Harvey Logan: Rules? In a knife fight? No rules.
[Butch immediately kicks Harvey in the groin]
Butch Cassidy: Well, if there aint' going to be any rules, let's get the fight started. -- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
"You hear me talkin', hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'ma get medieval on your ass." -- Pulp Fiction
By rote and by ritual most Americans to assert that they "Support our troops." But as we all know, yet seldom admit, America has more of the known reserves of the world's bullshit than the Saudis have oil. The truth of the matter is that far too many Americans are becoming far too interested in our troops behaving correctly than actually supporting and sustaining them. They blather support out of one orifice while spewing disdain from the other. We hear these clapped-out flatulators daily at work, on the street, and over the tube of the boobs. I don't know about you, but for me these hyperventilating hypocrites are beginning to gripe my hindquarters big time.
As we learn from the Holy Texts of Casey Stengel, "Nice guys finish last." I'd suggest we update this sentiment for this war into "Nice guys finish fried." As the events of the last week concerning one Zarquawi illustrate quite succinctly, Americans have the groove in rock, in roll and in the modern battle space. Indeed, at bottom, it could well be said that "They hate us because we have the groove."
At the same time, we need to acknowledge and celebrate the grand contradiction of the American character. This is that, as individuals we are a kind, generous, and always well-meaning, if not perfect, people. But piss us off as a group severely enough and we will reduce your cities to even smaller chunks of rubble than they are naturally.
Let those among us obsessed with "niceness" prate and prattle on their sound stages, their newsrooms, and in their useless sheaves of bleached wood-pulp and ink that were once called "news" papers. It costs little other than a passing pulse of irritated pity. The question of "should we be fighting" has long since been answered. Election or no election, Bush or AntiBush, we are in this war and we will be staying in it. If we don't go to it, it will come to us or to a Canada nearby. I hear all these psychotic babblers saying that they are only interested in finding peace through justice. The facts on the ground, as we saw in peace-promoting Canada this month, is that this war is only interested in peace through death.
To paraphrase a ditty from the Second World War, "We're in to win/turn in your tinhorn opinions." If winning matters to us it is time for Americans to just sit down and ask themselves exactly how nice they want to be in fighting the Terrorist War. The current constant background whine of cringe and cavil is really most unmanly and just won't do. Those that are prating for peace through withdrawal are offering us a suppository disguised as a policy. And when it comes to that, most Americans would prefer that the media morons of Manhattan and points west not have a hand in the matter. The pundits, no. The people, yes.
How frustrating to be an American soldier in Iraq. How discouraging to read the report on the few become the slander of all. How inhibiting to know that strategy, tactics, and the rules of engagement seem to always be subordinate to politics. How disheartening to see good comrades hurt and killed because you must, above all, follow today's rules of engagement. But because the American people must always support America's wars, this frustration must be accepted. Victory in a democratic society emerges from the people's will to pursue it.
But if a soldier of America has the will to pursue killers and cowards into the chaotic labyrinth of a Baghdad slum where friend, foe, and neutral are all of the same make and model, where is the will of the Americans that soldier is sworn to protect and serve when it comes to unqualified support; support without the weasel word "but?" If an American soldier can muster the will to drive down a road in Afghanistan where his comrades were killed in the last month, surely there is no excuse for an American citizen, secure for five years in his fat and happy world, to muster the will to support that soldier in deed and in word with no qualifications.
At the moment, our carefully parsed political positions and our neutered moral considerations do nothing but hamper the battle to expunge Islamic Totalitarianism from the face of the Earth. Even if you believe that is not the goal, the history heading your way will dissuade you and you will look upon these days when a victory was cheap with nostalgia and regret.
The end state of war is victory and "victory" is a word not often heard from our leadership. Instead, one gets the distinct impression that, speeches to graduates of military institutions aside, the President and his core group would prefer it if Americans and the world began to think of the Iraq stage of the First Terrorist War as a kind of Tsunami relief effort with guns; a Katrina where, from time to time, under carefully vetted conditions, rioters with explosives and automatic weapons might, just might, get shot with rubber bullets. I submit that as a policy and tone this is a clueless condition that cannot be sustained for an indefinite period.
