Do you remember the old songs we used to sing in “The Nam”? Lately I particularly remember the Boy Scout song “We’re here, because we’re here, because … etc.”, and , “We’ve gotta get out of this place” by The Animals.
We can’t just tell our soldiers in Iraq that they are “There because they’re there”; that is not fair and makes no sense. Also, I’ve got to think that they want to “get out of [that] place, if it’s the last thing [they] ever do.”
For their sakes, we need a definition of victory that they can live with; it would be nice if we as a nation could live with too.
We have to separate military victory from national victory if we are going to make any sense of this at all. Clearly, military victory is sufficient for the military to come home, while other agencies and associations work to complete “national victory.”
There is a story, probably apocryphal, that President Ford asked for an independent analysis of US involvement in Vietnam post-WWII, that is, from 1945-75. When he was given the report the title was, “US Wins Vietnam War”, but the subtitle was, “War was won in 1964, but subsequently lost in 1965-75”.
Using that logic, President Bush may have been very nearly right, if a bit premature, when he gave his “Mission Accomplished” address on the USS Lincoln. If the objective was to rid the world from the menace of a Hussein with WMD, then the absence of that risk was proven. If the objective, as later stated, was to dethrone Hussein – regime change – then the objective had been reached. All we needed to do militarily was to consolidate, clean up, and come home. If the objective was to establish a democratic Iraq, then with the State Department and the United Nations left to help Iraq get back on its feet after many years of economic sanctions that was perhaps possible, but not a military objective.
It is the subtitle of the Iraq War that is the problem: it might very well be, “War was won in 2003, but subsequently lost in 2004-2007 and beyond.” But that is not the military’s fault – that does not constitute a military defeat, although it may ad up to a national defeat.
The forces’ first mission in 2003 was: “Find and neutralize WMD in Iraq, and neutralize any WMD production and research facilities.” Result: 9 April 2003; MISSION ACCOMPLISHED (or if you’d rather) VICTORY.
The second mission was: “Depose Saddam Hussein and his government, allowing for a new regime in Iraq; find him, arrest him, and turn him over to the sovereign Iraqi government for prosecution.” Result: 14 December 2003; MISSION ACCOMPLISHED ~ VICTORY.
Unfortunately, since then the mission seems to have been: “Keep on keepin’ on.” Result: 2005-2007; STAGNATION, but not DEFEAT. There has been no appropriate military mission, therefore there has been no defeat.
So now we are faced with the task of redefining the objective to fit the situation. Let’s start with the four original goals for the future of this piece:
1. Stop the loss of US lives as soon as reasonably possible.
2. Stop the loss of Iraqi lives at the hands of US forces.
3. End the occupation by US forces of another sovereign nation.
4. Leave Iraq a chance to stabilize itself through its own efforts, with outside economic and political help.
Add to that a reasonable description of the situation at hand. By the common account, “The U.S. troop buildup has brought down violence, but that has failed to spark cooperation among politicians. If anything, the country appears more balkanized into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.” LA Times The decrease in violence to Iraqis is reported to be a combination of the Balkanization of all of Iraq into many ethnically “clean” zones (read sectarian turf), and a lack of legitimate reporting on violence occurring daily throughout the country as the Iraq war fades from the news. The general atmosphere in the countryside and in most of the cities seems to be small-to-large turf wars among the various factions, much like the Italian Mafia families with the Sicilians or Cosa Nostra (Shia), the Calibrians or ‘Ndrangheta (Sunni), the Camorra (Kurds), and the Sacra Corona Unita (Uzbeks and others). US Forces do not belong in the middle of such a fight, and have no acceptable mission there.
The military and governmental situation is that the Maliki government, strongly influenced by Iran and strongly pro-Shia, is making the occupying forces’ policy decisions; this is unacceptable to any American. We ought to remember this situation from the Vietnam War when local ARVN military commanders and province chiefs forced us to withhold missions and fires because their friends and relatives in the Cong and the PAVN were in the area. The Sunni militias are running their turf and we are paying [bribing] them to support us, a situation that will last only as long as the bribes last.
What should we do?
After almost five years of war we ought to say officially, “We’ve gotta get out of this place.” We need to say that our military goals have been met and then some. We cannot provide security by pretending that dealing with a central government without influence is the solution. We cannot continue to fight where the our tactical security decisions are being made by local tribal leaders and private militia bosses. Most of all, we can no longer be involved in a religious war where the multiple combatants care only for their own power and the supremacy of their ideology. In short, we cannot make a nation when the local leaders don’t really want one.
Thus we propose a new military objective which includes the premise that there will be no permanent stationing of forces in Iraq.
First objective – Disengage and move into secure enclaves. There is no need to continue losing allied lives, and there is no positive result by continuing to provide neighborhood security through search and destroy missions which at the least enrage, and sometimes destroy the neighborhoods we are trying to secure. After five years this job has to be turned over to the Iraqi police and military, regardless of their willingness, and regardless of their views on democracy, justice, due process, or religion.
Second objective – Provide national not neighborhood security by establishing the enclaves toward the borders of Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and committing to 6-12 months of providing border security.
Third objective – Withdraw after one year at the most, and regardless of the internal situation at the time. We cannot build a nation by beating the Iraqis into submission, and we don’t have the forces to do it if we could. We cannot continue to operate in an environment where critical policy decisions are made by any chief or bandit who wishes, when those decisions profoundly affect our forces. Withdrawal should be accomplished in the best military manner, with troop security the paramount consideration.
At the end of this editorial is their new “five-paragraph field order”
What then of Iraq? Don’t we have an obligation to them after all this time? Well yes we do, but it is not a military obligation. We ought to be firing up to aid reconstruction, to the extent that the Iraqis themselves can provide security to their reconstruction efforts. Those efforts should be international, involving our world partnerships, and not just the US alone. The bulk of the funding will have to come from us, and rightly since we have done most of the damage, but it should be in the form of grants, and should not involve US contractors unless the Iraqis request them.
But won’t the money be misused? Well yes, by our definition, but our definitions don’t always work. If you have ever worked in the Middle East, as I have, you know that an American’s “bribe” is a Middle Easterners “commission” or “fee for services”. That’s the way they do things, whether we approve or not. Guess what? They don’t understand or approve of our view either.
So by giving grants, we don’t have to worry about the “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” except when US contractors are involved. We can continue to fund them at the rate we have been pouring money into the war for another two years or so, and then pull the plug. After that, it’s all their show.
Finally, when the troops come home, honor them for MISSION ACCOMPLISHED ~ VICTORY!
As for the future, try reading "Restoring American Military Power: Toward a New Progressive Defense Strategy for America”, by Lawrence Korb and Max Bergmann. [Ed.]