Democrats & Liberals Archives

One Way to Lose A War

Video games and the movies often make war about two sides killing each other, and body counts are often touted as evidence of progress. The reality of war, though, is that it generally continues until one side lacks either the means or the will to continue. The irony of the Bush Administration’s war is that it’s done quite a lot that ensured that we would run short on the means to fight the war, And quite a lot which ensures that our enemy does not want for them.

The right wing in America today makes quite a big deal about will, about the head-games. While retaining confidence is an important matter in keeping a war going, it's something much easier to do when people see a working policy in place, with goals that are met, and an enemy rendered less able to fight, not more. You cannot expect people not to weigh the merits of continuing or cutting short a war, especially in a Democracy where this is supposedly their prerogative.

Supplies, weaponry, and communications are part and parcel of successful warfare. So is good management. Though the popular vision of winning a war is killing everybody and letting God sort things out, the truth is, you can lose a war even without losing too many lives.

War, as Von Clausewitz famously said, is policy carried out by other means. When he talked about forces, he often talked about them in terms of their ability to carry out their objective. Morale and will are but one part of a larger equation, and often dependent on the shape that other components are in.

Equipment is important, We're running short. So is knowing how to handle the equipment, and knowing this outside of a situation where having a learning curve can be a deadly handicap. If you want a confident soldier, you deploy him or her trained and well equipped.

The failure to deny that equipment to the enemy, to deny them the opportunity to train and gain confidence is also an issue, which is why it's a real sorry situation when we end up supplying our enemy with weapons, When a campaign meant to stop the spread of destructive weapons Lacks the means to secure dangerous military explosives, and when we can't account for the vast majority of weapons or money we're sending into the country.

Strategy is about more than killing or fending off the insurgents, it's also about depriving them of their strategic necessities as well. If we can keep guns out of insurgent hands, they obviously won't be used to shoot Americans or innocent Iraqis. It also helps if we can a)get what we need to fight and win the war to the country in a timely manner, and b)get the supplies and weaponry for our allies to where it will do the most good. Heck, it c) helps to get the right allies in the first place!

It helps to know what you want, know what problems you have to overcome to get it, know how to overcome those problems, and have the means at your disposal to carry out the necessary plans. Clear objectives, intelligent and intuitive understanding of the battlefield, mastery of the situation, and the logistical support necessary to carry these goals out represent the crucial workflow, if you will, for winning wars and achieving strategic aims. You cannot simply stick with will alone. As great as the Bush administration's intentions were, they fell far short of doing, knowing, learning and understanding what it would take to win the war. Worse, they compounded their mistake and continue to compound it by trying to force things right through will and perserverence, like a person who breaks what they're trying to fix by trying to force a cross-threaded fitting or inappropriate part to behave how they wanted it to behave.

Should we continue to reward those, Democrat and Republican, who aren't putting the brakes on this debacle? Those who seem prepared to maintain and continue the state of stubborn denial that Bush has locked himself into? We need people in Congress and in the White House who are much more practical about this matters, and we will need them after Bush more than ever. We've barely scratched the surface on the problems this administration has left us with. If we want America strong, we need people who aren't going to waste its strength trying to vindicate Bush or avoid looking bad themselves.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 7, 2007 11:50 AM
Comments
Comment #240236

It’s a shame some of you won’t allow yourselves to believe we can (and are) winning this war. And, Iraq is only one front (the main front right now) in the War on Terror. Blaiming Bush is not going to get it done; although, continuing to do so would (indeed) be: “One Way to Lose A War”.

Posted by: rahdigly at December 7, 2007 3:46 PM
Comment #240246

rahdigly-
As usual, you make it entirely about head games, not even acknowledging real problems when they become impediments to our strategic goals.

What won’t allow me to believe we are winning the war are the facts that we have consistently failed to meet goals. These are facts you gloss over since admitting any bad thing, in your faith-based approach to fighting a war, helps the enemy. Never mind that you need to admit failures, and admit them early, to redeem failures.

