Friday, September 08, 2006

Commitment and adaptability

Global Guerrillas argues that Washington is now flogging itself over it's inability to mimic Babe Ruth, who famously pointed to the stands to indicate where he was going to hit a homer.


We are now at the start of a long process of rationalization over the US defeat in Iraq. The most common of these rationalizations include: if only we had "...not disbanded the Baathist army," "...sent in more troops," or "...become better at nation-building." However, in each case the approach is one dimensional, since we tend to view ourselves as the only actors on the stage. The actions and reactions of the opposition are discounted and explained away as fluff and background noise (those pesky terrorists...).

The real question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not our maximalist goals in Iraq could ever have been achieved given the capabilities of the opposition and the limited levels of commitment we were able to bring to to bear on the problem. I suspect the answer is no. The goals didn't match our capabilities and there weren't any simple tweaks to our strategy that would have changed the outcome. This was a difficult way to learn this lesson, but given our tendency towards rationalization, I doubt that it will be learned at all.

A world which has just declared the IDF defeated by Iran and Syria simply by acting at a distance through Hezbollah, might want to spare a thought at how these same countries have been unable to prevent the fall of Saddam -- a regime greater than Syria's -- the establishment of an internationally recognized government of Iraq and the creation of a multdivisional indigenous security force right on their borders. But whatever the situation the field, Global Guerillas is surely right in highlighting the disappointment among some policymakers in the failure to carry out the prescribed plan from 2003.  The possibility that one might have to adapt or persist in war may not have occurred to people whose management paradigm is meeting budgets and tracking milestones. The reason "we tend to view ourselves as the only actors on the stage" may be peripherally related to the circumstance that the ever-defeated military has kept the enemy from mounting a major attack on America for five years.

But that is little to the point. A new Iraqi government, it's fledgling army and the thousands of Iraqis who've bet their life on working for the Americans are things to be thrown away like a toy on Christmas that has failed to meet a child's lofty expectations. And Global Guerillas is doubly right to highlight the role of commitment. Commitment and adaptability are the two necessaries of anyone who would seek victory.  Anyone who knows going in that he lacks it should never even bother to apply.

15 Comments:

Blogger allen said...

Excellent post and outstanding link. Thanks!

9/08/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

This is the only way that Iraq can be the "next Vietnam" - the abject betrayal of our allies, on top of our weak retreat from the field.

In the case of Vietnam, the "only" dominoes that fell were a few million SE Asian casualties, a couple of small countries of no strategic significance as the Cold War moved on to other battlefields so ripe under Jimmy Carter and a beaten America.

But in this case, the domino is the fuel supply of the global economy.

Our enemy is intelligent and coldly pragmatic. A large part of the Western world is emotional and hotly impetuous.

9/08/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/08/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/08/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

wretchard wrote:

"We are now at the start of a long process of rationalization over the US defeat in Iraq. The most common of these rationalizations include: if only we had..."

I have always been of the opinion that the mission in Iraq was as 'fool's errand'. Sure, we can sit back in our armchairs and commiserate about 'if only' (more troops, leave Baathist’s in army ect. ) but the core problem IMHO is that OIF was undertaken by a single nation with a few allies tagging along and the 'natives' would never accept whatever was imposed. The only hope, and even then it is a long shot, could be that an operation such as OIF could work is if it was a very broad international coalition, a coalition so broad that one could say 'the world' intervened, then maybe, and only maybe, would the 'locals' believe that a 'benign' force was marshaled in THEIR interest. Along the same lines, maybe, and only maybe, 'locals' would accept such a judgment upon their affairs if an 'impartial' court were to adjudicate their disputes (i.e. the 'world' united behind an ICC conviction of Saddam Hussein.

9/08/2006 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

I must give up drugs. I could have sworn that the war was not over yet.

9/08/2006 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Ilia Capitolina said...

Yes Ash, democracy is a great imposition on the great swath of Islamist swarthiness. Hopefully, the next imposition on the democratically elected and non-democratically elected great swath of Islamist swarthiness is to be some several very large nuclear craters.

9/08/2006 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

When Vietnam was being declared a defeat, various neighboring countries, like Thailand and Singapore, realized that they had been saved by US action. For them it was an unmistakeable victory. When Douglas McArthur strode away in disgust from Congress after delivering his valedictory, he little realized he had secured the existence of South Korea into virtual perpetuity and condemned the North to a future of misery.

One of the most interesting aspects of watching old Korean War movies or reading contemporaneous accounts from 1950 is hearing the constant reference to the cowardly and inept Koreans, fit only with contempt. It's hard to imagine that the ROKs were once considered hopeless troops though it would be hard to conclude otherwise from the publications of the day.

