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I’m about to finish up Von Clausewitz’s On War, and I reached the famed quote that talked about war being policy carried out by other means. The context surprised me. What he meant is that the character of the government’s policy and the character of the military conflict are inseparable.

In short, the quality of the war follows from the quality of the policies of the government fighting it.

Well, we've certainly had proof of that throughout this war.

Reconstruction? We went in with one billion dollars set aside for the purpose, thinking we would get oil revenues to pay for the rest. Problem: Iraq owed a heck of a lot of money, and the insurgents wouldn't let us pipe out a steady supply. As the months dragged on, A country we had broken would remain so, with unfortunate economic, humanitarian and strategic consequences. Remember the ninety billion dollar supplemental that was so important to getting armor for our troops, back in fall of 2003? Thirty billion of it was meant for a reconstruction that the Bush administration had not budgeted for in the original appropriation for the war.

Military? First, They chose to invade. We had no national security interest in a offensive war in Iraq. No WMDs, no real al-Qaeda presence. Second, he chose to believe the best case scenario for after the invasion and failed to prepare for the worst case with the aftermath. War is not one of those things that one benefits from cutting corners on. Third, they have been straining our manpower to its very limits. Those sections of the army that have had the most contact with the enemy, that is the National Guards and Reserve, the Army and the Marines, are those having the most recruitment and retention problems. Regardless of their intentions, they are doing great damage to America's military power, just when we need it the most.

Economically? Guns and Butter, revisited. He wants an expensive war, tax cut give aways, and huge increases in government spending. Unfortunately, getting all three at once is creating incredible amounts of debt which will come back to haunt us, especially in the military sense. We cannot wage the war on the credit cards forever. Sooner or later, we will not be able to keep all the fiscal balls in the air, and we will have deal with the results of those we drop. One thing is true though: Bush is the first president ever to cut taxes during a war. There is a good reason why others have not set such precedent before him.

Intelligence-wise? Bush's administration cared whether they could justify what they had already decided to do. They did not care about getting a better picture, especially if those making their case contradicted what they wanted to here. In the end, the truth was available to them, if they really wanted to find it out.

We are not in this terrible position in this war because people are dissenting, or reporters are not covering school opening. We are losing this war to the extent we are because of the decision of the Bush Administrations, and most importantly, the fact that they refuse to change most of those decision.

That, more than anything else, is crucial to our policy problems. Plans are often the first casualties of the battle. But we are always able to plan again, to take what we've learned from our mistakes, and change our policies for the better. If we're willing to change. Bush has pushed very hard to make a virtue of his stubborn refusal to change his policies. In the end, though, policy and war cannot be separated. As cities fell to the enemy, as the arteries of Iraq's roads have hardened, and the situation has decayed, Bush has insisted that all we needed to do was stay the course. But as Von Clausewitz would clearly say, good policies make for good results. The results of Bush's policies have gone downhill from the very start. There are some who call that pessimistic, some who believe that I merely express some irrational hatred. But I ask this: what are we supposed to judge the merits of our policies in Iraq by?

Leadership is a double edged sword. Leaders can lead astray as much as they can lead well. The Bush administration, in it's zeal to present itself as the leaders for the time, has persisted in policies that have trapped us in an unecessary war, and which threatens more suffering to come. I can only hope that we have a way back to better days, to better times.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at January 24, 2005 8:15 PM