Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Debate Over Bush’s “Surge”

This is, as Yogi Berra said, "This is like deja vu all over again." Writing as a Vietnam vet, what is going on in Iraq bears an uncanny resemblance to the fall of Saigon. Bush wants to send in more troops to prop up the puppet government, but can’t say how he will tell if the surge succeeded or not. I suppose it will succeed because he will say that it has. Maybe he can land on that carrier again and announce “Mission Accomplished” one more time.

When I was in Vietnam, my buddies and I often said that Nixon could end the war by saying that he had won, then just leaving the country. He more or less did indeed do this a few years later, during which time a few thousand American lives and untold Vietnamese lives were lost. Bush is in the same position in Iraq.

What nobody seems to be talking about is where he plans to get the 21,000 additional troops. All branches of the military–excepting the Air Force and Navy perhaps–are already stretched to the breaking point. There are very few new bodies to be had. Soreserves are being put on alert, some after having just returned home after tours of duty that were extended by months or years. There are reports of troops in Afghanistan having their tours involuntarily extended and being told that they will be part of the surge in Iraq.

All of this for what reason? Bush will get his “surge,” the situation will remain as it currently is, or more likely worsen, and then what? Because neither he nor his Republican lads in Congress have any clear plans, they drag out the tried and true charges of lack of patriotism, “if we don’t fight them there, we’ll be fighting them here” (which is one of my favorites), and the laughable concern that we will lose credibility with our allies and the nations of the world. As if the administration and Republicans are not already the laughing stock of the world.

What about a failed state in the Middle East? The Republicans like to shake that skeleton. The nation of Iraq was a construct of the British after WW I, and like every other construct, it needed a ruthless dictator to hold it together. Enter Saddam Hussein. What country buttressed Hussein's power for decades? The U.S. What has happened to every other nation constructed of warring tribes who are forced to live together by a foreign military? They fall apart. So there is already a failed state in the Middle East: Iraq. Who caused it to fail? All the presidents who supplied the dictators with their military power-base. George II is not bright enough to know that by removing the dictator who held the country together was tantamount to pulling the central thread from the garment. He's been watching Iraq unravel ever since, and our valiant troops have paid the price for his arrogant stupidity.

For the U.S., the concern should be how to spare any more American casualties and yet leave some shred of hope for the weak central government, but historically, puppet governments rarely have lasted once the U.S. has left unless the U.S. left the country in the hands of a military dictatorship (this is what happened at the beginning of the 20th century in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Haiti). There is no strong Iraqi military because the Bush folk got rid of the generals and officers who controlled Hussein's military because they were Bathists. That was one of the first blunders they made. But I digress.

So will Bush get his “surge?” Probably. Will it make any difference in the level of violence or make the Iraqi government more capable of surviving after we leave? Probably not. If the U.S. withdraws our troops, will the government collapse? Of course. Will the government collapse if we withdraw quickly? Yes. Will it collapse if we withdraw slowly? Yes.

Fast or slow, the troops must come home. The sooner, the better.

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