What It’s Going to Take to Win in Iraq

To win in Iraq, depending on your definition of winning, I believe that the Iraqi people must first be convinced that a western-style democracy is superior to an Islamic-republic.

Are more troops — another surge — the solution to this quagmire that has gone on in Iraq now longer than any other war in the history of our nation?  Some may think me unpatriotic for saying so, but I think not.

As a retired, career Army officer and an avid reader of military history, I have come to believe that the Allies won a lasting peace in Western Europe following World War II because the German and Italian people, long before our defeat of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s armies, recognized that fascism was an inferior form of government.  We won the war with Japan for the same reason; the Japanese people, by the end of the war, were fed-up with military imperialism and were ready for something better.  They were open to embracing democracy.  Likewise, the people of South Korea, after years of domination by the Japanese, were open to all that democracy promised. 

By contrast, we lost the war in Vietnam because the people there believed that communism offered more than did the “democracy” they had come to know under the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.  To the Vietnamise, Americans were foreigners, occupiers of their country not unlike the French colonists had been before us.  Many Iraqis feel this same way about our presence in their country.  We may have liberated them from Saddam Hussein — thank you very much — but now we are occupiers.  Therefore, to win the war in Iraq, depending on your definition of winning, I believe that the Iraqi people must first be convinced that a western-style democracy such as ours is superior to an Islamic-republic.  And be not confused.  There is nothing whatsoever democratic about Islamic-republics.  Since I do not believe that that this is ever likely to happen, I agree with with those who think it’s long past time to stop sacrificing our youth and spending future generations of Americans’ money over there.

I’m sorry Mr. President, but you’re wrong, as usual.  Wars are not won on the offensive — battles and campaigns are.  Wars are won only after the reasons for them being fought are resolved.  Like World War I, the War to End All Wars, it didn’t really end in Europe 1918 like the history books say.  The aftermath just fomented more war; the years between 1918 and 1939 were just a lull in the killing.  The aftermath of the first and second rounds of this war sowed the seeds of what we are dealing with now in Southwest Asia.  So, unless we are willing to annihilate all in the Islamic world who oppose us on religious and moral grounds, and that won’t leave very many, we’d best be saving back something for a defensive round.  We’d best be about the business too of rebuilding the “Coalition of the Willing” that your policies and bullheadedness have undone.

According to a small sampling of American opinion on the war in Iraq done by CNN a year ago this very week, only one in five believed back then that the United States was actually winning.  Sixty percent of those polled said that they thought no one was winning.  Notwithstanding, most of number polled agreed with President Bush that we had no choice but to “stay the course.”  Today, according to a more substantial poll recently conducted by CBS News, fifty-nine percent say that they want to end the war — to bring the troops home.  A full two-thirds say that if we must stay in Iraq, they do not support doing so financed by deficit spending.  So, opinion on the war has completely reversed itself over the past year.  Despite this fact, Republican candidates vying to be the next President of the United States are all saying that we can win the war and that we cannot afford to, as Senator McCain has put it, “choose to lose.”  Therefore, if the war continues to be the number one concern in the minds of voters leading up to the elections in November next year, it looks to me like we’re about to have our first female Commander-In-Chief.

Senator McCain, the most outspoken advocate for the war among Republican candidates, now a full 13 percentage points behind the leader, Rudi Giuliani, was asked on the Jim Lehrer show last night how he defined winning the war in Iraq.  But, as I read a transcript of his dialogue with the show’s host this afternoon, I don’t find where he ever really answered the question.  So, if Senator McCain cannot define it, can we? 

Could winning simply be a matter of stabilizing the situation there long enough for the “democratically” elected government of Iraq to make some kind of political progress toward sharing the nation’s oil wealth equitably among its diverse ethnic groups and guaran- teeing us future access to it?  Does winning have to mean the eradication of all fundamentalist Muslims there, AKA “terrorists?”  Is winning in Iraq a matter of our somehow training and enabling an Iraqi self-defense force so that they might deny Iran from claiming a huge share of the country after we have left and cutting us off from the oil there?  Is winning all these things, or is it simply a matter of our staying in Iraq forever?  Hmmm….

Vice President, Dick Cheney, as Secretary of Defense during the Persian Gulf War from early  August 1990 until the end of February 1992, waxed very eloquently after that war on reasons why the United States chose not to pursue the Iraqi military driven out of Kuwait all the way back to Baghdad so as to depose Saddam Hussein then.  Click on the “play” button twice, once to load the video, once to play.


