Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Care of Time

Michael Yon offers this observation on Iraq.

We now have a large number of American and British officers who can pick up a phone from Washington or London and call an Iraqi officer that he knows well—an Iraqi he has fought along side of—and talk. Same with untold numbers of Sheiks and government officials, most of whom do not deserve the caricatural disdain they get most often from pundits who have never set foot in Iraq. British and American forces have a personal relationship with Iraqi leaders of many stripes. The long-term intangible implications of the betrayal of that trust through the precipitous withdrawal of our troops could be enormous, because they would be the certain first casualties of renewed violence, and selling out the Iraqis who are making an honest-go would make the Bay of Pigs sell-out seem inconsequential. The United States and Great Britain would hang their heads in shame for a century.

Why is fighting a counter-insurgency hard? Because it requires creating a human infrastructure, which in turn requires time and most importantly, exposure. There is probably no idea more destructive to conducting a good counterinsurgency than the idea of a military campaign based on a prescheduled "exit strategy" following a battles in which no casualties will be allowed. Any realistic effort which fits those constraints must realistically resemble one of the cruise missile bombardments so popular with Washington in the 1990s, which is why they were preferred to start with.

A truly sanitized, rubber gloved, politically correct war can never have produced the cameraderie in arms which Yon describes as having risen between American officers and former al-Qaeda. In one sense, the kinds of wars the Left will allow a national military to engage in (if there are any) are of the sort where everything is fundamentally as phoney and plastic as a United Nations conference. A nonwar, both bloodless and useless at the same time. An event in which there are no years; nor sweat, nor tears. Diplomacy conducted by military theater. Just a programmed experience and a private plane ticket home.

But the history of war through the ages has never resembled that; and ultimately there's no way to fight a counterinsurgency without becoming involved in the fate of a country. This is the real cost of all wars that "free men" rather than enslave them. Becoming involved is fraught with danger. But victory has its price.


Blogger Derek Kite said...

This is why I have often predicted that a democrat in the white house will be forced into the nuclear option by circumstances.


1/09/2008 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

A nuke is the ultimate "cruise missile" type attack. If you create a step function where nothing exists between a diplomatic protest and the Big One -- all other types of action being precluded by Exit Requirements and No Casualty clauses, then you go from impotence to world ender in one click of the ratchet.

1/09/2008 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger always right said...

Wretchard: "from impotence to world ender in one click..."

And how close (and often) do you predict we will be on the brink of that? If we are forced to be the world ender, where do we send the "missile(s)"?

1/09/2008 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

where do we send the "missile(s)"

We will aim them as well as the missiles sent to destroy Osama's camps in Afghanistan, in other words, not well at all. The result of all those phone calls American officers can make to their contacts is intelligence.

It's not widely realized but contact with the enemy produces intelligence. Withdrawing to a standoff range and severely limiting how close you can get to the enemy, has the unwanted side effect of allowing you to lose sight of the enemy.

The corresponding intellectual operation of going "from impotence to world ender in one click" is to go from "we don't want know" to "let God sort them out". If we create conditions which mandate our ignorance we will eventually be forced to act in blindness.

1/09/2008 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

And how close (and often) do you predict we will be on the brink of that?

The future has great uncertainties -- but it is a good bet that whoever becomes the next President of the US will be severely tested. If he or she does not respond forcefully the first time, there will be other tests as various parties push the envelope.

That is why it is so damaging for Democrat candidates (and several Republicans) to project weakness towards the world. One of them is likely to have to live with the consequences.

1/09/2008 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger Just Another Richard said...

Trouble is Wretchard, I don't think that too many of our political elites deign to stoop so low as to encumber themselves with such human failings as shame or dishonor; that is for mere mortals after all. Those who would be Gods, fly way above such mundane considerations.

1/09/2008 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Subsunk said...

How I wish all politicians, of all stripes, would read your blog. You have the clearest logic of anyone outside the military, that I have encountered. (And clearer than many in the military also).

From the "Three Conjectures" to this post, I have found my ballistic missile experience and Pentagon experience, minor in nature though it was, to lend credence to almost everything you have opined.

I can tell you, your thoughts are much closer to what the military has found to be truthful experience than anyone in today's punditry.

If only our "Leadership" would read you.


1/09/2008 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

The Care of Time is an Eric Ambler thriller novel. Good taste Wretchard.

It concerns an aging terrorist who wants to come in from the cold and has to arrange his exit from his nasty employer and evade Palestinian gangster assassins. The Press and an American ghostwriter are also involved. It is quite enjoyable, in some ways eerie in how well it forecast some events.

Ambler understood the Third World and terrorism well.

It is not just Iraq but Africa also that forms our "Early Warning System" by providing human intelligence. Otherwise we are blind-sided.

1/09/2008 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

“Hang their heads in shame?” Oh, but they don’t ever do that.

Go take a look at the AP news item from this morning: “Democrats: Iraqi Troop Buildup a Failure”

So their position has developed that it has all been a failure anyway. Nothing to be ashamed of because the Other Guy screwed it up. Let’s Move On!

“Whoever becomes the next President of the US will be severely tested.” It’s a sure bet alright, -because they ALWAYS ARE. Some just refuse to recognize it. Carter and Clinton, for example. Carter drifted along in fog of malaise and Clinton pined for a real war he could show his greatness in, while downsizing our military and using it on pointless tasks. And refusing to fight the war he already had

And this new “Moderates to End Partisanship” group seem to ignore the fact that it really get started in a big way in 1980. Ronald Reagan was a doddering old fool, and when Andropov died, the Left said that it was a “tragedy that the most promising leader of the Soviet Union to come along in a generation came to power during the administration of the worst U.S. president to ever serve.” They REALLY said that!

1/10/2008 04:53:00 AM  

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