December 21, 2006

Long left

Got into a discussion once with someone I know, a vocal backer of George Bush and the war in Iraq, about the situation in Iraq. At one point, I said:

"I don't want the US stuck in the quicksand in Iraq ... my great fear is that it's going to be another Vietnam."

To which this someone replied:

"I think by next year this time they'll have long left Iraq. Shall we plan a little celebration if that happens?"

Of course, that little celebration never happened. Because this exchange happened exactly two years ago, in December 2004. Not only had the Americans not "long left Iraq" a year later, not only have the Americans not "long left Iraq" another year later today -- instead, they are in a mess that is, right now, at its bloodiest and most tangled. Yet it's hardly a surprise that this someone has long forgotten the two-year-old claim about Americans leaving Iraq.

Why does a country like the US get itself into brutal, nearly intractable messes like in Vietnam and Iraq? Many reasons. Certainly one is that cheerleaders and supporters of these adventures are so sanguine about how quick and easy they will be. So sanguine, yet so unwilling to admit a mistake. So ignorant of the lessons of history.

Hatreds are being sown, people are dying by the hundreds and thousands, no end in sight, repercussions spread wide. What will it take for the cheerleaders to acknowledge this much?

Then there's Chris Hedges, that passionate, compassionate, remarkable war journalist. Of an intimately connected conflict, he wrote a few days ago:
    How [does Washington] think people who are desperate, deprived of hope, dignity and a way to make a living, under attack from one of the most technologically advanced armies on the planet, will respond? Do they believe that creating a Hobbesian nightmare for the Palestinians will blunt terrorism, curb suicide attacks and foster peace? Do they not see that the rest of the Middle East watches the slaughter in horror and rage -- its angry, disenfranchised young men and women determined to overcome feelings of impotence and humiliation, even at the cost of their own lives?
Yeah sure, let's plan that little celebration for when the Americans will "have long left Iraq." Next year, did you say?


RoseCovered Glasses said...

There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”

The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

Sidhusaaheb said...

It has already been another Vietnam and worse.

Blair and Bush have both admitted as much, subsequent denials notwithstanding.