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MavKikiNYC
05-18-2004, 07:27 AM
COMMENTARY

No Way to Run a War

By MARK HELPRIN
May 17, 2004; Page A20

Though America has condemned the cruelties of Abu Ghraib, they remain nonetheless a symbol of the inescapable fact that the war has been run incompetently, with an apparently deliberate contempt for history, strategy, and thought, and with too little regard for the American soldier, whose mounting casualties seem to have no effect on the boastfulness of the civilian leadership.

Before the war's inception, and even after September 11, the Bush administration, having promised to correct its predecessor's depredations of the military, failed to do so. The president failed to go to Congress on September 12 to ask for a declaration of war, failed to ask Congress when he did go before it for the tools with which to fight, and has failed consistently to ask the American people for sacrifice. And yet their sons, mainly, are sacrificed in Iraq day by day.

When soldiers are killed because they do not have equipment (in the words of a returning officer, "not enough vehicles, not enough munitions, not enough medical supplies, not enough water"), when reservists are retained for years, and rotations canceled, it is the consequence of a fiscal policy that seems more attuned to the electoral landscape of 2004 than to the national security of the United States. Were the U.S. to devote the same percentage of its GNP to defense as it did during the peacetime years of the last half-century, and the military budget return to this unremarkable level, we would be spending (apart from the purely operational costs of the war) almost twice what we are spending now.

The year-and-a-half delay between action in Afghanistan and Iraq mobilized the Arabs and the international left, weakened the connection with September 11, and prompted allies who would have been with us to fall away. The delay was especially unconscionable because it was due not merely to normal difficulties but to the aforementioned military insufficiencies and to indecision masquerading as circumspection. Once the Army and Marines were rolling, their supply lines were left deliberately unprotected, and are vulnerable to this day. Why? Why do the generals, in patently identifiable top-down-speak, repeatedly state that they need nothing more than the small number of troops (for occupying such a large country) that they are assigned? Why do they and the administration steadfastly hold this line even as one event cascading into another should make them recoil in piggy-eyed wonder at the lameness of their policy?

From the beginning, the scale of the war was based on the fundamental strategic misconception that the primary objective was Iraq rather than the imagination of the Arab World, which, if sufficiently stunned, would tip itself back into the heretofore easily induced fatalism that makes it hesitate to war against the West. After the true shock and awe of a campaign of massive surplus, as in the Gulf War, no regime would have risked its survival by failing to go after the terrorists within its purview. But a campaign of bare sufficiency, that had trouble punching through even ragtag irregulars, taught the Arabs that we could be effectively opposed.

Mistakenly focused on physical control of Iraq, we could not see that, were we to give it up, the resultant anarchy might find a quicker resolution than the indefinite prolonged agony through which our continuing presence has nursed it. Seeking motivation after the fact, we decided to make Iraq a Western-style democracy, and when that began to run off the rails, to make Iraq the mere model for a Middle East filled with Western-style democracies. Of course, instead of a model to inspire them (of which they have many, such as Switzerland), what the Arabs need is first the desire, and then a means to overcome the police states that oppress them, neither of which a reconfigured Iraq, were it possible, would supply. Japan and Germany are often cited in defense of this overreach, but rather than freeze our armies in place and set them to policing and civil affairs as we fought through the Second World War, we waited until we had won.

Having decided to remake a country of 26 million divided into warring subcultures with a shared affection for martyrdom and unchanging traditions, the administration thought it could do so with 100,000 troops. Israel, which nearly surrounds the West Bank, speaks its language and has 37 years of experience in occupation, keeps approximately (by my reckoning) one soldier on duty for every 40 inhabitants and 1/13th square mile, and the unfortunate results are well known. In Iraq we keep one soldier per 240 inhabitants and 1.7 square miles. To put this in yet clearer perspective, it is the same number of uniformed police officers per inhabitant of the City of New York. But the police in New York are not at the end of a 9,000-mile supply chain (they live off the land at Dunkin' Donuts), they do not have to protect their redoubts, travel in convoys, maintain a hospital system, run a civil service, reform a government, build schools, supply electricity, etc. And, most importantly, they do not have to battle an angry population that speaks an alien language, lives in an immense territory, and is armed with automatic weapons, explosives, suicide bombers, and rocket-propelled grenades. Imagine if they did, and you have Iraq. Imagine if then the mayor said, "We don't need anything further, it's just a question of perseverance: Bring it on," and you have the Bush continuum.