For the sake of going along to get along, we’ve allowed Iraq to become a cesspool of corruption, and that in turn has undermined our work in that country. Guns and explosives, due to the negligence of this administration, are going to help the war effort of the enemy.

Why is this tolerable to you? Why are so many other failures par for the course, while somebody complaining about such astonishing failures and setbacks is a capital offense? I really don’t get this attitude, where words that you think might contribute to failure are so zealously guarded against, while actions that are substantively contributing to that failure go unremarked.

If you had heeded many of the warnings at the time they were made, warnings about intelligence, warnings about military readiness and force levels in Iraq, you might have been able to redeem the war, or at least make a less spectacular failure of it. Instead, you and your folks have jealously fought back against any and all criticism and labelled your detractors defeatists. Result? Well you can be confident and optimistic, but anybody with a clearheaded notion of what we once intended to do, and what has happened since, cannot share your confidence.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 7, 2007 5:06 PM
Comment #240254

I always find it interesting that someone will always post on here and insist that we are winning the war but then do not post any information to support the statement.

So, Rahdigly

Please convince me that we are winning the war. Give me all the information you have to support your position. So killings are down what else do you have to substantiate success?

What information did you use to determine that Iraq is only one front (the main front right now).

Please provide information so that I can see the error of my ways.

Posted by: Carolina at December 7, 2007 6:10 PM
Comment #240255

It never ceases to amaze me why the Left always has a negative opinion of the war in Iraq. Sure mistakes were made as were mistakes made in all the wars this country was in especially in Nam and that one was run by a Democrat.

Posted by: KAP at December 7, 2007 6:17 PM
Comment #240261

KAP, actually it was 2 Dems and one Rep President responsible for length of the Viet Nam War, and Nixon oversaw the 3 last years of the war, before impeached with Ford overseeing the withdrawal and end to the conflict.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 7, 2007 7:09 PM
Comment #240262

Rahdigly, belief and faith are what keep Republicans on their endless track. Facts and realities are what have sustained the opposition to perpetuating this Viet Nam Redux.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 7, 2007 7:11 PM
Comment #240268

David
I know it was 2 Dems and a rep who oversaw the Viet Nam war But it was the second Dem who really F it up. The rep even though he was crooked at least tried to salvage it by the unrestricted bombing of Da Nang which Jackass Johnson should have done in the first place and what Bush should have done in Iraq where ever insurgent strongholds were. Unlike some of the arm chair generals who want to comment on something they get from the media or playing video games maybe they ought to see it for real like I did and millions of other vets before they make their idol comments.

Posted by: KAP at December 7, 2007 7:44 PM
Comment #240279

Kap,

It never ceases to amaze me why the Left always has a negative opinion of the war in Iraq.


That’s b/c they’ve invested in defeat; defeat in Iraq means victory against their “evil” nemesis GWB. Any good sign in this war means it is good for Bush (and America for that matter), so dwelling on the past mistakes, poo-pooing the surge, and constant nagging about a “civil war” brings them closer to “their” victory; which is also (subsequently) a victory for the enemy (the real enemy, not Bush).

Posted by: rahdigly at December 8, 2007 12:55 AM
Comment #240280

The military is never up to the levels of equipment it wants. If you read your own link, you see that the army was $56 billion in the hole in 2001, before the war and when you would have had to blame a Dem administration.

It is very interesting that Dems, who generally oppose military budgets and gleefully cut back in the 1990s, are now finding the true faith of wanted to give the military everything they ask for. Will you keep this up after 2008?

Nothing is ever 100% functional by a theoretical standard, but we clearly have enough equipment to win this war.

You guys should get used to the idea that by next election our country will have a success on our hands. This is a good thing for America. It is still not a certainty. We could suffer a setback or the Dems could pull the rug out, but the probability grows every day. Dems could help and they should scurry over to the right side now and beat the rush. I personally would be happy to have them and promise not to excoriate about the war any Dem who comes around by the end of this year. The others will be fair game for the yellow stain.

