Things are coming to a head
If we add another 30,000 or so troops to Iraq, in a final effort to win the war, then we must change (widen) the rules of engagement. Only that way can America ensure that it simply does not create more targets for the insurgents, add a larger logistical trail, and ensure more Iraqi dependency on our soldiers.
What would that entail?
Putting Iran and Syria on notice that we will bomb terrorists flocking across their borders.
Give an ultimatum to militia heads, especially Moqtadar Sadr, to disband or face annihilation from the United States.
Expand the rules of engagement in all matters dealing with IEDs, with a shoot on sight rule concerning anyone found implanting or aiding such efforts.
Enlarge the planned Iraqi security forces to near 400,000, and embed far more Americans in those units.
Recalibrate the ratio of support to combat troops, so that we don’t simply create bigger compounds to facilitate larger troop levels to end up with more stationary and more numerous targets—and ever more enclaves of Americans behind thousands of acres of bermed reserves.
So spell out the mission, the new rules of engagement, and then, and only then, surge—if need be— more troops.
Meanwhile, are we losing it here at home?
Does running for President allow a candidate to freelance at a time of war by talking to our enemies and triangulating against the president? Why is Gov. Richardson talking to North Koreans, or Sen. Kerry trying to talk to the Iranians, or Sen. Bayh to the Syrians? Wouldn’t that be like a Tom DeLay talking to Milosevic to undermine Clinton during the Kosovo bombing? Or Trent Lott dealing with the Taliban as Clinton sent cruise missiles against them?
Perhaps in the interest of fairness, readers can cite past examples where Republican Senators and Presidential candidates went abroad, undercut Democratic foreign policy at a time of war, and made statements that were welcomed by our enemies. I know Senators of both parties talked to Saddam in 1989-90 and often nearly empathized with him, but we were not yet at war with him.
Nota bene: Senator Nelson just returned from talking in Mr. Assad’s Syria—the serial murderer of Lebanese reformers, the clearinghouse for Hezbollah, the refuge for the killers of Americans in Iraq—with assurances that Syria wishes to be a stabilizing factor in the region.
Sen. Kerry in Cairo just praised Hosni Mubarak, lauding him by chastising President Bush’s failure to listen to this voice of reason and his criticisms of the United States. And why not listen to such advice, since this autocrat has been the recipient of billions in American aid, while squelching all reform for some thirty years in the bargain?
No doubt Kerry also lectured Mubarak about once hyping the WMD threat (“Mubarak lied, thousands died?”). Remember, the Egyptian strongman, as part of his reservations about Iraq, had warned our generals that American troops would be targeted with gasses of all sorts by Saddam.
Kerry also called for new talks with Iran—a rogue state presently in the middle of uranium enrichment, supplying IEDs to the militias in Iraq, promising to wipe out Israel, and hosting a Holocaust denial love fest in Teheran. Surely if the senator once denigrated our own soldiers as terrorizing Iraqis he can at least say that Iranians do the same?
Jimmy Carter is publicizing his indictment of Israel as an apartheid state, this apparently awful democracy that is the only country in the present Middle East where Arabs freely vote in safety, publish their views without censorship, and enjoy a material existence unknown in the West Bank.
Perhaps he can offer suggestions on how to deal with Iran, since the last time he entered into that diplomatic arena he sent Ramsey Clark as an official envoy to apologize for American sins, to offer a new partnership, and in vain to beg for the return of the hostages. And we know the results of that gambit—and the subsequent moral careers of both the sender and his emissary.
The Iraq Study Group insists that it is not in the long-term interest of either Syria or Iran to perpetuate the present chaos (i.e., Americans soldiers and Iraqi reformers being blown up) in Iraq. But Iran’s own military commanders praise the present violence there for tying down American forces, and presumably giving them a pass to continue their bomb-making, whether nuclear or IEDs. Among the most prominent who praise Iran’s positive role is David Duke, who at last has found a kindred host government.
So all in all, it’s been a strange week, in a strange war.
More still on our panic
What to make of this mass depression over events on the ground? Our supposed setback surely is not comparable to the destruction of the entire French army in less than eight weeks in 1940, the flight of the British from Dunkirk, followed in the next 24 months by the surrender of two British armies at Singapore and Tobruk, all of which led to consideration of a writ of censure of Winston Churchill.