Leaving out entirely our gratuitously self-inflicted inability to deal with major contingencies in Asia, this has been the briefest summary of mismanagement, a full exposition of which could fill a thick and very unpleasant book. But to these failings the left offers no better alternative, for if the right has failed in execution, the left's failure, in conception, is deeper.

* * *
John Kerry may say one thing and another, but no matter how the topgallants break in the Democratic Party, its ideological keel is a leaden and unthinking pacifism, a pretentious and illogical deference to all things European, and the unhinged belief that America by its very nature transforms every aspect of its self-defense into an aggression that justifies the offense against which it is defending itself. After the enemy has attacked our shipping, embassies, aviation, capital, government and largest city, and after he has slit the throats of defenseless stewardesses, and crushed and immolated three thousand unwary men, women, and children, those who wonder what we did wrong are not likely to offer a spirited defense.

Their allergy to military expenditure assures that, unlike Republicans, who provided just enough to accomplish an arrogant plan if nothing went wrong, they would not provide enough to accomplish a humble plan if everything went right. They say that war is not the answer, and, meaning it, profess their faith in special operations. But are we to credit their supposed indignation that in the early Bush presidency there was a shortage of covert insertions into sovereign states, a dearth of assassinations, the absence of close cooperation with the intelligence services of dictatorships, and insufficient funding for black operations? Or to take seriously the crackpot supposition that this was a war for oil, the price of which, since the war, has gone up? And why then did we not invade Venezuela? It's closer, and the food is better.

With nothing to offer but contradictions and paralysis, they and their presidential aspirant have staked their policy on a mystical and irrational prejudice against unilateralism. This is a new thing under the visiting moon, an absurdity propounded by the very same people who often urge the U.S. to unilateral action when it refrains, for example, from interventions in Africa to fight genocide or AIDS. In what way is America, moving in concert with Britain and Spain to invade Iraq, more unilateral or less multilateral than France moving in concert with Germany and Belgium to oppose it? And does a wrong act cease to be wrong if others join in, or a right cease to be right if others do not?

Just as many Republicans detest the idea of international governance but glow at the prospect of empire, many Democrats are reliably anti-imperialist yet dewy-eyed about world government. Thus, Sen. Kerry's only non-secret policy for the war is a bunch of mumblings about the U.N. and our "allies," presumably the ones who are not with us at the moment in Iraq. It is they and the U.N. who in the fairy dust of multilateralism will solve this most difficult problem. But in fact they neither can nor will do any such thing. Either Sen. Kerry knows that his strategy is just a cover for simple, complete, and ignominious withdrawal, or he does not know, which is worse.

* * *
Though the parties have been incompetent, nothing but politics keeps them from correcting their deficiencies, and at a point like this, even if professional politicians are incapable of knowing it, explicit and decisive correction would be the best politics. The situation need not remain intractable if once again respect is accorded to certain fundamentals.

The military must be reconstituted so that it has a surplus of power without having to choose between transformation and tradition, quality and numbers, heavy and light: All are necessary. This is expensive, and would require more plain speaking and less condescending manipulation from those who govern, but would allow for the quick and overwhelming application of force, unambiguous staying power, coverage of multiple contingencies, and, most importantly, deterrence. It is always better to deter an enemy than, by showing weakness, to encourage him to take the field.

In addition to more aggressive unconventional, police, and paramilitary operations against the fragmented terrorist legion, we must strengthen civil defense. Although striking a thousand targets is easier than defending ten million, it isn't possible to control every laboratory and closet in the world. If the social cost and hundreds of billions of dollars annually necessary for a probabilistically effective defense against weapons of mass destruction appear a great burden, they pale before an unrestrained epidemic or a nuclear detonation in a major city.