After watching this video, I was left wondering what convinced Mr. Cheney that regime change in Iraq in 2001/2002 was such a good idea when it was such a bad idea ten years beforehand.  Even after the revelations of “cooked up” intelligence on WMD in Iraq and Collin Powell’s resignation as Secretary of State, I do not believe that President Bush, all by himself, could have hatched such a hair brained idea.  Read about Thomas P.M. Barnett’s book, “The Pentagon’s New Map.”  Further, with all of his influence, I do not believe that Mr. Cheney could not have dissuaded the President from such a foolhardy course of action?  Hmmm… have you checked the price of Halliburton stock lately?

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Published in: on October 20, 2007 at 2:04 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Kent, as usual, you really give us food for thought and perhaps we can have a dialog about this predicament we (the United States) find ourselves in with this war in Iraq. Yes, we have a democracy but with CNN being piped in to every home in the world, others see just how well our democracy does not work although the intent is there. I am not sure if we have the right to cram our method of democracy down the throat of others when we need to perhaps tweak it a little ourselves.

    As I see it, our laws are being disobeyed, the so-called candidates running for office are afraid to address key issues, politicians are running amok, the poor & needy are being ignored, the fat cats are getting fatter, we are unable to manufacture goods in our country, our law makers are being bought & sold, etc., etc. As for leaving Iraq, we simply walk away—oh, I know that sound cruel but let’s face it, we need a strong White House & Congress to put us on the right track and I do not see anyone capable unless we get an Independent candidate. There is so much we can do in our own country to eliminate our dependency on oil. After all, that is what the war was all about in the first place.

  2. Regardless of how we got there, or the many multiple political and military strategies that were poorly devised and executed, I believe this war, like all the rest, will be “won” first, in our own hearts and minds. This must come before the reasons for us fighting are resolved. Yes, it should be measured, of course, by battlefield victories and objectives gained. And reluctantly, must be viewed through the filtered lens of the [modern day information age] media. But it will ultimately take honesty and clarity, such that historians are not convinced to record otherwise.

    So it is of course our Patience, our Pride, our Shear Determination and Strong Will, what I believe are cornerstones to the American Spirit, that will allow us “to Win.” Iraq is only one front, and only one of the many nation’s that currently make up the “gap.”

    It could very easily take a generation, but I do think it’s possible.. if the oil factor can be resolved (diplomatically in the short-term, economically in the long-term, ie, it will dry up sooner or later) and if and only if secularism has a come back. Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia are current examples of moderate and secular Muslim republics with prosperous economies and relatively safe and stable populaces.

    Alas, our filter continues to be greatly distorted. America’s attention deficient democracy and half-ignorant, half-participant electorate, spoon feed by the dominant liberal news media, bent on hype and sensationalism (hooray Capitalism), aimlessly represented by an arguably dysfunctional Congress and self-centered Executive, both made up of career politicians with endless power-monger corrupt lobbies, make it very unlikely that we ourselves record “a Win” in the history books. That is to say, any time soon. Fine, we live with it.

    As evidenced in last week’s NY Times article (good luck finding it) buried on page A19:

    “Rebel Unit Now Out of Baghdad, U.S. General Asserts” (or the on-line headline: “Militant Group Is Out of Baghdad, U.S. Says” http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/08/world/middleeast/08iraq.html?ex=1352264400&en=fae5dec594002dd9&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss).

    That ‘Rebel Unit’ is no less than the vicious Al Queda in Iraq, itself. Good riddance. Yeah, they’ll try to come back, but America will not live in fear and neither should Iraqis.

    Earlier this summer, I also noticed the American media reluctantly reporting our “win” in Anbar province. And now we seem to be winning in Baghdad. But does anyone care? “Murder victims are down 80% from where they were at peak, and attacks involving improvised bombs are down 70%”, says the General. Plus fewer militants are streaming across the border of Syria. I’m half-way around the world and I care. I bet our troops care. I bet freedom loving Iraqis care. The hotly contested “Surge” (strategy and execution this time) is undeniably working.

    So from one Veteran to another, no, I will not be sad to see this or any other administration move on, I never am and never will be. But I am and will always be very proud of our men and women who wear the uniform with honor and who are performing such an outstanding job in Iraq, and elsewhere for that matter. I know the author of this blog truly feels the same. Very much the reason why I respect him so.

    Likewise, we are both very pleased at the prospects that some of our fine men and women currently serving in Iraq may begin redeployment back home to their families and other loved ones that miss them so. “Good win,” I will tell them, just like our first responders during 9/11, “you are my generation’s heroes.”

    With clear and independent thought and analysis of our politicians, and our media,.. With clear understanding and acceptance of the cost, not only in blood, sweat, tears but tax payer dollars,.. Motivated by the prospect of greater global security, regional government and economic stability, freedom from murderous dictatorship and or religious fanaticism and hatred,..

    And on behalf of all who have served and sacrificed, including the many innocent Iraqis themselves, guided by my patience, pride, determination, and strong will, I pledge to record an Iraqi victory in my own heart and mind.

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