Posted by: Jack at December 8, 2007 12:57 AM
Comment #240290

Again, that phrase “win the war”.

Jack what does that mean? You also said, “We will have a success on our hands”. How do you define “win the war.” How do you define “success”. Tell me how I will know when the war is won and we have been successful. Successful at what. Cause I certainly don’t know what that means. This president has not defined what that is. I thought we already won the war when he stood infront of the banner that said “mission accomplished.” What do you perceive will have occurred between now and next year that will define what winning this war means”.

Posted by: Carolina at December 8, 2007 8:56 AM
Comment #240302
Why are so many other failures par for the course, while somebody complaining about such astonishing failures and setbacks is a capital offense? Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 7, 2007 05:06 PM

Because these perceived failures are simply strawmen propped up by the Democratics in a shameless attempt to make a Republican look bad in time for the next election.
Valarie Plame went no where because the accusation was baseless. Alberto Gonzalas went nowhere because the accusations were baseless. Wire tapping and Bank Transactions went no where because the President has the constitutional authority in a state of emergency. Countless other fake issues went nowhere!

If Democratics were interested in enforcing the constitution then they ought to be enforcing all parts of the constitution instead of just waving the little book around crying “George Bush! George Bush!”.

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 8, 2007 11:51 AM
Comment #240320

KAP-
Vietnam’s mistakes transcend party lines. The Democrats bore the brunt of it politically, as the Republicans did this time.

Either way, they did the same thing wrong: they got into a state of denial, building political defenses against the perception of failure, rather than practical solutions to the fact of failure early enough to avoid the consequences of dragging the problem out.

There are plenty of people who have seen war for real who are critics of the way this war was and is being handled. This is not about a bunch of amateurs critiquing something that’s been praised overall professionally; the experts have been just as harsh about it.

I have done my best to know what I’m talking about, to teach myself about military strategy, the situation in Iraq, and the various opinions floating around among members of the military.

As for salvaging it? He salvaged nothing. Vietnam still fell. All he succeeded in doing was destabilizing Cambodia and getting tens of thousands more Americans killed with no strategic compensation. The added expense contributed to America’s economic woes, the added time in theatre made America’s political division all the worse. Maybe he pleased a few people like you, but your pleasure at his attitude would have been a small sacrifice to have retained more of America’s strength and left the surrounding countries more intact.

Rahdigly-
You’re invested in Bush’s inflated self-image as a leader. Do you think that’s really what’s leading three quarters of this country, even with recent improvements in conditions, to still want to leave Iraq, to still withdraw? Is it Bush hatred that sunk the Democrat-lead Congress’s ratings? Is it Bush Hatred that lead people, even Republicans, to excoriate the administratin over their lateness in responding to Katrina, to that humanitarian crisis?

The world does not revolve around Bush! Just the Republican Party, it seems, and the supporters of this war. Let me let you in on a little secret: political skills mean nothing when you’re screwing up. When we had our debacle in Somalia, and in other countries, Clinton looked bad, we got criticized. When we seemed to bomb the wrong buildings, we got criticized. When we broke Slobodan Milosevic’s back over Kosovo, when we helped put an end to the destructive civil war, we earned some good regard.

Good regard is earned. You can’t beat sympathy out of people. Moreover, arguing counterfactually will only work with those invested in not believing the evidence.

The fact remains that political reconciliation has not occured as promised. Fact remains, that’s what caused the violence to become so intense in the first place. Fact remains, the intelligence community itself has said that Iraq had descended into a state of chaos for which civil war was an insufficient description.

Question: are most Americans cheering for the victory of the enemy? No. They had patiently waited for Bush to deliver that, and when he did not, they turned against the war. Nobody much likes losing, and people like continuing to lose much less. They want it cut short.

Jack-
Maybe that was true in 2000, but we’ve had six years since then to rectify things. Even if the Democrats fit your ridiculous cariacture, you still had a long time, with plenty of political support for making the improvements. I mean, damn, you guys talked all the time during the course of this war about supporting the troops. Did it ever occur to you that this was one way to do it?