We need to snap out of our pastoral stripmalled stupor. We need to stop pretending. The goal of the Terrorist War must shift from the oft-trumpeted plan of "implanting democracy and bringing freedom" to one of unconditional victory over Islamic Totalitarianism. While "giving the gift of democracy" is a comforting and warm notion on which to run for re-election, it does nothing to achieve victory, since it denies that victory is a goal. Instead, according to the prevailing message being repeated ad nauseum from the administration, "democracy and freedom" are the goals of this war. This is sheer propaganda.
Democracy and freedom for others cannot be the goals of war. They can only be the fruits of something more primal -- victory. Absent the goal of victory, this will indeed become "The Forever War," and America cannot sustain such an effort. In historic terms, the American will to wage war suffers a serious fall-off after three years of fighting unless victory can be see as a clear end state, and only then if progress toward victory is repeatedly demonstrated on the ground. We are already beyond the three year limit, and it is unlikely that Americans can be made to care much longer, in the face of trickle-down casualty rates, whether or not Iraqis ever become free and democratic. Indeed, if most Americans were woken from a sound sleep in the middle of the night and asked the question, they would blurt out that they don't give a damn about the squabbling Iraqis.
Absent a plan for victory, the current state of a low-level, hunt-and-peck war in Iraq will cease to be supported. The conflict will soon become either a hunkered down, bunkered up Korean policing program, or it will fizzle and gutter out. To gutter out and retreat would be to court disastrous consequences for the United States in the short term and the entire world in the future; a future more costly to the planet in terms of life, liberty and treasure than anything currently being done in Iraq.
You think not? Imagine a second 9/11 on the same or a larger scale. That's what the Canada 17 were planning. Imagine the American response to such an attack. Do you know where our 18 ballistic missile submarines are? No? Neither do I, but if you know what they can do you know that the nuclear payload on any single one of them is the end of the Islamic world. I don't know about you, but I'd prefer if it all did not quite come to that. I'm sure the residents of Tehran, if they were free to speak, would agree.
Too dramatic? Imagine then just the global economic consequences. Picture the vanishing of trillions in capital, the price of a barrel of oil, the crash of the job market, the expulsion of illegals as Americans suddenly become willing to do not only the jobs they won't do, but any job. Imagine a global replay of the Great Depression in a "networked, globalized" world.
Imagine that the housing market deflates with a whoosh. After all your 401K and spare cash were in the market because who wants savings bank interest. Suddenly your one big asset, the thing that made you "feel rich," your million dollar chicken shack is worth $100,000. And your mortgage is due and both the jobs your family had have vanished like the highland mist at high noon. And that $6,000 monthly mortgage payment is 90 days past due. And tomorrow's election day. And you really don't have all that much to do except take that Mickey Mantle Rookie card down to the pawnshop so you can go to the market for a quart of milk.
How did it all happen? We forgot to win. We were so strong and so cool and so with-it, that winning just, well, didn't seem fair. And playing fair is very important to Americans. After all, world war is just the World Series with guns. Isn't it?
While we may or may not be winning "the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people," we are in the perceptions of many Americans of all political persuasions, not winning the war. Indeed, to many Americans, any excuse not to win a war is a good thing. They do not think that losing a war is really losing. They prefer to think of it as "not winning," a state in which everyone's self-esteem emerges unharmed and glowing. It is an unfortunate reality that an enemy who has emerged from a war with glowing self-esteem also emerges with a strengthened desire and ability to kill you, and he will be at it again as soon as he can reload.
Machiavelli, perhaps not the most sentimental of philosophers but certainly one of the most perceptive, reminds us that "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared."
Today, to sustain a war requires not only victory as a goal but the perception of victory while it is in progress . In an age of instant images instantly and insistingly distributed, it is no longer enough to actually win battles, you have to be seen to be doing it by friend and enemy alike. To achieve this requires not only a change in political strategies, but in military tactics.
