“The War as We Saw It” is an excellent NYT Op Ed.

Go take a moment to read The War as We Saw It at the New York Times. Written by a group of infantrymen and noncommissioned officers it refutes many of the claims of progress made by the Bush Administration. A sample:

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

I’m still torn over the whole Iraq situation as I’m a believer in the idea that we-broke-it-so-we-should-fix-it, but there just doesn’t seem to be any real way to fix Iraq so every day I lean more towards the idea that we should cut our losses and get the hell out so they can fight it out amongst themselves. Which is what they really seem to want to do anyway. Of course if Bush has his way we’ll be in there at least until he leaves office and he’s looking for a way to insure it’ll be years after he’s gone before any real pull out can occur, if at all.

10 thoughts on ““The War as We Saw It” is an excellent NYT Op Ed.

  1. If they stay in iraq for a generation or two (and maybe spread the culture a little), they might be more accepted and iraq become considered closer to america and an american base, a little like having a second israel in your pocket, and favourable links to an islamic state make the US a little more widely accepted. Conquered states in the past eventually become more friendly and culturally similar to their masters if given enough time under steady occupation.

    That might be what they hope, but cannot sell through honesty because of the death toll involved, they’ve got to wait till people get tired enough of fighting that they completely condemn insurgency in their own society, as we would here

  2. We could not fix Vietnam, but the Vietnamese did so after we left.  We could have left 53,000 soldiers before we did and the result would have been the same except those 53,000 would not have died.

  3. If they stay in iraq for a generation or two (and maybe spread the culture a little), they might be more accepted and iraq become considered closer to america and an american base…

    Didn’t work with the British Raj, didn’t work with Egypt (French or British rule), it won’t work with Iraq.

  4. I agree with K. Engels on this one.  There is no military precedent for making the claim that we should stay.

    That said, theres no way Bush will leave Iraq before his term ends.  That would be suicide for him and any subsequent republican candidates since they all share a beat on the war drum.

  5. Bush has already committed political suicide. There’s absolutely nothing to be saved from his Presidency except the bankrupt platform of the Republicans if they can’t wave vaguely at Democrats and make the claim that they “hate American soldiers” and other nonsense.

    Personally I think it’s a better option for everyone to simply accept a staged withdrawal as a given for Iraq, and move along to fixing the domestic mess and our upcoming recession that Bush has missed working on while he was busy holding his pecker in his hand and chastising the world for not loving Jesus enough to kill foreigners for him.

  6. Give it time, do it well,

    Treat the people well, buy their support, condition children to support you using the educational system (which will take time), ensure the police are large, equiped and informed enough to do their job, build massive amounts of infrastructure as a standing testiment to your investment in those people, which will provide jobs (particularly things that are regarded lower-priority targets like canning factories, car assembly plants, call centres, universities, etc).
    And if any culture does spread, that will increase their attatchment to us over the past, and minimise the hate that comes from isolation.

    Give ourselves a chance, iraq’s government is probably too fragile at this moment to just leave, if we abandon it there’s a chance it’ll go back to square 1 despotism, since we’ve put ourselves out we might as well make this count for saving more lives in the long-run, and make iraq a friend, or at least mediator

  7. i think the iraqi people have a right to a free country (good or bad). that said, i must confess i am not sure how that can be achieved. historically that kind of change is not fast or cheap. just look to our american revolution. our ancestors labored long and hard to secure what we call liberty. the freedom we embrace as ours would not be possible without the intervention and sacrifices of men of conciounce from other countries. men who knew it would not be easy, knew it may not even succeed yet, endeavored none the less towards that goal. alas, men of that caliber are few and far between in this me me me society.

  8. There’s quite a difference in the circumstances between the American revolution and the war in Iraq. First, it wasn’t the intervention of an outside country that launched the revolution, but an action we initiated ourselves. Second, there wasn’t the resistance to forming a united government that there is in Iraq. The latter being the more important factor.

    The Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq don’t want to share power. After being second class citizens so long under Saddam, the Shiites want all the power to themselves and as the majority they can do it. The Sunnis are upset at suddenly being out of power after enjoying Saddam’s favor for so long. The Kurds want to form their own nation in the north. Combine that with centuries old scores to settle and you have the current mess in Iraq.

  9. Perhaps splitting iraq would be a faster route (for at least stability within each state, they might quarrel with each other, but would feel less forced together). That said, forcing people together under one flag might in time get them to accept each other more generally, at least in iraq.

  10. Perhaps splitting iraq would be a faster route

    I would almost consider that, except I’m still worried about the threat of expansion, and especially the threat of encouraging sectarian conflict any more than we currently have.

    Once you have a set of stable nation-states, it’s easy to encourage trade and buffer the welfare of everyone involved. What stands in our way is war – a war that we started, and a war that old blood feuds are likely to continue.

    A nation is the sum of its citizens. I’d be more than happy to see Canada and other nations work to re-establish infrastructure in the instance that it’s needed. Iraqis have proven in the past that they have the ability to restore that infrastructure themselves. Ultimately, we must provide the framework for citizens to take action, and that, I think, cannot be done through warfare, or even ‘armed protection’ alone.

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