Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Stand-ins

Photographer Tomer Ganihar's entry at the Venice Biennale was a series of shots of mannequins taken inside an Israeli hospital training center. Medgadget notes:

Tomer Ganihar took photos in an Israeli hospital in which detailed mannequins of men, women and children maimed by war and terror are used to train doctors and medics. They embody both the memories and the prediction of violence (text from the catalog.)

Michael Ignatieff, once of a supporter of the Iraq war, has changed his mind about the war and now believes it is necessary to walk away, and too bad about the Iraqis.

The decision facing the United States over Iraq is paradigmatic of political judgment at its most difficult. Staying and leaving each have huge costs. One thing is clear: The costs of staying will be borne by Americans, while the cost of leaving will be mostly borne by Iraqis. That in itself suggests how American leaders are likely to decide the question.

Philip Carter understands that this part at least, Ignatieff has gotten wrong. Carter understands that America won't walk away scot-free. It will pay a cost, but the bill may come due after the current generation of politicians kick the can down the road.



In the Iraq context, I think Ignatieff's point is somewhat oversimplified. Americans will pay many costs for leaving as well. But in broadbrush strokes, he is correct. The worst consequences will not weigh on the judgment of the American people and politicians who will inevitably make this decision. And because of that fact, I think the decision is pre-ordained. At some point, maybe in this political election cycle, or maybe in the next one, America will withdraw from Iraq.

Tomer Ganihar, in taking pictures of routine hospital in that international canary-in-a-coalmine, Israel, provides a small glimpse into the costs. I think the worst possible outcome in Iraq is not to leave the Iraqis, but all the capabilities we have acquired from Iraq behind. And that is because whether America decides to invade Pakistan, as Barack Obama has suggested, or waits behind its Fence, as the Israelis have done, inevitably the need for those capabilities will arise again. The real challenge in the War on Terror is not whether the West can defeat terrorism everywhere, but whether it can defeat chaos and the terrorism that thrives in it, in its single most intractable stronghold. Neither Armies, nor Navies nor Air Forces nor police forces nor national capabilities can be everywhere at once. But it suffices to know that wherever they go they will be victorious. Adjusting the shape of your effort is an option, but ultimately, retreat is not. In a globalized world, there is no place to go.

9 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

W,
Great analysis, again.

"The real challenge in the War on Terror is not whether the West can defeat terrorism everywhere, but whether it can defeat chaos and the terrorism that thrives in it, in its single most intractable stronghold. Neither Armies, nor Navies nor Air Forces nor police forces nor national capabilities can be everywhere at once. But it suffices to know that wherever they go they will be victorious."

This is called deterrence and something (at least) half of our political class sees no value in. We can choose the battlefield, as in Iraq, or we can have it dictated to us. The folly of the latter choice is lost on the surrender-class, including, apparently, 90% of the media.

"Adjusting the shape of your effort is an option, but ultimately, retreat is not. In a globalized world, there is no place to go."

Wish that it were true. In the long run, of course, you are correct. But shorter term pandering does not preclude retreat. And that is unfortunate.

8/07/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ed in Kanata said...

I think you must also see Ignatieff's position from his position as a senior Canadian Liberal politician. His support for the war in Iraq has been a negative - especially when he ran for the party leadership. The view in Canada is that he is now making a measured about turn on Iraq and taking a position more in line with the that of the mainstream of the Liberal Party.

8/07/2007 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

I once had great respect for Ignatieff, the intellectual. When he decided to run for the Liberal Party leadership, some of my respect for him waned, even though I hoped he would win, being by far the best candidate they had in the race. Now that he has decided to behave like a Liberal and totally abandon his principles in order to participate in Liberal Party group-think/parrot-talk, he has nothing but my contempt.

8/07/2007 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

Only one quibble:

I think it is being extremely optimistic to think that the consequences of whatever decision is made will come on someone else' watch.

So far in this war, the US has been fighting rearguard. If the US administration hasn't figured out what to do, there are many who have, and will.

The only time that they haven't is when they invaded Iraq. But since then they have reacted rather than driven events.

Derek

8/07/2007 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

W --

Plenty of order in a cemetery. No chaos either.

I'm quite certain we won't repeat Iraq again. Or "need" the capabilities we will throw away. We will wait behind our fence, lose a city or three, and then set about to kill every Muslim we can find.

Regrettable. Avoidable. A tragedy. But there it is. Well, Chamberlain was quite proud. "From this thistle War I pluck this flower, peace." Peace in our time indeed. Peace of the grave.

THAT is the real cost of leaving Iraq.

8/07/2007 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

No one has asked the question: "What will a politically driven retreat from Iraq do the US military?"

I am not a military person, I have no expertise at on the subject at all. But, it just seems to me that if I were in their position, having served several tours in Iraq, and the Democrats pulled the plug on me as they claim they want to, I would resign my commission, serve out my term and quit. It would be clear to me that my country did not want my service.

Of course, if the US were attacked again, the president might call the Pentagon for retribution, and might get a recording saying that the number has been disconnected.

But, with the Clinton's back in the saddle, it won't be a problem. Everyone will love us and we won't be attacked. right?

8/07/2007 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

whiskey 199:

You may have just enunciated a good liberal Democrat argument to support the war effort in Iraq.

If supporting the war effort can be shown as a means to disempower those who seek to kill every Muslim on the planet and opposing the war effort can be shown as a means to empower anti-Muslim hatred, there may be a chance for a humanitarian basis for continuing this war.

Actually, I think the principal reason for the entire war since September 2001 has been to maintain governmental control over the means of retribution against those who support al-Qaeda.

8/08/2007 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

What would happen if we were to nuke the funders of terrorism, and take their money stream away from them? Why is that option always taken off the table and never even considered when it worked so dad-blamed well vis-a-vis Japan?

8/08/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

I guess I would like to once again put the Cut and Run Crowd into a historical perspective – WWII and the Cold War.

We nurtured and protected the democracies of Germany, Italy, and Japan after WWII. There are certain aspects of all of those democracies that we do not like very much – none are as “free” as we are, but those were, overall, outstanding successes. And we did it for our Own Purposes – and in our Own Way.

Let us not confuse Our Purpose and Our Way. We could have secured those countries as bases and resources in the Cold War by simply making them Protectorates in the U.S. Empire. MacArthur-like military viceroys could have administered them ad infitum, and we could have controlled their societies and economies to make sure that they were captive markets for our products and not our competitors. That was the Usual Way in history, but that was not Our Way.

So, at what point would we have Cut and Run from a failing Germany, Italy or Japan?

The answer is NEVER. We would NEVER have Cut and Run from the conquered Axis powers, because we would not tolerate the results, for Our Own Purposes. We are still there, militarily, and we would be there Socially and Governmentally if required.

8/08/2007 09:30:00 AM  

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