In the Middle East, our original purpose, since perverted by carelessness of estimation, was self-defense. To return to it would take advantage of the facts that the countries in the area do not have to be democracies before we require of them that they refrain from attacking us; that a regime with a firm hold upon a nation has much at stake and can be coerced to eradicate the terrorist apparatus within its frontiers; and that the ideal instrument for this is a remounted and properly supported U.S. military, released from nation building and counterinsurgency, its ability to make war, when called upon, nonpareil.

The Kurds and Shia of Iraq could within days assert control in their areas. We already have ceded part of Sunni Iraq: What remains is to pick a strongman, see him along, arrange a federation, hope for the best, remount the army, and retire, with or without Saudi permission, to the Saudi bases roughly equidistant to Damascus, Baghdad, and Riyadh. There, protected by the desert, with modern infrastructure, and our backs to the sea, which is our metier, we would command the center of gravity of the Middle East, and with the ability to strike hard, fast and at will, could enforce responsible behavior upon regimes that have been the citadel of our enemies.

In a war that has steadily grown beyond expectations, America has been poorly served by those who govern it. The Democrats are guilty of seemingly innate ideological confusion about self-defense, the Republicans of willful disdain for reflection, and, both, of lack of imagination, probity, and preparation -- and, perhaps above all, of subjecting the most serious business in the life of a nation to coarse partisanship. Having come up short, both parties are sorely in need of a severe reprimand and direct order from the American people to correct their failings and get on with the common defense.

MavKikiNYC
05-18-2004, 10:56 AM
Saw an interview with historian/author John Lewis Gaddis in which he discussed his book "Surprise, Security and the American Experience". While like Helpirin, Gaddis has reservations about how the war has been implemented, he argues that the cornerstones of the Bush strategy for combatting terrorism--pre-emption and unilateralism-- are nothing new in the American experience. Boot's review (below) is one of the more concisely informative reviews of Gaddis' book that I read.

In Search of Monsters?


Surprise, Security, and the American Experience
by John Lewis Gaddis
Harvard. 150 pp. $18.95
Reviewed by
Max Boot

A great many books analyzing the recent shifts in American foreign policy have appeared since September 11, 2001. Most are harshly critical of President Bush and all his works. Their tenor can be judged by some of their titles: Rogue Nation, The Bubble of American Supremacy, The Sorrows of Empire, Superpower Syndrome. The more scabrous among them do not hesitate to compare George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler and America to Nazi Germany. And that is to say nothing of the books, which have become bestsellers in Europe, claiming that the CIA (or was it the Mossad?) was actually behind the 9/11 attacks. In response, some on the Right have produced equally histrionic screeds, like Ann Coulter’s Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism and Sean Hannity’s Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism—books that, in essence, accuse Bush’s critics of being fifth columnists.

It is a relief, therefore, to pick up Surprise, Security, and the American Experience, a sober attempt to analyze Bush’s foreign policy in historical context and without partisan rancor. Its author is John Lewis Gaddis, our most eminent historian of the cold war, who taught for many years at Ohio University and now holds the Robert A. Lovett chair in military and naval history at Yale.

Gaddis first rose to prominence with the publication in 1972 of The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947, which rejected revisionist attempts to pin the blame for that conflict on the U.S. To Gaddis, the Soviet Union was at least equally responsible. Then, following the release in the 1990’s of new documents from the Soviet archives, Gaddis revised this position, concluding that Stalin was solely responsible for the post-World War II break with the West. He also disavowed his earlier view that the cold war was largely governed by geopolitical rivalries. His 1997 book We Now Know argued that Communist ideology had played a bigger role than realpolitik in motivating Soviet conduct.

Though he has long outraged New Left historians, Gaddis is hardly known as a conservative. His reputation is that of a moderately liberal scholar—which makes the assessment of Bush’s foreign policy that he offers in this slender volume all the more interesting and all the more likely to discomfit the administration’s critics.

In Gaddis’s view, there have been three big shifts in the long history of U.S. foreign policy, each one occasioned by a surprise attack on American soil. The first, he argues, happened after the British sacked Washington on August 24, 1814. This sudden exposure of American vulnerability led John Quincy Adams, first as Secretary of State, then as President, to redefine the U.S. approach to the world.

