Lessons Apparently Not Learned

Contrary to popular perception, it seems that history rarely repeats itself. Yet humans do repeat the same mistakes.

I thought you Americans might have learned an important lesson from the aftermath of your shameless abandonment of the South Vietnamese people in the 1970’s. From the looks of things in the media and in particular this comment I ran across while perusing my regular reads, it appears that lesson did not take.

Finish what you started, America, or 2000 dead will just be the down payment on the butcher’s bill.

6 Responses to “Lessons Apparently Not Learned”

  1. How do we finish this? We don’t seem to be geetting ourselves a decent plan. “Staying the course” is not a plan. Figuring out what type of government will work is a plan. It looks from here that we are building up a repleca of Iran.
    If the choice is to either continue following a plan that was not thought out or to move troops to a more defensive position in CONUS.
    Moving troops to ConUS is a better security policy.

  2. Please help me out here, crazy: exactly whom will the troops redeployed to ConUS be defending against? An invasion by the dread hockeystick-wielding Canadian hordes?

    For extra credit, your answer should explain how having additional military personnel within the borders of the United States would have prevented the 1993 WTC attack, the 1998 Tanzania/ Kenya attacks, the 2000 USS Cole attack and the 2001 WTC/ Pentagon attack.

    Until you can come up with a satisfactory answer to this question, I hope I may be forgiven for believing that fighting terrorists abroad is at least as good a policy as fighting them in one’s home town.

  3. I thought you Americans might have learned an important lesson from the aftermath of your shameless abandonment of the South Vietnamese people in the 1970’s.

    Seems a bit of a mis-apllied analogy, given that the elected government is calling for US forces to leave Iraq.

    I have the same question, though. What, in fact, is “finishing what we started?”

    For extra credit, your answer should explain how having additional military personnel within the borders of the United States would have prevented the 1993 WTC attack, the 1998 Tanzania/ Kenya attacks, the 2000 USS Cole attack and the 2001 WTC/ Pentagon attack.

    I believe part and parcel with “having additional military personnel within the borders of the United States” is not having millitary personnel deployed in the middle east.

    For 1998 and 2000, if there’s no target there’s no attack. The 1993/2001 attacks are widely understood as motivated by the garrisoning of troops in Saudi Arabia.

    There’s significant security logic behind disengagement. Unless you’ve swallowed the propaganda that “they hate our freedom,” it’s pretty plain to see that if US forces vacated the middle east, middle-eastern terrorists and radical islamic elements would rapidly loose any motivation for attacking US forces, or assets, let alone the continental territory. They’re much more interested in trying to overthrow local governments there, which is really up to the locally soverign powers to deal with in the end.

  4. To the best of my ability to determine the plan has always been to train the Iraqi army and security forces to a sufficient level such that they can be reasonably expected to maintain internal security and, most importantly, the integrity of the accepted nation-state of Iraq. To instill a form of democracy that prevents strong-man rule, establishes a more uniform code of justice and makes the government accountable in some way to the governed.

    To the objective observer these goals are being pursued vigorously and with an astounding level of success. To the observer with an ideological axe to grind there will always be ?yes, but’ to counter any indication of progress.

    My best guess (and I do not claim any special insight into the matter) is the United States will begin a phased draw down of troop levels starting the summer of 2006 so long as two basic goals are met:

    First, a successful Election this December resulting in a coalition government, which would include at least some reasonable representation of the Sunni block. Corollary to this would be any turnout of Sunni voters exceeding 30% of the eligible Sunni voters, regardless of the number of seats the Sunni-backed slates win.

    Second, no further escalation of the level of violence, bearing in mind there are forces both internal (Ba’athist) and external (the international Islamists) determined to see the new government fail.

    There are many reasons to believe such a result is not only possible, but probable. The Islamists are losing support amongst Iraqis as a whole- with the terror killings of ordinary citizens the Islamists have deeply eroded the romantic image they once enjoyed amongst Iraqis and the Arab world in general. Their attempts to foment civil war between the Shi’a and the Sunnis have so far been a dismal failure. The Sunnis are obviously desirous of restoring the status quo ante, furthermore they have the advantage of counting in their ranks the former generals and colonels of the armed forces as well as intelligence officers, secret police, etc; however, they also have an enormous stake in the new government, for their major fear is wholesale slaughter at the hands of their former victims. This fear forces them to take part in the elections so as to ensure they have a voice in the new government. Should they succeed in becoming politically engaged and see the benefits of being included rather than kept outside the circles of power it is entirely reasonable to expect they may choose to keep with rather than attempt to destroy the new republic.

    None of this can happen if the United States turns tail and flees. There is no “Peace with Honor” here, only success or failure.

    The thought that simply disengaging from the area would bring peace and security for the United States is a fallacy so na?ve in its formulation as to be unworthy of comment. Burying one’s head in the sand merely invites the inevitable. Denying the Islamists’ own words, that they find western culture decadent and abhorrent is wishful thinking at best, rank folly at worst. This notion may play well in Leftist and Libertarian prayer-circles, but is devoid of any relationship to the real world of international politics and the basic instincts of faith-driven human nature.

    Your government faces a delicate challenge. It must stand up the Iraqi armed forces, train them, see them battle-tested and then allow them to act and succeed or fail on their own, while always striving to see that success forms the larger share of the whole. They must at all costs avoid the disastrous example of Western Europe, where the sheltering arm of American political and military might rendered those nations politically, economically, militarily and culturally infantilized and moribund. The Iraqis must fight and die for themselves, but they must be prepared to do so and succeed. To advocate or permit any other result is tantamount to mass murder.

