Democrats & Liberals Archives

General Nonsense

Bush will likely continue to tell us until September that he’s taking his direction from what the commanders on the ground and (of course) what General Petraeus tells him. Right. And just what are they going to tell their boss, a man who let his staff publically humiliate everbody in the military who publically dissented the Administration line on Iraq? Let’s recall what they say about a military in war: they’re there to defend Democracy, not practice it.

A Commander on the ground who publically disagrees with the President on policy, who doesn't send his complaints up the proper chain of command, can end up in trouble for insubordination. When General McArthur publically disagreed with his President's policy, distinguished record or no, he was fired.

The military are not free agents, which make them vulnerable to being the sock-puppets for whatever political party that is in charge. They can't speak for themselves like the rest of us can. They have to put up with a lot in silence. The silence only gets thicker as it goes up, and politics plays a role in this.

It doesn't help that the leadership in Washington right now is one of the most impatient ones concerning dissent and bad news. These people literally don't want to hear it. They want to be resolved, and they are suspicious of the loyalties and intentions surrounding any disagreement.

Because of the commitments our soldiers have made, they are particularly vulnerable to their Commander in Chief's misjudgments. They don't get to take a vote, or really discuss the issue. They can't vote to overrule his decisions. Their only way out is often to sacrifice their careers and reputations, to risk alienating those among them more absorbed in the politics than the real situation. Among all the sacrifices these people make, these are among the last they should be asked to make, because for many of these people, it is a calling.

The experience of war is undoubtedly irreplaceable. The difference between those who know war and those who have actually lived it is profound. Unfortunately, few of the politicians and officials have had that experience at this time. Certainly not the President, who has equated support of the troops not with people signing up to join an expanded military, nor political efforts to reduce waste and discipline spending to what is needed, but with simply shutting up and agreeing with him about the nature and direction of this war.

It's generally been acknowledged at this point that a lot has gone wrong in this war. Even the President, selling his Surge, had to admit that things were not going well. But the Bush administration's response to the frustration of its plans has been to perpetually punt the question forward, to ask people to defer their judgment up the road. Trouble is, the whole point of asking for this grace period is to gain the time to fix things, and things have hardly been fixed during the numerous grace periods provided. Quite the opposite.

There will be those who use the soldiers as human shields for the policy, who claim that dissenters to the Bush policy like myself aren't supporting the troops like we should. Well, here's my point of view: our soldiers give up their freedom to defend ours. We should use our freedom, our freedom to speak out, to seek out information freely, our freedom to defy and even force submission from the politicians and officials they take orders from to look out for their interests where they cannot.

Besides, they are ultimately our responsibility. The President is our employee, as are all the politicians and officials who rank above them in the chain of command. Like any employer, we are obliged to look out for the employees under our subordinates.

The polls say that Americans want to wait to make their decision until after the September report. But what can, and what will this this report truthfully be able to say? Will it be much different than what we had this month with the interim report, with the crucial goals undone? Without the political will for unification, the Iraqi Army able to stand on its own, the Iraqi government able to assert authority over its own territory (all prerequisites for us leaving in some kind of victory), then the Surge is worthless, regardless of how good it makes anybody feel about our chances for winning, even the soldiers. If the Iraqis can't or won't do better, and we can't force them to do otherwise, then all our efforts only represent relief, not a cure for what ails Iraq.

America cannot be the heroin that Iraq uses to dull the pain of the wounds it won't stop inflicting on itself. It's too bad if we have to accept the guilt of what position we put Iraq in by invading with a lousy plan and a lousier attitude, but that's a smaller price to pay than a continual, fruitless escalation that will only serve to dull both our senses and those of the Iraqis to what needs to be done.

We've become addicted to tryijng to save Iraq from itself, from our own screw-ups, convinced that if we simply persist, we'll have not given the enemy the victory. Unfortunately, though many military crises can be resolved with resolve, other problems are not solved in that way. Persistence in the execution of a plan that is not working will not make things better, it will only help one to avoid admitting that a change is necessary. I know its difficult, and even as I write this, I know these are not the words I wished to have to write in the beginning, nor the kind of pessimism I would generally prefer to voice. This sucks. It really does. But my preference that reality was kinder would not make it so. Going into denial about this in the hopes that something good would happen defies what years of failed predictions and ongoing insufficient results tell me about this adminstration's running of the war.

America has a choice: it can continue to put our soldiers in harm's way so an administration can pretend that it's war hasn't been a failure, or it can end this war and allow the nation, and our armed forces to heal from the consequences of that failure. The soldiers will not call for it themselves until things have become so absolutely bad that it breaks all their inhibtions concerning talking back to superiors, until career officers are pushed to the point where they are willing to risk their calling to tell the president off. The generals in Washington won't call for it unless they know their jobs aren't endangered by telling the President the truth.

