Wars should be fought to win a victory against an aggressor. That is the true purpose of war. Not nation-building. Not leading an ungrateful rabble to the holy grail of democracy only to have them spit on it. Even preempting a potential enemy’s future capabilities is not, by itself, a reason to fight a war. Victory and the safety that results are the necessary results, nothing else.
According to the Ayn Rand Institute, a recently disclosed Pentagon study on the impact of the Iraq war on U.S. combat troops “provides evidence for a searing indictment of Washington’s immoral battlefield policies–policies that entail the sacrifice of American troops for the sake of the enemy.”
If true the war in Iraq is a lot more like Vietnam than we’ve been led to believe. From the article:
U.S. troops were sent, not to defend America against whatever threat Hussein’s hostile regime posed to us, as a first step toward defeating our enemies in the region; but instead the troops were sent (as Bush explained) to “sacrifice for the liberty of strangers,” putting the lives of Iraqis above their own. Bush sent our troops to lift Iraq out of poverty, open new schools, fix up hospitals, feed the hungry, unclog sewers–a Peace Corps, not an army corps, mission. Consistent with that immoral goal, Washington enforced self-sacrificial rules of engagement that prevent our brave and capable forces from using all necessary force to win, or even to protect themselves: they are ordered not to bomb key targets such as power plants, and to avoid firing into mosques (where insurgents hide) lest we offend Muslim sensibilities.
According to the report: “More than one-third of all Soldiers and Marines continue to report being in threatening situations where they were unable to respond due to the Rules of Engagement (ROE). In interviews, Soldiers reported that Iraqis would throw gasoline-filled bottles (i.e., Molotov cocktails) at their vehicles, yet they were prohibited from responding with force for nearly a month until the ROE were changed. Soldiers also reported they are still not allowed to respond with force when Iraqis drop large chunks of concrete blocks from second story buildings or overpasses on them when they drive by. Every group of Soldiers and Marines interviewed reported that they felt the existing ROE tied their hands, preventing them from doing what needed to be done to win the war.”
This is not a valid way to fight a war. Colin Powell understood this when he spoke and ensured the delivery of “overwhelming force” in the first Gulf War. That has not been done in the Iraq war. Why not is a question that remains to be answered.
Does America even want to win in Iraq?
I was speaking to a rather intelligent woman about this subject recently and I said that if we really wanted to win the war in Iraq we could do so easily by declaring that it would be a capital offense for Iraqis to carry a weapon of any kind after such-and-such a date and thereafter American troops would shoot to kill armed persons without warning. Period.
She laughed and said that was never going to happen. I had to agree. We’re not serious about winning this war.
I think that we have had the wrong objectives from the beginning.
Why? Because it is flat-out impossible to create a working democracy in Iraq. Turkey is the only semi-democratic state of any consequence that has been implemented by an Islamic culture and even the Turks must to fight to remain democratic, as demonstrated by today’s bombing in Ankara.
Islam and democracy are incompatible at a fundamental level. No amount of military force or economic pressure will change this elemental fact. Only to the extent that Muslims are willing to ignore their religious leaders and assimilate into a democratic culture can the two co-exist.
Nowhere are Muslims better integrated into mainstream society than in America. Yet even here, some 30% of Muslims under the age of 30 believe suicide bombings in the name of Islam are acceptable in some cases. If only a fraction of these young men turn jihadi America will have a real problem on its hands. I think we can deal with that if it happens. But it won’t be pretty.
Westerners need to understand that Islam is a religion with a purpose: world domination. Perhaps there was a time when it was possible to establish friendly relations with Islam. If so, that time has passed us by. Perhaps it will come again. But not until the West proves to them that they cannot defeat us through military or theological means.
Ultimately this is why the present strategy that we’re following in Iraq cannot be successful – the nature of Islam will not allow it. Unless we’re willing to get into a real war – a bare-knuckled, blood-spilling, fight-to-the-death war – with the murdering thugs that are raping Iraq, Bush’s vision – idealistic as it was – doesn’t have a chance of succeeding.
The best outcome we can hope for from the current strategy is an Islamic Iraq that is not overtly hostile to the U.S. Even this will be difficult to achieve given the level of carnage the Iraqi people have been subjected to. The fact that it has been caused almost exclusively by other Muslims is irrelevant. This is an American war if for no other reason than we’re the enemy that they they can identify.
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.
Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn’t have lasted a week.
Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn’t exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.
The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.
Kerrey’s caught some heat over this op-ed, of course. That’s the price of being right.
But we’ve been using military force and haven’t made any discernible progress in Iraq in as long as I can remember.
So how do we fight them? Once again ARI has the right idea. Elan Journo says:
America’s security depends on identifying precisely the enemy that threatens our lives–and then crushing it, rendering it a non-threat. It depends on proudly defending our right to live free of foreign aggression–by unapologetically killing the killers who want us dead.
We need a campaign that ruthlessly inflicts the pain of war so intensely that the jihadists renounce their cause as hopeless and fear to take up arms against us. This is how America and its Allies defeated both Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan.
Victory in World War II required flattening cities, firebombing factories, shops and homes, devastating vast tracts of Germany and Japan. The enemy and its supporters were exhausted materially and crushed in spirit. What our actions demonstrated to them was that any attempt to implement their vicious ideologies would bring them only destruction and death. Since their defeat, Nazism and Japanese imperialism have essentially withered as ideological forces.
Do we have the courage to do that? I doubt it very much. There are too many Americans in positions of power who lack to commitment to do what would be necessary to defeat the enemy pulling the strings in Iraq. That is Iran, of course.
Nevertheless, the choice is upon us. The time has come to either go all in or get all the way out. As Journo says:
U.S. troops were sent, not to crush an enemy threatening America, but (as Bush explained) to “sacrifice for the liberty of strangers,” putting the lives of Iraqis above their own. They were prevented from using all necessary force to win or even to protect themselves. No wonder the insurgency has flourished, emboldened by Washington’s self-crippling policies.
This war has been worse than doing nothing, because it has galvanized our enemy to believe its success more likely than ever–even as it has drained Americans’ will to fight. Washington’s feeble campaign demonstrates the ruinous effects of refusing to assert our self-interest and defend our freedom. It is past time to consider our only moral and practical option: end the senseless sacrifice of our soldiers–and let them go to war.