I think what your party is doing right now is just terrible. You’re setting yourself up to create:

1) a new generation of people who are bitter that the Republicans were not allowed to do what they wanted to do;

2) a new generation of people who’ll believe that the way to win the war is by politicizing it every step and turning people against its critics;

3) a new generation of folks who are going to focus on the politics of the war, not the practical realities, letting opportunities slip by so they can avoid the negative backlash that would accompany admitting fault.

The failures of this war go hand in hand with the divisive political course taken. The yellow stain belongs to those who were too afraid to lose political power to take care of the practical realities of the war that they had full strength to deal with. I mean, what did you guys go through all that effort to wrest power from the rest of us for?

At least we Democrats at home have the good form to criticize our party members in Washington when they fail to capitalize on the political power we voters gave them. Since when were you exhorting them to raise the numbers of troops, telling them to take a new strategic course before they actually went through with it? You guys are wonderful about apologizing for your politicians. We’d be in a better spot all around, if you were better at challenging them to get things done.

Weary Willie-
Perceived? I’m afraid losing the vast majority of the guns you hand out to the Iraqis along with most of the money, qualifies as more than a perceived failure. It’s more than a perceived failure when a pro-military administration doesn’t keep the ranks thick enough to maintain a military presence in a country, when that country, under their previous plan, erupts in a civil war, despite all their assurances that this would not happen.

When they set goals and benchmarks, then fail to meet them, promise political reconciliation, yet fail to bring it about, these are more than perceive failures. They are real.

As for investigations going nowhere?
First the Valerie Plame allegations were not baseless. The administration was in fact the source of the leak, and the leak was in fact supported and contributed to with at least the Vice President’s knowledge. They got off, if you read things closely, on a technicality.

Alberto Gonzales did go somewhere- just ask Michael Mukasey. Wiretapping continues to be a problem, presidential authority being specifically circumscribed by the Fourth Amendment, which applies even in times of war. If it wasn’t a problem, telecom company immunity would be immaterial as an issue.

You guys won’t even let yourselves realize how bad your situation is. You’re not winning the political battles, you’re not even coming close.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 8, 2007 3:33 PM
Comment #240324

Stephen
You can read all the books you want about strategy in warfare but until you see it first hand all the reading in the world will NOT MEAN A THING. Each war has it’s different quirks. But if you want defeat in Iraq, go ahead and pull the troops now. YOU WILL SEE CHAOS LIKE WE SAW WHEN WE PULLED OUT OF NAM. I don’t like war no more than anyone else but I dispise not finishing something we started and leaving it worse than it was before. I’ve been to Nam and seen war first hand and Johnson was worse than Bush in his handiling of things.

Posted by: KAP at December 8, 2007 3:58 PM
Comment #240327
I dispise not finishing something we started and leaving it worse than it was before. I’ve been to Nam and seen war first hand and Johnson was worse than Bush in his handiling of things.

Posted by: KAP at December 8, 2007 03:58 PM

Bush ran and won a majority of the popular vote and the electoral vote as well. Johnson didn’t even run.

Perceived? I’m afraid losing the vast majority of the guns you hand out to the Iraqis along with most of the money, qualifies as more than a perceived failure. Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 8, 2007 03:33 PM

How nieve would I be if I perpetuated this senerio?

Arming the Government of Iraq senerio, as per Stephen Daugherty:


Stephen Daugherty, my hero, team leader asigned to the distribution of small arms in Iraq.

“Awright you guys! Listen up!!! Anyone who wants an M16 line up here!! Anyone who wants money to support these guys with the m16’s, You line up HERE!!!!! I need to know your name and where you live before you get this weapon. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME???!!!”


Nice job there, Stephen.

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 8, 2007 4:50 PM
Comment #240329

click/snap

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 8, 2007 5:04 PM
Comment #240334

KAP-
I didn’t make my points up myself. I listen to people who do have experience, who have fought in wars. I look back at the history, and studied the basics on the subject.

