chronic invasion…

Posted on Wednesday 30 April 2008

Little Gidding – T.S. Eliot
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Looking at our average monthly fatal casualties in Iraq, the effect of the SURGE is clear enough. There is a baseline armed resistance to our presence in Iraq that results in death for between one and three American soldiers daily, that’s a little less than 1.0 % of our troops each year. Compared to other wars, that a small number [unless it’s your child]. If we keep our troop levels high like during our SURGE, it’s even lower. So we only lose a few soldiers and a whole lot of money. In fact, like the Eliot poem, with the SURGE, we have literally managed to "arrive where we started" [though that number looks to be rising again].

I thought of Little Gidding, because of the line, "And know the place for the first time." Eliot’s poem is about Quests – and all Quest stories end in the same way. Dorothy returns to Kansas. Sir Galahad comes back to Camelot. Mohamed re-enters Mecca. And the returning heros are older, wiser, no longer filled with some lusth for an elusive truth, more able to appreciate what they had before.

The Neoconservatives that populated the Bush Administration thought that they could make a dramatic change in the world power balance by asserting the United States of America as the "Sole Superpower" after the fall of Communism. Iraq was to be their launching point. It was kind of a sissy way to start, I might add, given that they knew they could take out Saddam Hussein in short order. They’d done it before. So, off we went. And here we are, five years later, exactly where we started.

What do we know. The whole premise of the Invasion of Iraq was wrong. Unseating a despot isn’t very hard. Dealing with how a country reacts to the unseating of a despot is much more complex. There was no Iraqi Movement to take over and form a government, no Lenin riding into town when the Czar was removed, no Continental Congress writing a Constitution after a successful revolution, no grass roots movement to create a provisional government. And what does the baseline violence that endures unless we provide an Army to hold it at bay really mean? It means, "Get out of here." It means, "We don’t know what we want. But we know it’s not you, or what you want us to want."

On Monday, I reported on an article in the Weekly Standard by one of the Neoconservative pundits – Fredrick Kagan – repeated in part here:
How We’ll Know When We’ve Won
by Frederick W. Kagan

… Success will have been achieved when Iraq is a stable, representative state that controls its own territory, is oriented toward the West, and is an ally in the struggle against militant Islamism, whether Sunni or Shia..
To be clear, Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was a westernized state that controlled its own territory and was neither a theocracy nor a supporter of militant Islamism. We hated his supression of dissent and the fact that he killed Iraqis. Now we have as our goal the suppression of dissent and we’ve killed plenty of Iraqis ourselves. So when I read Kagan’s article, I agree with his definition of "winning." Where we differ, he and I, is that his definition doesn’t spur me on. It helps me realize that not only that we can’t win, it was never true that we could win.

So what have we learned on our quest? Well, we can thank Mr. Kagan for finally clearing up why we went in the first place. We’ve learned that this initial goal was naive and doomed. This wasn’t like liberating France after World War II, so their previous government could reconstitute itself. This was removing the only government they’d known for a very long time. By removing their politicians and their Army, we sent them into a political Stone Age.

What do we do now? Simple. We elect an American President who has learned, or already knew, that this idea of creating a puppet government in the Middle East was a bad idea from the start. The goal is to get out, and leave Iraq in a position to find itself if possible. That’s all. If we stop trying to achieve the never possible Neoconservative dream expressed by Kagan, it will work itself out. We "know the place" now and it is not worth 1.0% of our troops dying there each year…

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.