If we are to come to our senses and make victory our goal, our current methods of fighting in Iraq are going to have to be revised towards the draconian and away from the palliative. We are rapidly approaching a point where our path splits into two. We can choose either one or the other, or we choose to turn back.
Much as the current administration's opponents would like it, it is unlikely we will turn back. Military minds recognize that to leave Iraq now only means that we would have to return at a later time and under much more difficult circumstances. In that case, it behooves Americans of all political positions to prepare themselves for a point at which the intensity level of our war will be increased, either arithmetically or exponentially. We are, it would seem, moving towards a point where we will have to seek a wider war both within Iraq and outside its borders.
This point may not be far off. Given the political conditions at present a partial victory in Iraq can be achieved soon under a loosened version of our current constraints. This can be done under the political climate that exists at present. An even broader victory extending throughout the region would require a more resolved national will and is doubtful absent a triggering event.
America and its military forces currently operate under rules of engagement that strictly limit the amount of lethal force that can be applied in battle. Designed primarily to limit the loss of innocent life, these rules are widely promulgated to the troops and, in the main, strictly observed. When they seem to be broken, as may or may not have happened in Haidtha, the investigation is swift and intense -- even if the results are not always to the liking of the critics of the military.
Given the almost unlimited destructive power available to the American armed forces, it has to be conceded that it is so far the most restrained occupying force in recent history. Indeed, as intimated above, it seems almost a point of national honor and pride to send our military off to war with one-hand tied behind its back and blindfolded.
But this has not always been so and need not remain so. While currently inhibited in Iraq, there is every reason to believe that we are about to enter a phase where the current rules of engagement are about to be rewritten to allow the military more latitude in the application of lethal force than they currently enjoy. The fear of this and the fear of the broader victory it would entail are two of the driving forces behind the propaganda machines at home and abroad. Victory in the war means defeat for many in American politics. Indeed, the surest way for the opponents of American security and hegemony to win in November arises directly from their power to engineer a perception of continuing defeat in Iraq. Never before in our nations history has so much propaganda been hidden inside so little new news.
You will recall that the reduction of Fallujah had to wait upon the American elections of 2004. Given the importance of retaining the Bush doctrine over the next four years of war, that was a sensible administration policy. Absent Bush's reelection, all would be at sixes and sevens with the possibility of a retreat to the policies of September 10 highly likely. No one watching the situation on the ground in Iraq and the United States had any doubt about when the battle of Fallujah would occur, and so that victory went forward in the wake of Bush's victory.
But while Fallujah was successful, it still left the sizable Baathist remnant and its supporters functioning and in control of an unacceptable portion of Iraq. In addition, aid and financing from Syria and Iran was not curtailed, nor were the borders controlled. If we are to sustain our presence in this critical country this must change.
To move forward towards victory in the Terrorist war the elimination by any means necessary of the Baathist/Terrorist forces, the placing of Syria in check, and the neutralizing of Iran are critical. With the elimination of Zarqawi we have been given a small but tangible victory on which to build larger victories. I hope our forces will be free to pursue them. At the same time, noting the strange retraction of the admistration's testicles in recent months, I am equally prepared for disappointment.
Regardless of the ostensible goal of our actions in Iraq, the more compelling goal for America's national-interest must remain the military domination and control of the Middle East by any means necessary. Failure to achieve this will place the fate of United States and the developed world in the hands of rogue regimes able to achieve nuclear weapons, and ready to employ them. If the world is to cross the dangerous divide of the next decade, this cannot be allowed to occur.
To achieve this, the build-out, maintenance and control of bases and staging areas in the Iraq are essential. We simply cannot check in and check out of the Middle East with carrier groups as need be. Reducing a corrupt and weakened Iraq is one thing, dealing with Syria, a nuclear Iran, and an Iraq back under Baathist control and with obligations to international terrorism is quite another. The posture assumed by Israel should the United States give up or retreat from Iran is alone enough to give pause to the most committed doves. Democracy would be nice for Iraq. Freedom for the Iraqis a clear long-term benefit. But of all the things in Iraq most essential to avoiding a nuclear exchange in the region and outside it, the American bases are what must be built up and held.