You say that wars have different quirks. So they do. But basic requirements remain the same; you have to pay attention to the quirks in order to figure out how to do it right. That hasn’t been the Bush administration’s method for handling this. They applied the transformation/neocon doctrine to death, attributing the downward spiral of control, much like you do, to the inevitable bad luck of war.

But the pattern people are seeing is that the denial of the problem does little to make it go away. The Bush Administration once before denied that it was a problem that sectarian differences remained so profound. They expected the elections to redeem things, expected the Iraqis to stand up and take care of things. They did not.

The carbon copy answer for all of this from you guys is that in some way, criticism here has emboldened the insurgents and the terrorists, and made things not work. It’s a convenient, and altogether dangerous excuse.

As for the chaos after we leave? Unless we start getting our diplomatic ducks in a row, it’ll be worse than Vietnam. Vietnam, at the very least, had a clear winner able to take over with a central government. Here, there are large chunks of this much more politically and religiously fractious government who will not recognize the majority government’s legitimacy.

While we stay though, are we getting in the way of anything? Our numbers are set to decline very quickly in the coming months, meaning fewer soldier will be there to hold things in place, should they prove to be the main glue holding the place together. If the fundamentals of political reconciliation haven’t been taken care of by the time we reach summer, those few soldiers, no matter how brave, resourceful, and clear-headed they are, will not be able to keep things together anymore than the pre-surge numbers were. In fact, less so, given that we’ll end up at 100,000, rather than the 140,000 we started out with.

Could things work? Weirder things have happened. But I’m not in the business of counting on unlikely good luck, and nor should our military policy be based on such dependence. What is plan B this time? Where are the soldiers to bring back if things once again fail to work out like they’ve been optimistically planned?

This Administration has never planned for contingencies. It’s always assumed that the bare minimum approach it takes will work out through a combination of luck, force multipliers and other fortuitous breaks.

More than anything else, what gets me angry is that they refuse to learn the lesson that you can’t leave things to chance this way in a military campaign. They’ve idealized this constant, unfounded optimism as if it were the key to winning the war. Meanwhile so many of the other essentials are left to the wayside, undealt with.

I’ve only gotten this political because I’m a bit of a hawk, I hate to see my country lose, and I’ve seen this Administration steadfastly refuse to admit mistakes, resolve them, and move on. Instead, they’ve insisted on maintaining and defending their old approaches.

I oppose continuing a fiasco that’s only serving to weaken our country and make it weaker in the face of other enemies. If we don’t leave Iraq, we might embolden another military power with our very real lack of readiness, and they end up successfully challenge our strategic interests.

The Iraq war is bleeding America of its ability to project power in the world, economically, politically, and militarily. It’s time to end it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 8, 2007 5:52 PM
Comment #240336

Weary Willie-
In an insurgency or guerilla campaign, groups often steal the resources of those they oppose to help supply and arm their soldiers.

You’re saying we should live with losing track of weapons and cash, in the midst of a war where such tactics are being used.

So, let’s review: you’re saying, lets make it easier for an enemy to steal weapons and take our money from us while we’re fighting a war where success depends on depriving the enemy of such resources.

We don’t hand guns to people in America to be police officers or soldiers without some knowledge of who they are, whether they are who they claim to be, and whether they have a past which should disqualify them from the service in question.

The Iraqi Police and their armies should be staffed with similar care, if we expect them to keep the peace, and not be part of the problem. If we don’t know where our cash is going, or our weapons, if we don’t know the shape of what our resources are doing on the battlefield, we might as well not be putting them there. America really doesn’t need to be shooting itself in the foot.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 8, 2007 6:08 PM
Comment #240338

you’re second guessing people who know.

Stand down Mr. Daugherty.

Your position is moot.

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 8, 2007 6:34 PM
Comment #240340

Stephen
Are you listening to people on both sides of the spectrum or just people who say things you want to hear? If it’s the people who say things you want to hear and we do leave Iraq unfinished I GUARANTEE YOU we will be back there!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: KAP at December 8, 2007 7:55 PM
Comment #240345

Weary Willie-
I’m second guessing an administration whose upper eschelon of decision-makers are mostly bereft of veterans, a President who specifically opted out of combat, a Vice President who got deferred five times from the draft, a secretary of Defense (Rumsfeld) who never served as a combat officer.