In Gaddis’s telling, the themes invoked by Adams sound strikingly modern: "preemption, unilateralism, and hegemony." He was "keenly aware of the fact that the United States had vast borders to defend," Gaddis writes, "but only limited means with which to defend them." Adams therefore decided that the U.S. had to gobble up as much border territory as possible to ensure against attack by neighboring states or marauding Indians.

This justification for preemptive annexation was eagerly taken up by Adams’s successors. James Polk added Texas and the southwestern territories to the United States. William McKinley went even further afield by grabbing the Philippines, for fear that if the U.S. did not seize the islands, either Germany or Japan would. Similar motives led a succession of Presidents to send armed forces to the Caribbean and Central America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In all these interventions, the U.S. was acting unilaterally, wanting to avoid entanglements in Europe’s alliance system. The U.S. was also attempting to establish its hegemony not only in North America but in the whole Western hemisphere—a policy codified in the Monroe Doctrine (developed by John Quincy Adams), which told European imperialists to keep out of the New World. During much of the 19th century, the U.S. did not have the power to back up its words, but by 1895 Secretary of State James Olney could proclaim with some justification, "Today, the United States is practically sovereign on this continent."


Gaddis believes that, aside from a brief burst of Wilsonianism, Adams’s vision dominated U.S. foreign policy until the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Adams had been able to limit the U.S. pursuit of hegemony to the Western hemisphere because of the security buffer provided by the Pacific and the Atlantic. He declared that America "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy." But what if those monsters came here?

The attack on Pearl Harbor revealed that Americans no longer had the luxury of (as Gaddis puts it) "geographical separation from everyone else who might threaten them." FDR decided that, in order to ensure its security, America now had to be predominant in the whole world. But he did not think the U.S. could achieve this ambitious goal through the old policies of preemption and unilateralism.

Roosevelt sought global hegemony with the consent of other nations. He pledged the U.S. to work through the United Nations in the postwar world. His successors erected NATO, the Bretton Woods system, and similar institutions to bring other states into an American-led world order. An important corollary of this policy, Gaddis writes, was to avoid using preemptive force under most circumstances, because this could shatter the unity of the Western alliance and cost the U.S. the moral high ground. Instead of preempting the USSR, the U.S. deterred it.

Gaddis argues that this multilateral system won the cold war, but that 9/11 exposed its inadequacies. It is unlikely, he writes, "that diplomacy or deterrence could have prevented the September 11th attacks." Realizing this, President Bush has initiated the third major shift in U.S. foreign policy by returning to the hallmarks of John Quincy Adams: preemption, hegemony, and unilateralism.

Gaddis offers a good deal of praise for the National Security Strategy released in September 2002 and for the President who produced it. September 11, he writes, provoked "one of the most surprising transformations of an underrated national leader since Prince Hal became Henry V." He credits the National Security Strategy for being "more forceful, more carefully crafted, and—unexpectedly—more multilateral" than its Clinton-era predecessor.

Gaddis is fairly scathing about the Clinton administration in general. He compares Bill Clinton with Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, "for those Presidents of the 1920’s had also allowed an illusion of safety to produce a laissez-faire foreign and national-security policy." He argues that Bush has come up with an alternative approach—essentially, preemptive attacks against terrorists and states that harbor them, combined with a determination to spread democracy—that is more attuned to the threats we face today.

But Gaddis is hardly a publicist for the White House. At the same time that he displays broad sympathy with the President’s grand strategy, he expresses disquiet about how it has been implemented. Citing Fareed Zakaria’s book, Illiberal Democracy, he worries that spreading democracy might not be a magic elixir for America’s problems in all cases. Moreover, he frets that the administration has alarmed too many people around the world with its talk of preemption and the "axis of evil," and its willingness to invade Iraq without the blessing of the UN. He closes this book with a plea for what is essentially a "kinder, gentler" Bush Doctrine—one that, like the "American system of cold-war alliances," would allow "the United States to wield power while minimizing arrogance."

Gaddis is a graceful writer, and he has sprinkled provocative insights throughout the 150 pages of this inelegantly titled book, which grew out of a series of lectures at the New York Public Library. Its brevity is both an advantage and a disadvantage—an advantage because it makes for an easy read, a disadvantage because it does not allow him to flesh out and defend his ideas.

