Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fog of War

This “fog” is usually cited to mean the confusion that exists within the noise and turmoil of battle itself, but I’m thinking of the confusion that has prevailed in civil discourse for so long regarding our presence in Iraq. After five years, we can’t seem to agree on why we are there, or what constitutes grounds for leaving.

There was this yesterday by paradox at The Left Coaster:
It’s always been extremely interesting to me that Senators Clinton and Obama proclaim with varying degrees of intensity that the United States is going to leave Iraq, not that in fact we’ve lost the war. One would think in the natural order of things leadership would state the obvious fact we’ve lost, thus we are leaving, but employing logic has never been a strong American political trait.

I agree with the two named senators that we should leave, and do so forthwith, but I find it difficult to find the grounds upon which paradox bases his claim that we’ve “lost the war.” I’m not sure I have any claim that we’ve won it, either, but any claim to loss or victory depends on why we are, or were, there and that has certainly never been all that well established.

If we were there to find WMD’s, well, then we should have been on our way home several years ago. The fact that we didn’t find them is a failure of objective, but it’s hard to see how it counts as losing a war.

If we went there to depose Saddam Hussein then we have won.

If we went there to create a democracy then, at least on the face of it, we’ve done that. It’s time to declare victory and head home.

If we went there to defeat Al Queda then we were just insane. Al Queda wasn’t there. That’s like the batter coming from the dugout with his bat over his shoulder and standing at first base to face the pitcher, or the quarterback lining up with his hands under the tackle as he calls the snap count. Nothing good is going to come of it when you are in the wrong place.

Al Queda is a stateless entity and cannot be defeated by fighting it in one location, assuming it can be defeated by fighting at all. Against Al Queda, victory and loss are meaningless terms in Iraq and should have no influence on our decision to leave.

If we went there for a lot of less noble reasons; like to become the dominant military power in the Middle East, or to establish permanent military bases, or to control a major oil producer, or to establish occupation and dominion over another sovereign nation, then we seem indeed to failed in those objectives. If any or all of those were our reasons then I might agree that we have “lost the war.”

But is that why 4000 soldiers have died and 30,000 have been maimed? Is that why a million families have been torn apart for five long years? Is that why a trillion dollars have been spent and our economy wrecked?

And that’s just our cost. We don’t even know how many Iraqis have died because we don’t care enough about them to count. They are the enemy, they are supposed to die. By some estimates more than a million have. More than four million have been driven from their homes. An entire nation has been laid waste, made rubble, and city after city turned into a series of walled ghettos.

All for the failed objective of an American Empire?

I profoundly hope that the fog of war, the fog that prevails in the political rhetoric here at home, has confounded and clouded a more noble purpose for all of this than mere empire. For five long years, though, our leadership has never wavered in committing blood and treasure to a war for which the reasons have been as fickle as a maiden’s heart.

I feel certain that when we no longer know why we are fighting a war it is time to stop the trivia about whether we are winning or losing. When we no longer agree on the enemy or the cause then neither term has meaning.

Just stop this madness, and bring them home.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:03 AM

    If there is a fog of war in Iraq, it's surely turned to smog or at least the equivalent of London Fog.

    I've always found it interesting that the view on "winning" or "losing" a war often depends on who's doing the talking.

    Many say that we "lost" the war in Vietnam... is that militarily or politically or what? It depends on the metric and the standards you set forth.

    Militarily, I don't think we really "lost" it, but then again Vietnam was never the conventional type of war we fought before that (the closest thing was perhaps the Philippine insurrection in 1898). Except for perhaps the Tet offensive (more conventional than most there), the war was mostly just grinding away eating men, materiel and hope in numbing quantities.

    Politically, we were containing Communism (sorry, didn't work), propping up a fellow democracy (sorry, didn't work there either, and it was a weak democracy anyway). The politicians did far more running of it than the military professionals did, which is a mistake in my opinion. Did the objectives change over time?
    Probably... where they logical, well thought out and have defined objectives? Um, prob not. Probably pretty vague. Just like a politican..

    As far as the Iraqi "war"... Gulf War I, the objective was to get Iraq out of Kuwait. That was accomplished. Nothing was said about taking Saddam out of power, etc, and this did not happen. Bush 41 got a lot of flack about it, but he was smart, he knew how far he could go. The aftermath could have been handled better IMO, but that's different.

    To find WMD? Never found any, ergo, let's bye bye. Of course, they were either not there to begin with (possible, but we know he had them at some point), too well hidden (good chance, give the time they had to do it), or destroyed or given away (possible). I think the evidence that Saddam actually had them at that time is nebulous at best. Not accomplishing this "objective" shows the US as perhaps foolhardy, but that's not the same as "losing".

    Deposing Saddam? Yes, that's a "win", but what about North Korea? Iran? They are equally as bad as Iraq was, and no mention was made of them other than naming them as an "axis of evil". Sheesh.

    Creating a democracy? Well, I suppose so, on the bare evidence of elections, etc. That's about it. Pretty well useless in terms of actually doing something for the country of Iraq, especially given the tribal & religious factions there. Um, hello? Did anyone ever thnk of this beforehand? Duh!! I guess not. Technical victory, albeit a hollow one.

    And the Al Queda conection was nebulous at best, and probably barely there if at all. And yes, it's a stateless nebulous can'tgetagriponit sort of thing. Not a reason, hands down. Chalk that up as a loss, sorry.

    All the other 'less-noble' reasons are certainly failures, if there were ever reasons (overt or not).

    There has been so much damage done to Iraq, her people, the stability of the region, to the USA's reputation, to the soldiers and families.the loss of money & resources, all this is incalculable. So much so to the "other side" it could be considered a war crime. Sorry Mr. Bush. Congratulations, you destroyed a country and damaged your own. Too bad you'll probably never pay a price for it.

    Win or lose? I think there are no winners here at all. None. Just stop the madness. Unfortunately, it will stop our bleeding, but not the Iraqis. Such is our shame.