But even if I were second guessing an administration with veterans shoulder to shoulder, wouldn’t I have the right to, if they were screwing things up so badly?

Being a veteran does you no good if you don’t keep up with current events, if you go into denial, or if you take a highly partisan outlook on things that keeps you from admitting fault in those you support. Even a person with great experience can be wrong when they starve themselves of dependable information.

When I read the book The Best and the Brightest, the definitive diagnosis on what went wrong with Vietnam, guess who did the introduction for that particular edition? None other than John McCain, who read the book back when he got home from his imprisonment, trying to figure out how the war went so wrong.

I’m LISTENING to folks who know, not assuming that I know inherently what’s going on. Read George Packer’s The Assassins’ Gate. Read Bob Woodward’s Bush At War Trilogy, and understand how even those with favorable outlooks on the President and his war can come to disagree with him. Watch a few Frontlines on the subject. Read what all the generals said about the need for more soldiers, what the experts said about taking care of the unrest early.

In the early days, I kept asking myself why these people weren’t taking care of the problems that were creeping up on them. As the problem grew, and the Administration did nothing but blame others and spin the events (Flypaper strategy anybody? You know, inviting terrorists into a country we’re trying to stabilize?), I finally reached a point where I could tolerate their unwillingness to correct their course no longer.

I became convinced that this administration did not know what it was doing. In a time of war, what’s the merit of leaving them in place, unopposed?

I have no doubt that American troops will one day have to sort something out because of what this Administration failed to do. But the failure is already pretty much complete, and America’s armed forces need to recover, if they can, from what’s been done to them by a negligent, reckless administration.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 8, 2007 9:59 PM
Comment #240347

More success, eh?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 8, 2007 10:18 PM
Comment #240349

I couldn’t connect to your link http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/world/middleeast/09kirkuk.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
because I am not a member,

But your reference to the flypaper stratagy seems to have stuck in your mind. Why is this?

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 8, 2007 11:12 PM
Comment #240353

Stephen,

As usual, an excellent article. The only thing that you wrote that I really take exception with is this:

As great as the Bush administration’s intentions were

We cannot properly say that we know what their intentions were. We do know that:

1. There justification for the war in Iraq has continually changed, just as their justification for the pending war with Iran has continually changed. Evidence surfaces that they have known for a long time that Iran has stopped their nuclear weapons program so they shift the emphasis to the weapons that is sending into Iraq and continue beating the drums. But since they are liars - we don’t how much of that is true.

2. That oil company executives met with Cheney before 911 and drew up maps showing which oil companies would get which oil fields.

3. That “intelligence was fixed around the war.”

4 That the so called “oil sharing agreement” for national reconciliation that we are pressuring the Iraqis to adopt gives the Lion’s share of oil revenues to American oil companies for “service contracts” on both existing and new oil fields where as oil service contracts for other oil producing countries give a much smaller percentage to the developing oil company. In the other words the oil sharing agreement is not for the Iraqis - it is for the American oil companies.

So we don’t know what Bush’s intentions were - but we should not assume that they were “great.”

Posted by: Ray Guest at December 9, 2007 12:40 AM
Comment #240361

Just a random thought…It must be hard to be a coward

Posted by: tomd at December 9, 2007 6:33 AM
Comment #240362

Stephen
I perhaps had too much fun ridiculing the Dems of 2001 that I did not make my point well enough. This problem of readiness will NEVER be rectified. We will ALWAYS be under strength. That is the nature of how the measurements and how the politics work.

Besides the obvious fun of kicking Dems, I brought up the 2001 to illustrate this obvious point. If the Army is not sufficiently rested and ready after the most benign and easy decade of the century maybe we need to redefine what we mean by ready. Dems were always on this subject. Only now have they found the true faith and say that they need to give the military all that they ask for. I doubt you will feel the same way after 2008.