The President will continue to run this war and the army fighting it into the ground until either the end of the war, or the end of the patience of his own party forces a different outcome. The soldiers out there can't save this President or America from his foolishness or incompetence. It is up to us to do that.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at July 18, 2007 11:43 AM
Comments
Comment #226753

Stephen,

You’ve done it again. Very nice piece.

It is complete Bush propaganda that dissenters of his war do not support our troops. He gets away with this game for two main reasons (other than the fact that he is a total moron—among other things): 1) In 2004 the majority electorate voted to keep this clown around for 4 more years. Since he actually won an general election and with the majority vote, he can operate from the assumption that the harsh criticism is coming from the minority (remember Cheney said the 2004 election was a “mandate” of the people). 2) He is also under the assumption that anyone stupid enough to vote for him is also stupid enough to believe the malarky that comes out of his fascist mouth.

It certainly doesn’t help matters with these supposed “turncoat” republicans playing a game of political rhetoric about the war. They claim to oppose the current policy in order to keep their constituents voting for them, but in practice let’s keep the war going because we don’t have the courage or the morality to do what is right. “Hell it’s not my son or daughter over there.” So what are we left with, American soldiers losing their lives everyday in Iraq because of politics.

As far as General Petraus is concerned, it seems highly improbable that this “surge” strategy was his idea. He just gets to be the fall guy or face early retirement. Defense Secretary Gates is another smoke screen in the idiot Bush’s terror policy against the American military.

Is there anyone in this country (and elsewhere) that isn’t keen to fact that this “president” is just biding his time until the US Constitution, one way or another, returns Texas’ missing idiot to its appropriate village. He will pass this mess onto someone else while American soldiers lives hang in the balance. How can this policy and its practices be acceptable to American citizens? For the life of me, I can’t fathom it.

Posted by: Kim-Sue at July 18, 2007 4:08 PM
Comment #226762

I see this war much like the Viet Nam war with the exception we knew who the enemy was because he wore a uniform. The fact that we left Viet Nam after let me think my Viet Nam campaign ribbon had 1963 as a start but no finish but Nixon did end it with a pull out in 1972 9 years of fighting for nothing because after we left the North took over, much like what is going to happen in Iraq when we leave. Personally I don’t care what anyone says about GW he was very wrong in his tactics with Iraq if it was me Iraq would be in the stone age again along with Afganistan.
But that’s just me. McArthur had it right in Korea, Truman should have listened. The Politicians should have listened to the Commanders in Nam to, but they didn’t. Johnson blew it in Nam, just like Bush is blowing it in Iraq. Yhe irony both are from Texas but opposite parties.

Posted by: KAP at July 18, 2007 5:46 PM
Comment #226764

What Democrats nor Republicans, for different reasons, won’t tell the American public is, pulling out of Iraq means the International Community will of necessity have to move in to fill the void.

It just couldn’t be plainer than Pinocchio’s nose after a hundred lies. A vacuum in Iraq would threaten Middle East stability, and the industrialized world absolutely depends upon a stable Middle East for uninterrupted oil flow.

The quickest way for the U.S. to acquire the international assistance and resources necessary to inject a U.N. Peacekeeping force and a flurry of diplomatic agreements to prevent Iraqi neighbors from interfering, is by announcing a date certain pull out commencing 9 to 12 months after the announcement. This would give the international community the time needed to get their collective act together to take over as the U.S. pulls out.

Republicans of course won’t even contemplate such a scenario, as their chief motive is a permanent military offensive capacity in the heart of the Middle East. Democrats are contemplating it, but, won’t publicly admit it, because that would have political fallout of a major kind this close to presidential election year.

But, the reality is nonetheless, reality. The world cannot afford an unstable Middle East. Ergo, if handled with a little common sense, pulling out of Iraq is America’s very best option for all concerned, Republican leadership excepted of course.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 18, 2007 5:51 PM
Comment #226771

David,

Great point, and it highlights Bush’s biggest blunder when he refused the UN when they offered to come into Iraq to help with peacekeeping immediately following the war. He didn’t want them not finding those WMDs, it worked out well for him don’t you think?

Posted by: Rhinehold at July 18, 2007 6:21 PM
Comment #226810

Stephen

If I believed the choice was between staying in Iraq and leaving AND being able to just move on, I would be with you. But leaving Iraq will not end the war. In the short run it will save some American lives at the expense of many Iraqi ones. In the longer term, a quick withdrawal will cost more of both.