    Make no mistake: people have died and shall continue to die. The world is a tragic place, unfit for the fainthearted. Nothing of worth has ever been accomplished without a human cost paid in blood and suffering. That there are Americans today who believe the cost too high saddens me. It is to be expected, but never, ever permitted to prevail.

  5. In order to achieve the democracy you and I currently enjoy, our people had to fight a revolution. It wasn’t just done for us. Going in there, occupying their country, fighting their battle, handing them an elected government- how is this different from socialism- where the government hands out money? Didn’t we all just agree that sort of thing just breeds dependence? I understand we’re training their military to uphold this new government, but that training dosen’t maintain itself. What happens when this new government gets overthrown in two years, or two months, after we pull out? Are we going to run back to their rescue, fight, die for their battle some more? Or are we just going to let them fall over- after all this bloodshed to prop them up? Either way- what would be the point?

    To advocate or permit any other result is tantamount to mass murder.

    Why aren’t we worried about genocide and mass murder in Africa, China, or, what the hell- good ol’ USA, why is Iraq such a stand-out among war-torn countries, that we’ve ridden to their rescue- to far upwards of 2000 of our own dead, on this one?

    As for the terrorist threat, I still haven’t heard a good explaination why we’re safer with our troops in Iraq, rather than here, perhaps training for attacks like the one on the WTC and Pentagon? Serving as air marshals? Patrolling crowded areas? Dosen’t that withstand the common sense test a bit better than the old- “Our troops are in Iraq, keeping our country safe?”

    This is the part that bothers me about the alleged existance of an exit strategy:

    Second, no further escalation of the level of violence, bearing in mind there are forces both internal (Ba’athist) and external (the international Islamists) determined to see the new government fail.

    What makes you believe that any government, elected under supervision of an occupying force, is going to stand on it’s own once said force is gone? How long are we planning on staying? Why is this EVEN our battle in the first place?

    I tried for a long time to buy into this- have voted for a Bush in every election I”ve been old enough to participate in, and I was all for this war right up to the point where they killed Sadaam’s sons and overthrew Sadaam himself. To me, that was the part where the cowboys should have ridden away. Since then, this thing reeks of bullshit to me- never made a bit of sense- hard as I tried to have faith in this president I helped elect. But with numerous occasions to explain his reasons for the continued occupation, all he can seem to produce are cynnical-sounding platitudes about democracy and freedom, which haven’t been updated since he first trotted them out four years ago.

    Sorry if I sound shrill, and for the book. You’re obviously a highly intelligent person. When I saw your original post, I was looking forward to seeing your take on this. Seriously, and with much sincere respect – can you explain this one again, only without the tired cliches?

  6. I do not share the belief that the American military is handing the Iraqis democracy. The primary mission upon entering Iraq was the removal of Saddam and the Ba’athists. Once accomplished, a power vacuum was created. Had the Americans chosen to declare the job done and exited the country the result would have been most disastrous as various Generals and Imams engaged in the ancient practice of slaughtering their way into power. Helping the Iraqis to create a government is the only method of preventing just such an outcome.

    The notion that the new government cannot stand without American backing seems a common sense observation; however, it ignores the objective realities of the current situation in that country. There are only two forces who view a collapse of the government as a positive development: the Ba’athists and the Islamists. The vast majority of Iraqis want this government to succeed and their reasoning on this point is quite sound for if the government succeeds, the Americans can then begin to leave.

    The world changed on the day a terrorist organization succeeded in killing 3000 Americans on their home soil. On that day the American people were forced to understand there is no longer an “over there”. Instead, the entire world now lives in their back yard, a result of the growth in information and travel technologies. Once this point is understood and accepted it becomes clear attempting to deal with this new reality via old formulae is to invite further atrocity. A different plan was required and one was chosen and implemented. It will take a decade or more to understand if this has been successful, a prospect that certainly does not sit well with a culture impatient for immediate results and steeped in a post-Vietnam mind set rejecting the possibility of overcoming insurgency.

    The important thing to understand is this: it is most definitely the Iraqis’ fight, and they know it. Why do you think men by the thousands continue to join the IP and the army, knowing it makes them a target of those forces determined to thwart any hope for freedom that nation might have? Why do new recruits return to bombed recruiting centers? Why do the terrorists themselves now deliberately target Iraqi civilians? It is because all involved know the truth: all the American assistance in the world means nothing if the Iraqis themselves will not stand up for their own freedom. I believe they will. The Ba’athists and Islamists hope they will not.

    At what point do the Americans decide the Iraqis are ready? When the Iraqis, through their actions, tell them so, and not before.

    The question of “Why Iraq?” is illegitimate in my view. This notion there are other places equally as despotic as where you do not intervene so doing so in Iraq is hypocritical is simply nonsense. One must begin somewhere and in the case of Saddam’s Iraq there were already significant forces and logistics channels in place as well as numerous international sanctions and UN resolutions. That the UN attempted to back away from its own resolutions merely points out that organization’s fatal incompetence. Iraq was already agreed by the world to be in violation of numerous agreements, particularly in regards to its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire that halted the Gulf War. Given Saddam’s known ties to assorted terrorist organizations the choice to act there rather than in Africa or some other location makes perfect sense.

    Knowing how terribly high the stakes were America chose the difficult over the convenient. The question now is whether or not the American people have the courage to see this through, or will they demand some sort of ?quick fix’ and abandon the Iraqis to the tender mercies of thugs and theocrats. It is my hope the nay-sayers are wrong and Americans still possess the will to endure sacrifice in the name of other peoples’ freedom. If this is a ?tired clich?’ then so be it- it remains a fervent hope nonetheless.