Carolina - victory is a reasonably democratic and stable Iraq that is not a threat. This is in contrast with defeat which Iraq and the Middle East desends into chaos. I must have written this a hundred times on this blog in the last four years and yet you guys keep on asking the question.

You think victory in Iraq is impossible, but what IF we achieved victory. In theory at least, what do YOU think it would look like? And if you think we are defeated now, do you really think it will not get much worse if we leave in the next three weeks?

Posted by: Jack at December 9, 2007 8:56 AM
Comment #240367

Weary Willie-
First, you can sign up with them for free, if you don’t want to miss out on sources. I know you might find that distasteful, but unless you know the facts the NYT’s putting forward, how are you to respond to them, or know if its worth arguing with them in the first place? If they’re your enemy, know your enemy.

Second, the sources in question talks about the tensions surrounding Kirkuk, with Kurds kicking Arabs out, and other Kurds forceably moving their own people in there so they can claim victory in a critical vote on oil revenues. It’s a sampling of the tensions involved here.

Even by the skewed standards of a country where millions are homeless or in exile, the squalor of the Kirkuk soccer stadium is a startling sight.

The Kurdish authorities ordered people born in Kirkuk to move back there for a referendum on the city’s future. More than 2,000 of the displaced Kurds moved into the city’s soccer stadium.
VideoMore Video » On the outskirts of a city adjoining some of Iraq’s most lucrative oil reserves, a rivulet of urine flows past the entrance to the barren playing field.

There are no spectators, only 2,200 Kurdish squatters who have converted the dugouts, stands and parking lot into a refugee city of cinder-block hovels covered in Kurdish political graffiti, some for President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

These homeless Kurds are here not for soccer but for politics. They are reluctant players in a future referendum to decide whether oil-rich Tamim Province in the north and its capital, Kirkuk, will become part of the semiautonomous Kurdish regional government or remain under administration by Baghdad.

Under the Iraqi Constitution the referendum is due before Dec. 31. But in a nation with a famously slow political clock, one of the few things on which Kirkuk’s Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities agree is that yet another political deadline is about to be missed.

What does our presence change? That’s the critical question of this war. If all we’re doing is just a bad job of peacekeeping, refereeing belligerents who won’t really do much to make peace between each other, well, I don’t think it’s worth more lives, more dollars and more time.

Jack-
You’re too wrapped up in the politics for your own good. You can’t make a point like that well enough, because there is a practical definition to these things that go beyond the political ones.

If Readiness was not a problem, if manpower was not a problem, the National Guard and the Reserve would have never been called up. They would not be sending soldiers to the frontlines, minus training on key weapons systems. Only by blithely assuming that it’s all just politics can you ignore the depths of the problem.

Its funny that you bring up 2000. We had no major wars going on. The issue, politically speaking, was whether we could fight a two front war like WWII. We really didn’t have major wars on the horizon.

Then we had 9/11. Logic alone would tell you that we would need more soldiers, if we were going to fight a bunch of major wars. Even if you believed we could get the job done with less, you really wouldn’t want to put our country in a position where any risk we took that went south would put us in awkward position.

But that’s just what happened. This administration allowed politics to get in the way of the necessary changes in policy to make our presence sustainable and effective. For years, you guys said, we don’t need anymore troops. Only now have you gotten the true faith. But the need was there long ago, and people like me were talking about the need long ago. You guys are just now treating this like an counterinsurgency, just now making even modern increases in the numbers of our standing army, just now trying to get political reconciliation.

Only you waited until the Insurgency succeeded in breaking the political cohesion of the country and having their way with it, then waited until you lost an election over it to treat it like a counterinsurgency. This was problematic, since we burned a great deal of faith in us, and cooperation trying the military solution.

You waited until the fiasco of the war had turned most people off of military service to start recruiting more soldiers, even though you could have had them in droves when the wars began. You once had to turn away people who wanted to join. Now you have to accept criminals, crazies, and degenerates in order to meet your recruiting quotas.

