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Unconditionally Wrong

March 27th, 2003 - 12:55 am

I respect Bill Safire, but I think he has this one dead wrong:

How should we counter Saddam’s strategy of using killers in civilian clothes to enforce resistance, and his tactic of horrifying television viewers in the U.S. by inviting and inflicting civilian deaths? How do we overcome the terrorized Iraqi population’s fear of an outcome in which Saddam again snatches survival and revival from the jaws of defeat?

The answer is to adopt the proposition set forth by Gen. U. S. Grant in our Civil War, and Roosevelt and Churchill in World War II: declaring irrevocably that the only acceptable end to hostilities is unconditional surrender.

In which case Safire mentions did the call for unconditional surrender bring the enemy public to our side? The Confederacy? No — some there still call the Civil War, “The War of Northern Aggression.” Calling for U.C. was the right goal, but publicly calling for it roused both sides to continued action.

Or perhaps he’s thinking of the duel popular uprisings in Germany and Japan that ended the war in 1943, weeks after FDR and Churchill called for the unconditional surrender of those two nations? Oh, wait — that’s the way things happened on Bizarro Earth.

In his book, The New Dealers’ War, historian Thomas Fleming makes a convincing case that by making an accomodation with Hitler’s generals impossible, the demand for unconditional surrender lengthened the war in Europe, not shortened it.

By all means, make unconditional surrender the goal in this campaign — it does more to keep the public focused and resilient than perhaps any other public statement. But don’t expect it to bring the Iraqi people to our side.

UPDATE: I hate to harp on the good people who read this site, but how many of you are reading what I wrote? “By all means, make unconditional surrender the goal in this campaign…” “Calling for U.C. was the right goal…” Where are some of you getting the idea I want a negotiated settlement?

U.C. is what we must have and will get. My point here, to state is as plainly as I can (again), is that calling for U.C. won’t “bring the Iraqi people to our side.”

I’ll try to be more clear next time, but I’m not sure how I possibly could have been more plain.

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