Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Surge of Folly

Last week, George Bush informed General David Petraeus, commanding general in Iraq, that he will “have all the time he needs” to achieve success in Iraq.” Success in Iraq was recently defined by Petraeus as the achievement of “sustainable security” in that country. In order to accomplish this goal, Petraeus maintained that it would be necessary to keep nearly 140,000 American troops fighting there for the foreseeable future.

Despite the fact that there was no legitimate reason for invading Iraq in the first place or that over one-million Iraqis and 4000 American soldiers have died as a result of this war, I would grant that many Americans might actually begin to support the Iraq War, if in fact it could be demonstrated that our efforts would lead to “sustainable security” in that country and the possibility of establishing some kind of stable democratic government.

No one would like to see stability in Iraq more than I would, but the sad truth is that stability—whether military or political—will be impossible as long as our fighting forces remain in that country. The vast majority of the Iraqi people, after all, view us as an alien occupying power rather than as liberators. As long as the infidel is occupying an Arab country, there will be no peace in Iraq.

The Bush administration has argued that stability can be achieved through a surge of American troops placed “temporarily” in Iraq to secure troubled hotspots in the country. Admittedly, for several months after the initiation of the surge, the amount of violence in places like Baghdad seemed to have been slightly reduced. Now Bush and Patraeus are arguing that significant forces need to remain in place in Iraq in order to consolidate military gains and to give the Iraqis times to achieve some kind of political progress.

Let’s grant that Iraq could become a flower of democracy blooming in the desert of the Middle East if only we could keep those 140,000 American troops stationed there. The problem with this scenario is that right now we don’t have enough U.S. military personnel to maintain order in Iraq and Afghanistan and at the same time meet our military needs in other parts of the world. We could try to bribe or manipulate more low-income adolescents into joining the military to increase manpower, but the black and hispanic youth who have been the targets of the military’s recruitment campaigns seem to have caught on that this war is a losing proposition. Military recruitment levels, subsequently, remain flaccid and show no signs of improving in the foreseeable future.

Given the current economic crisis in the US, it also is doubtful that we can sustain 300-billion-dollars a week to pay for this war indefinitely. Right now the deficit of the United States stands at $9,410,608,896,562.00 and is growing by one million dollars every minute. That $30,974.22 of debt for each American citizen. Very soon we will have to decide whether we want to continue to pump billions of dollars into the sinkhole that is Iraq or put these funds to better use (e.g., improving our failing schools, shoring-up our crumbling national infrastructure, providing universal healthcare for Americans, etc.). As Lyndon Johnson discovered, you can’t have guns and butter at the same time.

But even if we could miraculously find enough troops to meet our military needs in Iraq and elsewhere and could find enough funds to continue to subsidize the war for as long as is necessary to achieve “sustainable security,” we could still never win in Iraq. In the end, no matter what efforts we make to control Iraq, we will eventually be forced to leave the country in defeat. The reason for this is quite evident to anyone who has studied world history: time and again it has been demonstrated that a foreign occupying force can never succeed in subduing a native population intent upon its removal. Just ask the British in India or Ireland, the Russians in Afghanistan, or the Americans in Vietnam. It may take five or ten or fifty years, but eventually homegrown insurgents like those in Iraq and Afghanistan always win. Time is on their side, after all.

Not being students of history, George Bush and the other flunkies in his administration will never understand this fact. The best that Bush can hope for is to prevent disaster in Iraq until he can leave office in January. Then the unsolvable problems of that sad country will be passed on to the next administration. Let’s just hope that President Obama proves to have a better grasp of history than his intellectually challenged predecessor.


GPGradStudent said...

David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has assembled a list of the Iraq War's opportunity costs. A few examples:

-- 2.6 million Americans without adequate health insurance could get dental care at community health centers.

-- 130,000 low-income families could conserve energy and weatherize their homes.

-- 937 grants for research into diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer could be provided by the National Institutes of Health.

-- 18,000 more students could receive Pell Grants to help them attend college.

In addition, economist Joseph Stiglitz has argued that what the U.S. is spending on Iraq also could fix Social Security's problems for 75 years.

Obey's list can be downloaded as a PDF file here: An interview with Stiglitz is here

The bottom line is this: no terrorist has yet or ever will be born who can do as much damage to the United States as we ourselves have done. Part of this was the poor way we dealt with fear after 9/11. Most of it was done by the Bush Administration through the sheer, blunt force of stupidity.

Polls suggest that Americans are traveling along a learning curve. About 60 percent now want the U.S. out of Iraq in a year or less. The Bush Administration, alas, has no learning curve.

Renegade Eye said...

The whole model of supposedly listening to, and following direction from the military needs to be challenged. Politicians make decisions about war, not the military.