When you have a wolf by the ears, you cannot just let go because your hands are tired.

Kim

General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counter insurgency. We are following his advice and plan now in Iraq. It was his idea. It would have been better if he had been in charge earlier.

Rhinehold

Remember when the UN HQ was bombed and they bugged? And we all recall the success of UN armies in establishing and peace in war zones. We just cannot recall of any particular examples.

President Bush made lots of mistakes. If we knew than what we know now, we would have made a different set of them.

Posted by: Jack at July 18, 2007 11:00 PM
Comment #226820

Jack,
We did know then, the only problem is no one in power listened ti Powell. Get the picture, every year to two years later the nay sayers are proven right but we just cant remember that they said that sooo long age.

Posted by: timesend at July 18, 2007 11:49 PM
Comment #226824

Jack,
Nice metaphor about the wolf - too true.

The problem is that the rest of the wolfpack are biting you all over your body, and your brain says “hold on” to the ears and your gut says “get the hell out of dodge.”

I will opine, pointlessly, that I’m glad that the war has progressed the way that it has. The casualty count, however costly, is a mere fraction of any real conflict, and I don’t think we would be as safe if God forbid, Al Gore or even worse, John Kerry, had been in control… but Stephen and David in my opinion are right about getting out of there.

Because Bush allows the neutering of our troops, and won’t let us turn the Suni triangle into a parking lot, it is a sophiwar (go ahead and plagiarize if you like it, but it was mine first). It’s pointless. They keep breeding terrorists, we keep killing lots of them, they keep killing a few of our boys here, a few there, and the only benefit is that nothing major happens here in the good ol’ USA. Yet

Stephen is right, in another year this will be somebody else’s mess to clean up, and EGADS what a mess it is, but one can only hope that it is someone who is not a senator “bought and paid for” and is willing to get it together here at home.

I’d feel a lot safer if the NAFTA highway idea was obliterated, they built a wall on the Mexican AND Canadian border, used half of the troops they have in Iraq right now to patrol the borders and seas, and the other half to do ethnic and religious profiling and SHUT DOWN any mosque in America that so much as utters the word “Jihad.”

If we repealed all free trade agreements, capitalized on the oil we already have on OUR soil, and started manufacturing Nuclear electricity, support for government would soar, and I think we’d be safer.

But that won’t happen… just follow the money.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at July 19, 2007 1:12 AM
Comment #226829

For those who want some insight into the doctrine of the “surge” strategy, the reference to consult first is the Army Field Manual 3-24. A google search using “FM 3-24” will take you to actual document compiled by General Petraeus.

As one respondent here mentioned, the surge strategy is Gen. Petraeus’ idea. This is a misconception (not surprising) that I hope to clarify by providing this reference.

What I find the most interesting about this document compiled (authored) by Gen. Petraeus are the NUMEROUS aspects required for a “successful” counterinsurgency—most of them do NOT involve direct military action (i.e. combat). These aspects of a successful “counterinsurgency” have heretofore been IGNORED by GWB and his gang—again not surprising given the GWB and the gang don’t actually have to operate in Iraq, let alone participate in combat.

The other important aspect—at least with respect to discussions in this forum—is that the practical elements of the document were developed based on what has gone on in Iraq up to the time Gen. Petraeu assumed command of the US Armed Forces contingent of the “coalition” forces. It is PRECISELY the kind of information, history, etc. that should have been considered BEFORE the US invaded Iraq. Gen. Petraeus, himself, states this point in far greater detail than I will or even can go into.

Take a look at it. I am particularly interested to see how the “Bushies” here will respond to what they read. Assuming of course, they are even willing to read it. My suspecion is that “Bushies” will “cherry pick” it for only the parts they like. Given the depth and breadth of this document, however, the “cherry picking” tactic will be blatantly exposed. Nonetheless, I am curious to see how “creative” they might be.

Posted by: Kim-Sue at July 19, 2007 3:37 AM
Comment #226830

Roosevelt’s radio broadcast on D-Day was, in its entirety, a prayer. (Think of the uproar if the current incumbent did that!) It was a prayer for the hundreds of thousands of men he had ordered into battle, thousands of whom he knew would die or be grievously wounded. You can see in those wartime photographs how Roosevelt aged, how his health was destroyed by the weight of the responsibilities he bore, a weight the rest of us have a hard time imagining.

Posted by: Stephenl at July 19, 2007 4:45 AM
Comment #226835

Oh the horror, that a party leader would use Politics in trying to push his agenda. Democrats NEVER do that, do they?

And why isn’t social security FIXED? Well, democrats told us they were PROTECTING IT against republicans. Meaning no fix, the problem gets worse, the solution will be worse when it finally becomes so bad it has to be fixed right away.