Objectively speaking even the worst defeat is alloyed with victory. And the most talented commanders are capable of noticing where they are winning even when they are "losing" and leveraging those elements to the eventual advantage. Mao was one;Nasrallah possibly another. Unfortunately the modern West cannot even distinguish victory from defeat, perhaps because they've never really felt its sting over the last 60 years.

What we call defeat is one we arbitrate ourselves. But a civilization that has the luxury to "decide" whether it has been defeated is really judging various shades of victory. Defeat becomes the process of rejecting the less than awesome in the way a gourmet refuses the imperfect strawberry. Any civilization that can deliver a judgment on itself in calm university meetings complete with coffee and cake; on television talk shows with hairstyled participants and daily newspapers on first-rate newsprint is by definition a civilization which has the safety in which to concern itself with whether it should declare defeat or victory today.

Real defeat is an unmistakeable experience. When actually present there is as much need to recognize it as there is to acknowledge a shark which is detaching your leg. It will be too obvious for words. Real defeat is felt by the beaten even when every newspaper, broadcast program and pamphlet is declaring victory; and not as so often happens today, the opposite.

A defeat which has to be announced in paid ads, predicted by movies, announced on roadshows and recited like a mantra in print must be a very weak sort of devil, one we might not notice had our betters not had the kindness to point it out.

9/08/2006 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

ya, wretchard, there certainly is a difference between 'tasting defeat' and failing to acheive your objectives. It shore is nice waging war and not suffering its consequences....yet.

9/08/2006 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_3 said...

ash, your answer is ready at the Bar

9/08/2006 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe1 said...

Ash said...
ya, wretchard, there certainly is a difference between 'tasting defeat' and failing to acheive your objectives. It shore is nice waging war and not suffering its consequences....yet.

9/08/2006 08:04:49 PM


ash -

your suicidalism is showing.

not to mention several other character traits.

9/08/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

wretchard; 07:57:34 PM

re: War and Peace

Perfect! Absolutely perfect!

Not since 1865 has America tasted its own blood and ashes. Not since then have Americans had to consider the real possibility of societal extinction. Yes, we had our terrible arithmetic in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam; however, in no case was the enemy at our door or was eventual victory in doubt.

In this war, whatever it is, and the enemy, who ever he may be, is one weapon system away from doing irreparable systemic damage. Our good fortune has blinded us to the possibility of crippling harm.

Indeed, the barbarians may well enter Rome to find the Senate in session, oblivious to reality.

9/08/2006 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Ash,

... yet.

Yet subtly, without anyone noticing, in the years between World War 2 and today the Press has acquired the power to be the arbiter of any great public enterprise and in particular to declare defeat or victory in war. Vietnam was the first clear exercise of that power. It is jealously guarded to this day. To effect this all the old metrics first had to be declared invalid.

No longer could the destruction of the enemy's armies, the capture of his capital, the occupation of his territory, the fugitive life of the opposition, the absence of meaningful retaliation be entered as evidence of victory. Today these count for nothing. Organizations like Hezbollah were the first to realize that a sea change had taken place. What took place on the battlefield ran a poor second to what was shown on TV screens. In fact, the battlefield could be ignored altogether if suitably doctored images could be procured for exhibition.

The press set the rules of evidence within their tribunal. Did you establish an elected government? It's not a liberal, secular multicultural government! Did you say losses are lower than any war in history? They should be zero! Did you say America has not been attacked in five years? That would have happened any way and especially if you had left it all to the UN!

Coalition losses are counted and recounted. No one even bothers to tally the enemy's. Not that it can't be known. It's that it has no relevance. Has the plan been changed from the original? Then it will be described as "the Pentagon has been forced to admit" ... "in the face of mounting evidence" ... "despite assurances by the President" ... "in contrast to overoptimistic planning". Adapatability a vice in us, a virtue in the enemy's. Because only by choosing a moment in time can things be compared to a perfect instant; can we find for guilt against a bill of impossible particulars and like Gatsby, object to the kiss if unaccompanied by the tuning fork upon a star.

9/08/2006 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_3 said...

Habu_3 said...
New format suggestion.

Divide the sceen into thirds vertically.
In column 1 you have pro Iraeli commenters.
In column 2 you have pro Iranian/terrorist comments.
In column 3 you have the confused, the uncommitted, new recipes, etc.

You could shade the backgrounds in pastels , peach, apricot, tangerine etc.
Posters would be allowed access to all three columns..hey a Jew or Arab might have a great recipe.

9/08/2006 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ilia Capitolina said...

The legacy media has acquired its power through corporate advertiser money and a generally uncritical audience. This is no longer to be. The legacy media will soon be living exclusively off borrowed pension accounts and Jihadi donations. Its audience is no longer there. Its relevancy is marginalized daily. It has nothing to sell except sordid political depravity and distortions, and even that will grow old with what audience it has left.

9/08/2006 09:39:00 PM  

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