Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Military Intelligence on Military Intelligence, or Fuzzy Navels

Has there ever been a war where the battle for the hearts and minds of America has been so enthusiastically waged on the the New York Times bestsellers list? There's no shortage of Monday morning quarterbacking going on, that's for sure.

I've just finished FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, by Thomas E. Ricks, another in a long series of the-senior-military-and-civilian-leaders-just-aren't-the-kind-of-intellectual-warrior-to-pull-this-kind-of-thing-off books. Ricks has been a military correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post for about 25 years. He's a career war guy as much as any lifer, and I've heard him before on Wisconsin Public Radio, so I didn't go in thinking this was going to be about pacifism.

And it's not.

It is a very good chronology of the astonishing events of this war, and it would make an interesting project to produce a timeline of the war correlating internal statements about the condition of the battlefield with the preposterous public statements made by the administration.

Okay, we have time for one. On December 17th, 2004, a militarily intelligent Derek Harvey briefed the President about the "insurgency" thusly:

... It's robust, it's well-led, it's diverse. Absent some sort of reconciliation it's going to go on, and that risk's a civil war. they have the means to fight this for a long time, and they have a different sense of time than we die, and are willing to fight. They have better intelligence than we do.

The President, not wanting to believe this contrarian, sent a study group to check things out, this line apparently not squaring with that of all the sycophants in the hall. The report back in February 05 stated, according to Ricks:

... that the security situation was worse than was being depicted, the insurgency was gathering steam, the training of Iraqi security forces was slower than officials had said, and the U.S. intelligence operation continued to be deeply flawed.

Compare that to this Bush speech on March 8th, 2005:

Iraq's democracy, in the long run, must also be defended by Iraqis, themselves. Our goal is to help Iraqi security forces move toward self-reliance, and they are making daily progress. Iraqi forces were the main providers of security at about 5,000 polling places in the January elections. Our coalition is providing equipment and training to the new Iraqi military, yet they bring a spirit all of their own.

As I said, it would make an interesting project. Presidents lie to us for what they perceive to be our own good. I get that. But this one must have set a modern record.

That part's interesting and all, but the book began to wear on me. Inevitably we would get to the part where Ricks would make the point that the war was winnable, but botched. Still is winnable, actually. Somewhere in the library of the National Defense University is a book by some man's man whom Ricks and Cristopher Hitchens can sit around bullshitting about over fouled glasses of cheap scotch, a book that contains just the right strategy for Iraq. There is always a military solution. We have to live with the Iraqis, go out among them. Treat them with dignity. No mega bases and 45 mph convoys sideswiping cars through town. No smashing down doors, terrorizing kids, and humiliating Iraqi men in front of their peers. No big war, big guns, big bombs. Ricks thinks we are slowly adapting to that kind of fight, as Iraqis huddle in the cold glow of our air conditioned warehouses of soldiers in internet cafes wolfing down Pizza the Hut.

Slowly is the key word, here. In his afterword, Ricks's best case scenario is a considerable, but diminishing presence in Iraq for another six or seven years or so. And here is where the old hot dogs, apple pie, and exceptionalism rears its ugly head. Here is where the point is made that it's all about US. Here is the worst case scenario, or as he calls it, the nightmare scenario:

...the new Saladin would emerge first as a relief from the madness of chaos and terrorism. He would be a unifier, bringing together the disparate and weary parts of Iraq. He might even extend his influence beyond Iraq's borders, calling for the revival of the Arab world. Bolstered by Iraq's oil revenues, he might succeed in creating a new wave of pan-Arab feeling. Riding that wave, he might confront the West as it hasn't been―that is, as an Arab leader combining popular support with huge oil revenues. And he may also seek to harness that oil money to a new program to secure nuclear weapons. Such a program could threaten the existence of Israel, or, by secret means of delivery, New York or Washington. Before that happened, the West would have to consider a war of pre-emption―but this time its soldiers might really face nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

Holy crap! 439 pages and we're right back at the beginning! How do you know this pan-Arabian good time feeling caliphate won't be more interested in buying Harley Davidsons than chemical weapons? And isn't attacking people just because we can (pre-emption) how we got here in the first place? And just in case we're going to target another 35 warheads on Syria, you threatening bastards!

All of Ricks's scenarios involve oil heavily. Americans will fight for oil eventually, I have no doubt. We're losing this war because that time hasn't come, yet. Junior has been a bit hasty here, burned through a trillion dollars or so in the process, and pissed off the whole freaking world for nothing. He had to burn a pre-emptive card to do it, as this ten year scenario would never have sold on its own merits. We're not that desperate, yet.

And that's the thing these professional killers and their hangers on have to accept sometimes, oh so unwillingly. Morals are fairly difficult to give up for most people, the people who eventually write their checks. Stripped of its Wolfowitzian veneer, this war just doesn't cut it, and never will.


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