Molt Be Blog

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Here We Go Again

I can remember being in Barcelona when we first went to war in Iraq. The president of Spain at the time, Aznar, was a supporter of the war, but I guess a lot of people were back then. I was busy reading all of the liberal rags I could. All of the reports in the Guardian and blogs saying there were no "weapons of mass destruction" and that the war itself was based on hidden agenda. Or the Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq report from before the war began saying that

Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents - which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger - are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded. However, we will continue to follow up any additional evidence, if it emerges, relevant to efforts by Iraq to illicitly import nuclear materials.

Being overseas, I wasn't caught up in the fervor that was going on over here in US. I remember coming home at Christmas and being stunned that so many people were already convinced that war was inevitable. Hadn't they been reading what I was reading? Why was everyone so scared of someone who hadn't attacked the US; who was too busy trying to milk money from UN programs and oppress his own people to care about us?
R and I went back to Spain and I can honestly say that I was surprised when Bush issued his ultimatum and we actually started bombing Iraq 50 hours later. The political climate in the Barca was staunchly anti-war. R and I participated in any way that we could. We walked in marches for peace and we all banged pots and pans out the windows at 10pm on set days to protest the war. Part of this was because we were so against what was going on, but another part of it was to try to prove to our Spanish neighbors that not all Americans were fools.
I noticed a definite difference in my students' attitudes towards me after the war moved into full swing. They started asking me more and more if I agreed with what was going on in Iraq, if I thought all Americans really wanted the war. I had to defend myself and my country. I didn't tell them that Americans were stupid. Instead I tried to explain what I had seen when I went home: that the government and the military industrial complex were spoon feeding the media and they in turn were convincing the public of complete and utter lies. That the debate had been set as "war now or war later" and that they probably would have felt the same way had they been under the same media pressure as other people in the US.

Bush gives a speech tonight wherein he'll ask for a troop escalation of 21,000 men and women. According to this article in USA Today "President Bush will acknowledge in an address to the nation tonight that U.S. policy in Iraq has failed and will send in 21,500 more troops to try to quell sectarian violence and bolster the Iraqi government, according to a senior administration official."
But according to another article of theirs summarizing the Iraq Study Group report: "The commission recommended the number of U.S. troops embedded to train Iraqis should increase dramatically, from 3,000-4,000 currently to 10,000-20,000. Commission member William Perry, defense secretary in the Clinton administration, said those could be drawn from combat brigades already in Iraq."

I'm torn as to whether more troops are a good idea or a bad idea. I suppose it's best to turn to the experts in situations like this, since I'm not much of a military planner. Of course, it doesn't give me a great deal of hope Bush is "pulling away from his generals" or that the Iraq Study Group report talks about more troops to train the Iraqi army, not for combat.

How about the Op-Eds? What do they have to say? Let's see:
Washington Post - Froomkin says that Bush isn't changing strategy by sending 20,000 troops, just changing tactics.

Guardian - Like a deluded compulsive gambler, Bush is fuelling a new cold war: With air strikes on Somalia and a surge in troops in Iraq, he is staking everything on a finale he can call victory.

Post again - Cohen explains that Bush is the decider and that
And so those who have decided otherwise -- a couple of four-stars, maybe the chief spook and all those awfully smart people throughout government and academia -- are ignored and/or are heading out the door. Bush listened to them when he agreed with them and refused to listen when he did not. A so-called surge is a-coming, an escalation all decked out with an Orwellian-sounding name. An edifice built on a wobbly foundation -- a profound and enduring ignorance of Iraqi society -- will be patched up, but really, the whole thing is a tear-down. It will collapse no matter what we do.

Hrm... maybe the editors at the WS Journal can do better:
If the stakes in Iraq are as great as Mr. Bush says--and we believe they are--then he should commit whatever forces are needed to achieve success.
Now that's more like it!

Or how about the Weekly Standard?
This week the president will set forth his proposal. We hope and expect it will include a clear articulation of a new strategy for Iraq--a real effort, based on classic counterinsurgency doctrine, to secure the Iraqi population, first in Baghdad, and then in Anbar, along with substantial aid for economic development and jobs for Iraqis. This will be supported
by a rapid increase in the size of the force in Iraq by around 30,000 troops, and will signal a sharp departure from the failed Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey minimalist approach.

Oh well. I can't say that I agree that sending 20,000 more troops is going to help. I think that, had there been more from th beginning; had we not used Rumsfeld's strategy of having a smaller more agile force on the ground, things would be different now. I also think that we never should have gone there in the first place... but it's all together too late for that now.

The saddest part of all: there's nothing that anyone can do to stop "the decider" from deciding. He'll send however many troops he wants until congress does something drastic and that's that. I think I'll write my (non-voting) congresswoman.

1 comment:

RoseCovered Glasses said...

There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”

The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.