Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Iraq is a political, not a military failure.

Yesterday I wrote a post on how the White House, by admitting that a homegrown group of Iraqi insurgents had become even more powerful and a bigger threat than al Qaeda in Iraq, has in effect admitted that we are losing the war.

However, it needs to be made clear that it has been a political, not a military failure. Every time there has been any sort of offensive action undertaken by the military and every time our troops have been involved in combat, American troops have cleaned the clock on the enemy. That includes two offensives undertaken over the past couple of years against al-Sadr's Mahdi militia as well as offensives undertaken against Sunni insurgents and against members of al Qaeda in Iraq.

So why are we in the situation we are in? It has been because of repeated political failures. The political failure to see things through in Afghanistan before embarking on another war, the political failure to work with the rest of the world to obtain a sufficiently broad coalition, as Bush I did in 1990-1991, the political failure to be willing to consider any other option in dealing with Iraq than war, the political failure to give our forces a clearly defined and unchanging mission, or even for the most part to make it clear what exactly we are fighting for, and most importantly the political failure to explain to the American people what if any reason there is for continuing to fight in Iraq more than three and a half years after the fall of Baghdad.

Ultimately, this war, while again proving the superiority of American combat troops will be another political failure just as Vietnam was. In Vietnam 58,000 American troops were killed in combat versus 1.1 million Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regular soldiers, or about a 1-20 ratio. What made Vietnam a defeat for the U.S. however is that the Vietnamese communists were fighting a foreign invader and were willing to lose over a million troops in order to drive us out, while Americans could not see what was there that made it worth losing the tens of thousands of troops we did. In Iraq, we are approaching 3,000 American troops killed, and it is likely that the number enemy losses (including Saddam Hussein's army, the Mahdi militia, Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda) is probably at least 20 times as much as the number of American losses. However, they are more willing to fight on even in the face of these losses, and for largely the same reasons as the Vietnamese were-- patriotism is not exclusive to Americans. Of all of these opponents, only al-Qaeda is one that the American people could remotely be persuaded that it is worth continuing to fight against, but then the question has to be raised as to why we have not put more emphasis on Afghanistan.

It is the incompetent political leadership that has led us into the situation we are in now, and it is both the present and future generations of Americans that are paying and will continue to pay the price for their bumbling failure to lead.

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