Archive for July, 2007

Interesting, But Doomed

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

This intriguing but doomed article in Slate, Why Petraeus’ intriguing new Iraq strategy will probably fail by Fred Kaplan purports to show that Petraeus and his generals and the ambassador to Iraq are all wrong to suppose that we have any chance whatsoever of bringing about a good outcome in Iraq. My reading of it does not disprove the thesis, but can’t help but make note of the long, torturous journey it takes to arrive at its conclusion. This does not make it wrong, of course. It may well be that the war in Iraq is hopeless, but the lengths to which the author must go to prove this, leaves me wondering if the conclusion is so inevitable.

I’ve been reading, The Masters of the Air, about the gallant heroes of the 8th and 15th Air Force in WWII, my father among them. One of the many striking things about the book is the unbelievable blundering and incompetence of Hap Arnold and Jimmy Doolittle, and all the other generals and bigwigs, who were utterly wrong about the tactics and strategy and prognosis of strategic bombing, mistakes which cost the lives of many thousands of American airmen. But in the end, in spite of egregious errors of judgment, the Luftwaffe was defeated, and the Allies achieved air supremacy, because the Luftwaffe was even more stupid than we were, and because we had oil and they didn’t. There were dark hours. There were times when the consensus was that we would never prevail. There were huge errors in intelligence and theories of air warfare. That’s what war is like. But in WWII, there was no question about whether or not we could afford to just lose and go home. We couldn’t.

I think that is true also of this war that we are in, but the consensus about that is not what it was in 1944, the year of my birth. The point being that wars always look problematical while you are in the middle of them, but the question is, is the fight worth it or not? Is the utter defeat and rout of Al Qaeda in Iraq worth doing, or would it be OK to let them have a victory, and a foothold in a failed state? This is not what is being discussed in Congress. Everything is about gotcha, and in fact, now, the Democrats have become so heavily invested in inevitable defeat, that any chance of victory is a political threat that must be averted. If there is the slightest chance that Petraeus’s report in September might show signs of progress, then it must be headed off at the pass, and withdrawal begun immediately in order to insure failure. This is incredible to me. I don’t have any deeply-held opinions about tactics and strategy, but I do have very strong opinions about the stakes, about the importance of this fight. I just don’t understand why the urgency of discrediting George W. Bush outweighs the importance of defeating Al Qaeda. This, if any issue should be, is one that should be non-partisan, and yet it is the most partisan of all.

Maybe “The Elders” can help us sort it out.