Reading Surprise, Security, and the American Experience, I often wanted to ask Gaddis: "But what about . . . ?" For instance, did not the policies he attributes to John Quincy Adams—preemption, unilateralism, hegemony—predate the British attack on Washington? Thomas Jefferson, after all, completed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. If that was not an example of a preemptive action designed to expand American hegemony, it is hard to know what is. And the doctrine of unilateralism was first enunciated not by Adams but by Washington and Jefferson—a fact that Gaddis acknowledges, though he thinks that Washington may have been influenced by an essay Adams wrote in 1793. Even if that is the case, it suggests that the burning of the Capitol and the White House in 1814 was not quite as pivotal as Gaddis makes it out to be.

I also found myself wishing for more explanation in his closing chapters. Sure, it would be nice to have multilateral consent for an aggressive, American-led policy of fighting terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. But how do we get it? Gaddis offers scant guidance beyond an injunction to avoid "the sin of pride." This begs all of the really difficult questions: Is the United Nations capable of upholding international order? Can we keep together cold-war alliances to tackle post-cold-war threats? Do we need to forge new alliances for new challenges? Under what circumstances, if any, is unilateral or preemptive action justified?

These are only quibbles, however, with a fine book. Leaving aside the validity of this or that detail, Gaddis’s major contribution is to treat the Bush Doctrine as a set of ideas worthy of scholarly examination rather than as a subject for ritualistic denunciation. He does not denigrate the President as a cowboy or a neo-Nazi, a simpleton or a dupe. Instead, Gaddis suggests that Bush is honestly grappling with the challenges that we confront today and, if he does not always get it right, he is nevertheless coming up with more interesting and ambitious responses than most of his critics.


Max Boot is Olin senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard, and a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

Mavdog
05-18-2004, 11:35 AM
Thanks Kiki, the book sounds like a thoughtful piece on the Bush Doctrine.

I do take issue with the concept that our country's history has a basis in unilateralism, for IMHO the concept of unilateralism as expressed by the Bush Doctrine is not the same as nonalignment, which was the basis of American foreign policy up to WW2.

Likewise to refer to the acquisition of Texas, Louisiana and the rest of the terroritories of Mexico we absorbed as "preemption" seems a bit of a stretch. I would call these as opportunistic for there was no proactive policy of the US which delivered these areas.

madape
05-18-2004, 11:52 AM
You may disagree with the Bush doctrine, but realize that it was Clinton who wrote the doctrine along with Madeline Albright in their war in Yugoslavia.
http://www.reason.com/0405/cr.mw.temporary.shtml



Of all the historical precedents that paved the way for President George W. Bush’s war against Iraq, the most directly relevant was Bill Clinton’s 1999 bombing of the rump Yugoslavia.

Like Gulf War II, the 78-day NATO air campaign in Kosovo was waged without the explicit authorization of the United Nations. (Of the two, the Iraq war had much more of a U.N. mandate, through Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq a "final opportunity" -- one it did not take -- to comply fully with all previous Security Council resolutions or else face "serious consequences.") Like Iraq, Yugoslavia was a sovereign country that was bombed into submission for essentially internal infractions. Both wars were expressions of American exasperation at European impotence in the face of dictatorial slaughter. Slobodan Milosevic, like Saddam Hussein, was described as a modern-day Adolf Hitler, eager to practice genocide against minority tribes while scrambling for horrible weapons to menace peaceful neighbors. Supporters of both wars frequently invoked the Munich Agreement of 1938, in which the West appeased Hitler rather than defend allied Czechoslovakia. Opponents of both wars warned that the target countries were colonially conceived multi-ethnic basket cases not conducive to postwar democratization. And the United States led the fight against both dictators despite urgent warnings from antiwar activists and multilateralism enthusiasts that each new bomb would lower the threshold for waging modern war. Kosovo made Iraq possible.


Is our support for America’s activist role dependent on high moral principle, or is it tethered to partisan politics? And did we lower the bar for military intervention?