And now you’re trying to repair the political damage. This after people have been forcibly kicked out of their homes, after the violence and tragedy of the whole thing has poisoned people against each other.

Your Administration has allowed so many opportunities to pass it by, but acts as if every problem can be easily undone by remaining committed for longer. It’s back to stay the course, it’s back to indefinite commitment. Not only have you folks not learned anything, you won’t allow yourselves to learn anything.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 9, 2007 10:07 AM
Comment #240371

Stephen Daugherty, nice article, as per usual, and way to back things up expertly, again as you usually do. Can we get you to run for President?

Posted by: Ray at December 9, 2007 10:49 AM
Comment #240372

I’m too young.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 9, 2007 11:24 AM
Comment #240373

Jack,

No time to argue - but just one point. You wrote:

You think victory in Iraq is impossible, but what IF we achieved victory. In theory at least, what do YOU think it would look like?

You Repubs are the ones that keep calling for victory but refusing to define what it is - even as you build permanent military bases and negotiate a permanent military occupation with Maliki.

Posted by: Ray Guest at December 9, 2007 11:50 AM
Comment #240374

Jack, are you saying our military leaders and the Bush administration went into a war on foreign soil as the agressor, by choice, without enough equipment and forces to ensure victory? Then they did nothing to increase the known lack of resources needed by the troops?
Considering the many options we had at the time was this a wise and prudent decision?

Posted by: j2t2 at December 9, 2007 12:48 PM
Comment #240384

Back around 1776 give or take a few years many people didn’t think it was a wise and prudent decision to go to war, but they did and now we all have the freedoms we enjoy, even the freedom to call Bush an A-HOLE.

Posted by: KAP at December 9, 2007 2:25 PM
Comment #240395

KAP-
Okay, many people did think the Revolutionary War was a bad idea. True enough. And it turned out pretty good. True enough.

It pays to remember the War of 1812. Washington was burned because some fools in the White House decided to go to war with Britain over some issue. Only at the very end did we recover from the mistake, and only by good fortune.

If the Founding Fathers could make mistakes, and regret them, so can we. Some folks want to make every war about having the balls to fight it. But balls or not some wars don’t do what they’re intended to do.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 9, 2007 4:17 PM
Comment #240398

Jack

You said “A reasonably democratic and stable Iraq that is not a threat.” Again you use ambiguous, nonmeasurable words instead of clearly defining a win. Reasonable is not measurable. Stable is not measurable and a threat is not clearly definded by you. Based on what you just said then could it be that we have already won. There is some semblance of a democracy so I am going to claim that it is reasonably democratic. Violence is down so I am going to claim that Iraq is stable and since I don’t feel threatened by Iraq or its people I am going to say it isn’t a threat. So based on MY intrepretation of what you said, We have won so let’s bring our troops home. Job done, war won.

I apologize for not reading every message that you have ever posted here on liberals/democrats. I prefer to stick to posts where people clearly define and present documented evidence to support their positions.

Posted by: Carolina at December 9, 2007 4:30 PM
Comment #240400

Jack one last point. I am not sure if you were talking to me when you said the following: “you think victory in Iraq is impossible”. I never said that, those are your words. I asked you to defend your position.

I will be honest. I have no idea how to define victory in Iraq. Do I think we are winning? I would have to ask winning what? If you define a victory as a military victory, I would say who cares. I care more about the wounded soldiers coming home, I care more about the dead and dying Iraqs, I care about the soldiers and their families who are suffering untold mental and emotional damage because of the number of times they have had to go back, I care about how we will pay off this war that we have put on credit (credit always comes due), I care about how this war and this president and his minnons have torn this country apart and encouraged us to fight amongst ourselves, I care about the damage that has been done to our constitution, and the list goes on. I would rather see us put our time and effort into a diplomatic solution that does not cost more blood. I have little tolerance for a so called victory if we are talking about a military victory.


Posted by: Carolina at December 9, 2007 4:55 PM
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