Indeed, despite all the tumult in Iraq since the beginning of the occupation, this is what has been done. In order to continue to expand and hold this basing, an orderly and stable Iraqi government is necessary. Hence the strategic importance of a successful and stable Iraq, beyond the benefits of instilling a democracy, is manifest.
The key to all this is the ability to maintain the will of the American public to support the Terrorist War. To attain this it is necessary to send a clear signal to the public that more than just aid and comfort to an oppressed people is involved in this war. At the moment it is unclear whether or not the administration is prepared to send that signal in anything other than smothered semaphore, a condition that will not satisfy or sustain this effort no matter how politic it may seem on a day to day basis.
Without the announcement of and an immediate and sustained move to obtain victory in Iraq, the whole momentum of the Terrorist War, always shaky, will slow as it has and, in time, reverse itself. At that point the administration will indeed find itself in the often-predicted quagmire, except that it will be on its own making. It is perfectly feasible that in concentrating too hard on winning the hearts and mind of the Iraqi people, we will lose the Iraq portion of the war. Once that occurs then all that is left is to wait for the second and more deadly path to open in the Terrorist War.
The tragedy is that the second path, the path of Total War in which extreme new rules of engagement come into play, requires the triggering event of a second catastrophic attack on American civilians on American soil. That event, should it be allowed to occur, will cost the lives of thousands if not tens of thousands of American men, women and, this time, children. This is not to say that the clear quest for victory in Iraq, a quest that requires the utter defeat of the enemy no matter how dearly bought, will insure that no such attack happens in America. It is to say that, should we retreat from and fail to secure victory in Iraq, such an event moves from a probability to a certainty.
As demonstrated above, the American response to such another lethal attack on the homeland is not hard to visualize. The only question will be whether or not the state of total war that erupts will include nuclear weapons as a first option, or whether America will be content to level and destroy large Middle-Eastern states and populations with conventional weapons, holding back nuclear weapons as a final persuader. In either case, the opening salvos placed onto the countries involved will be far more staggering than anything seen since the closing days of the air war in the European and Pacific theaters of World War II.
But an air war against Iran, Syria, portions of Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations would only be the opening salvos. Indeed, it is not hard to see an extended air campaign as merely buying time while the country at last moves onto a war footing.
Following the reinstitution of the draft in the United States and the conversion of its present economy of affluence to a war economy, an invasion and occupation of these areas of the world would follow. This time it would not be an occupation in search of a democracy, but one in search of vengeance and security for the United States. This situation would reshape the face of the Earth for generations and perhaps centuries to come. It would be a realignment of the political sphere at home and abroad not seen since Rome. And it will make Rome look like a mere off-hand study.
The specter of an America galvanized into a society that takes classic imperialism seriously is not something that the 21st century has any real preparation for, least of all the United States. But make no mistake, these changes would be the default state of the nation following any serious attack on its home soil. It would, within ten years, create a nation that does not resemble the United States of today. Exactly what it would be, I cannot say, but I would not like to find out. If you are one of those who presently has confused George Bush with Adolph Hitler and the NSA with Big Brother, you will like it much, much less. So much so that you will, at last prepare to move to Canada only to find that they will not let you in and what used to be America will not let you out. Sound familiar? It should.
Which is why, if we value real and enduring freedom in America, we need to now look very seriously at any policy which restrains our armed forces now in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere from pressing forward to victory. Fighting the terrorist with one hand behind our back, a "Have a nice day" attitude, and an overarching concern for civilian hearts and minds does not, in the long run, do anyone any favors. At home or abroad.
Revised and recast from January, 2005Posted by Vanderleun at June 12, 2006 12:11 AM | TrackBack