Democrats & Liberals Archives

Stop Planning, Start Looking, Start Thinking

The situation in Iraq is deteriorating, and everybody knows it. Some want us to stay the course, cry out for another chance for it to work. Some want us to leave, want us to cut our losses, partition the country and leave the Iraqis to their own devices. Unfortunately, the Iraqis are not prepared, and we cannot afford this outcome.

We all have solutions in mind. Chances are, though, all of them are wrong.

Even the best informed plan can be wrong. A badly informed one, or one created in disregard of certain inconvenient facts can be a disaster. Whoever you would blame for our current position, that is the truth of the matter.

Plans are methods of organizing efforts and resources. We put them together because some things are just too complex and/or too much trouble to do from the seat of our collective pants. We can't wait for people to do things in their own damn time, or to spring surprises on us when we show up. We write contracts, agendas, platforms, because (like it or not) we have to keep out of each other's way to be efficient.

But plans work best when they're not working against the real character of the situation, and in ignorance of that, any plan will work only by luck.

Sticking it out might be tempting to some, who believe it's necessary. The reality is, we've not been sticking to the plan, but the appearance of the plan. Who here actually believes the occupation is over? Technically speaking, it's been over for more than a year. Notice what's missing? Our troop's absence, that's what. It cannot be emphasized enough: This president has promised results with each landmark of his plan that would spell the end of the violence, and it has not stopped.

A plan that keeps on reaching it's goals even while it fails to have any effect is not a plan to stand by. It's a plan to end and to replace with another one.

Pulling out of there may be tempting to others, who believe we it's simply the only thing to do, given the circumstances. Unfortunately, it doesn't answer one of the big concerns that we've had from the start of this war: the failure of another Muslim country in the Middle East.

Others talk of Partition, but such a solution would hardly solve things. The Turks would not allow an independent Kurdish Iraqi state, for fear that their own Kurds would want one of their own. Sunni's would not stand for the fossil fuels being in Shia hands, and the Shias would possibly end up having problem with Al-Sadr and his Iranian friends. That, or we get a nice little Iranian Client state. Iraq's partition would be little better than it's absolute fragmentation.

And then there are things that I would suggest. More troops. tighter military control of the situation, etc, etc. Those are the things I believe might work. Those who have read my past entries know that I say little that I don't absolutely mean.

Regardless of what I or anybody else mean to say, We're all wrong to one extent or another. Like many Americans, I'm writing at a remove, so despite my best intentions, I'm not going to know everything I need to know.

Who does know? We would hope those making the plans. That is the point of so much of the noise and anger coming from the Blue Column, and from elsewhere: That those who have the power to plan, and to execute those plans should do so recognizing themselves for they are: the people whose job it is to know what to do and how to do it right.

Of course, being only human, they can and do screw this up. The complaint, Republicans should realize, is not with the mistakes themselves, so much as the vigor and recklessness that they were made with. Nearly everything we assumed going into Iraq turned out to be wrong, from the disposition of the citizens to the WMDS themselves. That kind of wrongness takes real effort.

The effort, I believe, was not an evil plot to subvert our country, or anything like that. If there is any evil, it's the evil of arrogance, the evil of dishonesty, of lying to a people trying to make the most dangerous of decisions a nation can make. Bad wars have brought down nations for centuries, from the time of Croesus and the Pythian priestess to the time of the Russians and their battle in Afghanistan. The mistake comes when we believe the power of greatness doesn't rely on other qualities, when we start believing our power can change all the rules.

The reality is, we are not free from all the wants and needs of being human beings, nor the restraints of being a Democracy. What we can gain, we can lose, as we take our spin on fortune's wheel, our journey in God's hands. We are not guaranteed peace, prosperity and the safety of those we love by simple efforts of our own. We are given it by the pattern of the world around us, and whatever stands behind that pattern.

Or, to put it in stronger terms, context matters. A plan is only as effective as it's ability to organize our interaction with the real world. That means we must fit our plans to the situation at hand, not merely to our agenda. If one must work from an agenda, that agenda must relate to the goals more than it dictates the means.

Letting Rumsfeld's prejudices about fighting wars get in the way of our having more troops in theatre was a bad idea. Letting our country be taken to war on a case they knew to be composed of unreliable information was a bad idea. Expecting the Iraqi people to rise up against a leader who had successfuly crushed them down for decades was expecting too much.

We must allow ourselves the discretion within the plan to deal with the plan's mistakes. One of the main problems with the plan Bush went into war with, was that it lacked for a Plan B. What would we do if it turned out the Shia weren't going to rise up in revolt again? Stick to the plan, Bush say. What are we going to do if the government structure simply dissolves away? Stick to the plan, Bush says. What are we going to do if it turns out that local police and army officers won't keep the peace? Stick to the plan, Bush says.

Contingency is a natural part of military planning, but it wasn't something this administration took consideration of. They considered that too defeatist. Well, there are ways to steer an army into defeat that have nothing to do with being pessimistic about a situation. Many of our problems in Iraq were self-inflicted. It doesn't help that many of the opportunities above are no longer available to us. Wars are essentially thermodynamic creatures- you can't run the film backwards. The dead stay dead, what is destroyed is destroyed, and lost opportunities usually create situations that aren't reversible by the same means that would have prevented them in the first place.

My position, the positions of the Bush supporters, of the supporters of Cindy Sheehan, all are likely insufficient to the task of dealing with our troubles in the Middle East. We are way past the point where simple answers are answers at all anymore.

We have to do something. We cannot let Iraq be splintered and balkanized, like a fragmentation grenade in the heart of the region. We cannot allow this war to grind on with no visible progress to show for all the blood spilled. Americans would not stand for either outcome.

What can we do, then? We as Americans can demand results from all who represent us, whatever side of the aisle they sit on. We can also, as a nation look at our situation anew, and quit just repeating the same old prescriptions for dealing with our troubles. If we don't approach these issues with a fresh perspective, there may not be hope for the War in Iraq, much less the fight against terrorism. That is a possibility we must fight and fight well to the very last. We should not engineer our enemy's triumph with our own simple-mindedness.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at August 27, 2005 9:23 AM