Yup, democrats “played politics” with an issue as serious as our social security. Oh the horror, I thought they didn’t do that.

Posted by: S at July 19, 2007 5:47 AM
Comment #226838

S

Remind me again how many Americans died over the politics of social security? I forgot the exact statistics. Was it, say, around ZERO.

Posted by: Kim-Sue at July 19, 2007 8:26 AM
Comment #226850

KAP-
McArthur hamstrung his president in public. As much as I would smile at the thought of Bush being put in his place by a commander or a general in command, It would be a bad sign and a bad precedent (even with a bad President!)

War serves policies, serves goals. If we let ourselves believe that persistence is always a virtue, that unrestrained force is always the answer, then we will lose quite a few wars.

If our goal is to bring the political reunification of Iraq ourselves, the report card on the surge illustrates that we are nowhere near doing that. Extra force and persistence will not do that, because our very presence creates dependency among our allies and resistance among our enemies. It makes reconstructing the Iraqi army merely optional to many, allows them to get away with remaining in discord, because we’re so willing to pick up the pieces, to put the other person they’ve just goaded into action in their place.

Many on the Right wonder why we oppose the surge now, given our calls for more troops earlier. The simple reason is, the catastrophe we were hoping to head off has already happened: the degeneration into civil strife.

Our alternative here is to linger around, spending billions of dollars to prolong the situation. That’s a hopeless endeavor. We should do ourselves and the Iraqis the favor of ending this war, doing it soon, and doing it while both sides are still capable of putting things down in an orderly manner. If we wait too long, the inevitable withdrawal might end up worse than the war itself. It’s bad enough to lose the war, which we’ve done, but let me leave no doubt of one thing: the longer we stay, the worse things get, and the bloodier and more chaotic our withdrawal will become. If you think losing a war is humiliating, try exiting one in a less than peaceful manner.

Jack-
We’re not going to be able to just move on. If you wonder why the Democrats are so antsy about taking measures to get out of this war, the honest truth is, leaving could be as much a fiasco as staying, if not done right.

It will become harder to leave, the longer we stay, the more we try to beat our heads against the wall on this one.

The real question, when you have the wolf by the ears, is what do you do next? Eventually, your hands will get tired, and the beast will prove stronger than you. At that time, if you’ve held on too long, you will be so tired that you will be at the creatures mercy. The cost of Johnson’s persistence in Vietnam was a great deal of the strength of the American economy, the prestige of our armed forces, among other things. he could have let things settled down in the mid sixties and negotiate. Politics, though, and ideology, rather than pragmatism, were in the driver’s seat.

In the end, the Soviets were strengthened and emboldened by our waste. Rather than serving to defeat them, it strengthened them for that period. Fortunately, their economy was crap. Our saving grace was that we could afford to make mistakes, even as big as Vietnam. That will not always be the case. As it is now, Iraq has strongly diminished our power in the world.

No, the key is, let go of the ears while you’re still strong, but let go of them with a plan, prepared to face threat that your mistakes created.

Yukon Jake-
From my perspective, the problem is one that goes in the opposite direction. Americans aren’t afraid of the enemy in this war, they’re afraid of losing control of the situation. Withdrawal brings those fears for some. Most Americans support withdrawal because they no longer believe that our presence controls the situation effectively. They see things your way.

It’s the fear of defeat that drives many of the war’s supporters, though, a defeat they don’t believe comes until we officially give up. Anything they can do to continue the war, they will, even if they have no real ideas of how to win.

Bush’s policy did weaken our troop’s effectiveness, but not like you think. We could have never won by turning the Sunni Triangle into a parking lot. Real victory would be the Sunni Triangle in submission to a national government. Peacekeeping Missions and nationbuilding were not wrong for Iraq, or wrong for war in general.

The problem is, Bush took a force optimized for rapid, mobile warfare, and applied them to a heavy duty invasion and occupation. To occupy, keep the peace, and nation build, we needed heavier forces, we need a plan that committed to our control and management of the country from the get go, with proper funds in place, and we needed people to be trained in counterinsurgency, in peacekeeping activities. What de-nutted us in Iraq was not restraint on the violence we could inflict, but restraints on our ability to address the mission appropriately.

Bush’s problem is that he never wanted Iraq to be his problem. He wanted to fight it like every other minor war we’ve had. Only Iraq and its occupation were never going to be a minor war.

Casualty wise, it’s not. We’ve saved about 2 1/2 times the people we could in Vietnam. If our casualties were in line with that, we would see about nine thousand of our soldiers dead in Iraq.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 19, 2007 9:57 AM
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