Nor is our lament comparable to the hysteria that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, the loss of Wake Island, and the fall of the Philippines.
Nor is the panic comparable to the near destruction of an American army when nearly 1 million Chinese crossed the Yalu in November 1950.
Why then has the United States become unhinged?
A variety of reasons.
A media that makes Cindy Sheehan, Valerie Plame, Mark Foley’s email, or lies about flushed Korans in Guantanamo into headline stories is itself nearly lunatic.
The once quick victories in Afghanistan (8 weeks) and Iraq (3 weeks), following the easy wins over Noriega and Milosevic, unrealistically sent the message that the United States could almost simultaneously win wars without losses and continue to honor its global obligations with a vastly reduced Army and Marines.
And the problem in Iraq has not been so much the constant “mistakes” (such lapses happen in every war), as the inability of our government to articulate why we are there and how we will win.
The result is that we have almost worked ourselves into some sort of self-induced paralytic state. But on sober reflection, things in fact are hardly lost. There has been no repeat of 9/11. The U.S. military has killed thousands of jihadists. The Taliban and Saddam are gone. There are still democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq struggling to make it, the first in the history of the region. Our troops in the field have high morale and believe they can secure Iraq. And the world, especially in Europe, has become vigilant against Islamic fundamentalism.
We are in much better shape that during any of the crises that Churchill, Roosevelt, or Truman all weathered. And while 50 dead every month since 9/11 is a high toll in this war against jihadism, it does not compare to the 8,000 plus killed from December 1941 to August 1945, a war that similarly started out with a surprise, though less lethal attack on the United states.
The World’s Wars
These last few weeks Somalis were killing Ethiopians. Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis were killing each other. Pakistani and Afghan fundamentalists were killing Afghan reformers. Hamas is killing Fatah and vice versa. Syrians are killing Sunnis and Christians in Lebanon, as is Hezbollah that also attacked Israel.
Off the battlefield this past year Muslims were threatening Danish cartoonists, the Pope, Salman Rushdie again, German opera producers, French high-school teachers, and Dutch filmmakers. The common denominator in all this is not, pace the Western Left, the nefarious United States, its Patriot Act or wiretaps, but rather Islamic extremists—mad that the modern world both excites them, and ignores and passes them by. And of course they play to the millions of their brethren appeasers who don’t really want these radicals to bring them a Taliban Dark Ages, but sorta, kinda, like the idea that they kill a few of those arrogant infidel Westerners as blood sport.
Like Watching the Oedipus or Ajax?
The war since 9/11 is sort of like a Greek tragedy whose end we all anticipate, but apparently have no means to avoid. We tried to remove the worst of the Middle East’s murdering regimes, and to offer in their places consensual governments that might serve as models how Muslims need not kill each other, and need not ruin their economies and oppress the innocent. But all the while Islamic jihadism keeps trying to repeat September 11, with the clandestine aid—whether sanctuary, cash, or arms—from Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
We periodically arrest these wannabe terrorists as we kill jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq. But at some point, it is likely, whether from sheer exhaustion or from our own internecine squabbling here at home, we will lower, if even for a second, our guard, and thus experience another mass murdering. And then the United States will be in a quandary, realizing that a sophisticated, and complex society cannot long endure with a catastrophic attack on its homeland about every five years from radical Islamists who count on their sponsors claiming deniability of culpability. At that point, we will either unload on host nations, or John Kerry/Jimmy Carter our way out of it through concessions and beseeching. Either way something either frightening or creepy is in store for us all—unless we begin to get serious and secure both Afghanistan and Iraq, and put Syria and Iran on notice that they will be held collectively responsible for any of their jihadist terrorists who kill outside their borders.
A final suggestion?
Could we not raise two more Marine Divisions and four more Army divisions (e.g., about 100,00 addition combat troops), costing per annum perhaps about 6-8 billion dollars--to be paid without more borrowing but by cutting farm subsidies and putting a 10-cent per gallon tax on gasoline? Not only would we have more troops should North Korea or Iran try to take advantage of our strapped military, but they would give our Marines and front-line army divisions a breather, and take the pressure off National Guard units—as well as sending a strong signal to our enemies of both our intentions and ability to deal with opportunistic aggression.