random war thoughts
I'm sure the images of jubilant Iraqis pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad yesterday were gratifying to the hawks. I, too, welcome the end of Saddam's rule, of course. And I hope that as the fighting winds down, the US will see less need for bombing that claims innocent civilian lives; far too many have been killed already.
For starters, I must remind my hawkish friends of one thing:
Military victory by itself is not proof that the war itself was justified.
No one credible ever doubted that Bush's coveted war with Iraq would result in anything other than conquest. (Indeed, critics sometimes wondered if the Administration's obsession with Iraq to the exclusion of what many judged as a more potent and immediate threat from North Korea stemmed from a desire to avoid any conflict other than a sure win.) The Washington Post has an interesting analysis that credits the military victory in Iraq to three factors:
- A "seasoned and well-equipped military" (Although, since many US troops were seeing combat for the first time, I'd lean toward "superbly well-trained" in place of "seasoned.")
- The decision to press on to Baghdad. It's clear that war planners' gamble that the regime would collapse with the first combat didn't pay off, but to give credit where it's due, it's now equally clear that the risk to continue to advance on Baghdad proved to be the right move. Of course, that success had as much to do with our military's ability to improvise and make do with a less-than-ideal situation as it did from any cunning strategy on Rumsfeld's part. It's also equally clear that if he'd begun the war with the lower troop levels he'd initially favored, the chances for this success would be slim. In my analysis, the war on Iraq more supports the "boots on the ground" advocates than the "air power and special forces can do it all" team.
- Lastly, a conspicuously inept defense by the Iraqi military. This last point can't be over-emphasized: Our military performed brilliantly, but Saddam's forces, which were never a match in equipment or training to begin with, failed to execute even basic defensive strategies, such as blowing bridges and taking advantage of terrain. The lackluster performance of a military the Administration painted as an ominous threat reinforces the notion shared by many of Iraq's neighbors that Saddam was basically impotent.
Update: A Bristish commentator calls Saddam's strategy "one of the most inept ever designed." (via The Looking Glass)
(continued in the next post)