Mike the Mad Biologist

Peter Pan and the Iraq War

Will-based’ foreign policy making seems to have overcome the modern conservative movement (maybe it should be called ‘realpolitik backlash’…). There is the constant belief–and it has to be called a belief since it doesn’t appear to be evidence-based–that if we just wish hard enough, the tactics, strategy, and logistics will simply solve themselves. But reality doesn’t work that way.

In 1944, the British 1st Paratroop Division dropped into and around the city of Arnhem, with the goal of taking and holding the Arnhem bridge until relief arrived. For many of reasons, the relief didn’t arrive. The 1st Paras were flattened, suffering over 80% casualties, and failed to hold Arnhem bridge. It wasn’t a lack of resolve that did the British in (the unit had a very high esprit de corps), it was a lack of supply and reinforcement, combined with elements of two veteran SS tank units. Resolve doesn’t do much against heavy armor: you need guns.

In other words, sometimes the good guys lose. Related to this point, John Aravosis asks (italics mine):

He [Bush] plans to keep US troops in Iraq until the end of his term, period. We’re not leaving. It doesn’t matter how bad things get, how many Americans die, how much money it costs. It doesn’t even matter how hopeless the situation becomes. He will NOT remove US troops from that country until “we win.”

But what if we can’t win?

This is the question that Bush refuses to answer. Bush has only ONE plan for Iraq. We win, then we come home. And its corollary, we don’t come home UNTIL we win.

But what if we never win?

While it’s cute for George Bush and the Republicans to always pull the “America” card and tell everyone, ad infinitum, that Americans ALWAYS win (because we’re the GOOD GUYS), that is simply bravado and a lie. Being good guys didn’t help us in Vietnam – we lost and had to withdraw. Being good guys didn’t help us in Lebanon in the 1980s – we lost and withdrew. It also didn’t help us in Somalia in the 1990s – same story.

Every decade of the past 4 we’ve had at least one big military loss and been forced to withdraw. So who is to say that we won’t lose in Iraq, or haven’t lost already? We are not infallible. No one wants to “lose,” but to suggest that we can’t lose because Americans simply don’t lose, or because the cost of losing is too high (hello, Vietnam?), is not a sane basis for figuring out what our strategy should be in this war.

George Bush and the Republican party (along with a few GOP clones like Joe Lieberman) are refusing to accept, or even discuss, the reality that is Iraq. We are in the midst of a terrible war that is not going well. Yet our leaders refuse to change course in terms of how they execute that war because they have a belief that no matter how poorly they execute the war we will win anyway. George Bush, as the emodiment of “America,” is infallible – nothing he does can lead to defeat, to stop whining.

That is a very dangerous basis on which to run a country, especially when the “infallible” monarch is someone as incompetent as George W. Bush. The man lost New Orleans, he can lose Iraq.

After watching Bush’s last few press conferences, it’s not even clear what victory means, except in terms of very vague platitudes. What are the concrete milestones that indicate the ‘Iraqi government is ready to stand up, so we can stand down?’ It certainly doesn’t seem like we’ve moved in that direction, although there aren’t any defined guidelines to figure out what would be the right direction, so how can we tell?

Impeach him now.

update: maha makes a related point (albeit more eloquently than I did)