Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Napalm In The Morning

It’s time for another round of “a funny thing happened on the way to al Qaeda” starring the latest in a long line of political military men General David H. Petraeus. It seems surprising that in the midst of a hotly contested election the General received little fanfare this trip. There were no full page ads, no massive protests, or no political lynching. Can I say the word lynching when talking about a white man or would that be construed as racist since I am black? Oh well, let the rhubarb begin. How long will we continue to accept no answer as an answer? The last General that provided fewer details about a war effort, it’s eventual conclusion and was able to keep his job was also a Republican military hack by the name of George McClellan.

WASHINGTON — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq, recommended on Tuesday halting any additional withdrawals of American troops after July for at least 45 days and possibly more, telling Congress that progress there was “fragile and reversible.”

General Petraeus said that security progress has been “significant but uneven.” Under questioning, he declined to estimate American troop levels beyond the withdrawal by July of five additional combat brigades sent to Iraq last year. And he acknowledged that the government’s recent offensive in Basra was not sufficiently well-planned.[1]

I don’t know if ever a man was brought so far to say so little. We know absolutely no more today than we did 15 months ago when this General who “wrote” the book on terrorist and counter-insurgent warfare began his crusade to liberate the Iraqis. The refrain from these guys is always the same, we just need more time. I don’t get it we defeated two enemies in two different theaters in the past with a lot less sophisticated weapons and systems than we have today and in less time. It appears that Bush’s war of attrition is working, the problem is it isn’t working on the insurgents in Iraq it is working on the American public. It is difficult for many Americans to deal with the tanking economy, the housing crisis, and general uneasiness of our job markets to have much time left over for an unpopular war over there.

I am surprised by the reactions of many to the news that the General has to offer, we must remember that he is the commander of troops who are in a deadly conflict and regardless of the situation he must remain positive. Do we really think he will come to Washington and say that we are in a situation that we can not win? It isn’t going to happen. What we must do as a nation is to listen to what he is saying and put it into context of what we know to be true. The problem with the politicians and the military leaders involved in this conflict is that they have allowed the Bushies to define the nature of the conflict, irrespective of the true facts on the ground. By not understanding or discussing the true nature of the conflict we can never define victory or defeat.

Our political and military leaders would like us to believe that the war is about al Qaeda, that this is just an extension of the “war on terror”, the truth is that it isn’t. The biggest obstacles to Iraqi unity and reconstruction is not al Qaeda or Iran, it is the tribal divisions of the Iraqis themselves. We do not and cannot control the events in Iraq and anyone who believes that we can is either ignorant of the precarious position of occupations or worse they are deliberately being disingenuous for political goals. We do not nor can we ever have enough “boots on the ground” to control the events in Iraq, no more than we control the events in Korea, Japan, or Western Europe. Would anyone claim that we control the events in any of these regions? Of course they wouldn’t.

We need to move beyond the unrealistic goals being discussed in our political and military circles. We need to move from trying to control the events in Iraq and to influencing the events. Currently, we do not influence the events in Iraq because we have leveraged ourselves with the war on terror rhetoric and the Iranian demagoguery. Instead of continuing the imperialist strategy of empire building, we need to adopt a more reserved role similar to the Europeans. Our greatest efforts on the world stage have come not from controlling events, but from influencing events. We cannot offset the Iranian regional expansion through control, every time we have tried to control events in the Middle-East, we have failed miserably.

Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton reserved their real fire for each other. Shortly after the hearing began, Mr. McCain was out of the gate with an opening statement that called on Americans to reject the calls for a “reckless and irresponsible withdrawal of our forces at the moment when they are succeeding” and that promising such a withdrawal, “regardless of the consequences,” was a “a failure of political and moral leadership.”[2]

What is a failure of political leadership is to use our troops for political gain by relying on the fabrication of the al Qaeda in Iraq and the Iranian training grounds myth. We cannot begin to exert influence in Iraq and the region until we disengage from this crusade mentality and instead of becoming of a dictator we become a partner. Until we do this, no surge or temporary decrease in violence will be worth it’s weight in salt.


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