, goodbye.

But that would require pundits, politicians, and the general citizenry alike to be on the same page in the same playbook without power plays, private agendas, or trying to curry favor at the expense of efficiency and effectiveness.

Until then, the best we can hope is to finally do what we set out to do with the awareness that this is not the War in Iraq, it is the Battle in Iraq in the Overall War on Terror/Radical Islam. When it is over, there will be more.

In fact, this could be a war our children and our children's children are forced to fight. It has been a long time coming (some would say a long time continuing). And, unfortunately, no dollar amount or human toll can be calculated as too much, because the freedoms for which we are fighting are truly divinely-inspired, universal in nature, and ultimately priceless.