I would like to add that unlike Kosovo, Iraq posed a direct threat to the US. Therefore, it carries even more legitmacy than Clinton's war. Overall, I find it hard to beleive that without partisan influence, a person can be supportive of Kosovo and so completely against Iraq.

FishForLunch
05-18-2004, 12:31 PM
Lets move on, Slobo was really a menace to the world community unlike Saddam the daring of the left.

Mavdog
05-18-2004, 12:32 PM
Originally posted by: madape
You may disagree with the Bush doctrine, but realize that it was Clinton who wrote the doctrine along with Madeline Albright in their war in Yugoslavia.

I would like to add that unlike Kosovo, Iraq posed a direct threat to the US. Therefore, it carries even more legitmacy than Clinton's war. Overall, I find it hard to beleive that without partisan influence, a person can be supportive of Kosovo and so completely against Iraq.

A primary difference is the fact the combatants in the Balkans signed the Dayton Accords which gave their consent to a European armed force intervention. The violation of that Agreement by Milosevic gave the right of the parties to use that force to enforce the terms of the agreement.

This is very much different than the Bush Doctrine, and Clinton/Albright did not write the Bush Doctrine nor was the Balkan scenario an example of that Doctrine IMHO.

madape
05-18-2004, 01:08 PM
Didn't Sadaam sign UN resolution 1441 promising "serious consequenses" if he did not comply to previous security counsil resolutions? Did he not fail to comply with those resolutions?

Before this war, I would have said that a UN resolution carried more weight than the Dayton Accords, which weren't signed by any major world power at all. Now I say UN resolutions aren't worth their weight in piss.

If the Bush Doctrine is defined as a unilateral foriegn policy that strikes pre-emptively against sovereign countries in order to achieve humanitarian and strategic defense goals, then you can say the preamble to that doctrine was written by Bill Clinton. Of course, as previously stated, Iraq and Afgansistan were significant threats to national security, unlike Yugoslavia and Bosnia. This is where the Bush doctrine veers away from the Clinton Doctrine. Clinton's wars had absolutely nothing to do with defense of the United States.

Mavdog
05-18-2004, 03:15 PM
Originally posted by: madape
Didn't Sadaam sign UN resolution 1441 promising "serious consequenses" if he did not comply to previous security counsil resolutions? Did he not fail to comply with those resolutions?

I'm not sure Saddam "signed" anything.


Before this war, I would have said that a UN resolution carried more weight than the Dayton Accords, which weren't signed by any major world power at all. Now I say UN resolutions aren't worth their weight in piss.

I recall that the Dayton Accords were endorsed by all the European countries who participated in the coalition forces


If the Bush Doctrine is defined as a unilateral foriegn policy that strikes pre-emptively against sovereign countries in order to achieve humanitarian and strategic defense goals, then you can say the preamble to that doctrine was written by Bill Clinton. Of course, as previously stated, Iraq and Afgansistan were significant threats to national security, unlike Yugoslavia and Bosnia. This is where the Bush doctrine veers away from the Clinton Doctrine. Clinton's wars had absolutely nothing to do with defense of the United States.

Iraq, just like the situation in the Balkans, has never been shown to be a threat to our national security. Abridge that to say "Bush's Iraq war had absolutely nothing to do with the defense of the United States" and you might be correct.

dude1394
05-18-2004, 06:57 PM
Originally posted by: Mavdog
Thanks Kiki, the book sounds like a thoughtful piece on the Bush Doctrine.

I do take issue with the concept that our country's history has a basis in unilateralism, for IMHO the concept of unilateralism as expressed by the Bush Doctrine is not the same as nonalignment, which was the basis of American foreign policy up to WW2.

Likewise to refer to the acquisition of Texas, Louisiana and the rest of the terroritories of Mexico we absorbed as "preemption" seems a bit of a stretch. I would call these as opportunistic for there was no proactive policy of the US which delivered these areas.

The charge of unilateralism with respect to iraq is on pretty shaky ground as well. He did get a congressional ok to go to war against iraq as well as a unanimous UN resoulution. Then France declares that they will not agree to the use of force no matter what.

Bush didn't have to go to any of that trouble if he was the wild-man everyone says he is. But it's all politics now.