war plan update
As I obliquely noted earlier today, Josh Marshall has a post defining victory conditions in Iraq. Pandagon has a post riffing on this idea, and also indicating that Louisville's recent tournament loss was not just devastating to my own NCAA bracket. Pandagon notes that the Bushies are applying the same moving-goalposts strategy to defining victory in Iraq as they did justifications for the war, economic policy, and so on.
This is a war like Bush's tax cuts were fiscal policy. It's a war that will be won precisely because the bar can and will be moved all over creation to make it so. Rebecca Hagelin, writing the boilerplater article of the next week, kvetches endlessly against the "armchair quarterbacking" of the world's first television war. Armchair cheerleading, which is the unspoken corollary to what she's attacking, is perfectly okay. Hagelin and the pro-war crowd crow about the success of the war, stomping all over that whole "scale" whatchamajigger in declaring it possibly the greatest military victory of all time against, of course, the worst military dictator of all time.
Something largely glossed over about this war - it's a shot for Baghdad. Despite our engagement in strategic places such as Umm Qasr and Basra, we're largely skipping cities to get to Baghdad. Baghdad is the strategic center, and in many ways the only truly important military goal of the Iraq war. To say that we're getting there in fits and starts, without the force that the Army or Marines want, and with no clear method of attacking and defeating the forces in the city...it's like celebrating fielding the team before the season's ever started.
To declare that we've rolled over largely uninhabited parts of Iraq a triumphal moment for the military is just silly. It's not an undue criticism to say that we haven't acheived our objective yet, and that it's going to take longer and perhaps require a different plan than we first assumed. There's a reason that we get individual reports of individual skirmishes on a daily basis - the main fighting has not started yet. Now we're being asked to look at what isn't even the main war as if it is. The second the main forces attack Baghdad, however, these battles, these deaths, successes, and failures, will be forgotten as we are the new triumphal soldiers liberating Baghdad. Should it take days, it will be claimed that the plan worked like it was supposed to; should it take monthes, it will be claimed that the plan worked like it was supposed to.
Many supporters of this war find themselves in a rather comfortable spot from domestic politics the past few years - all facts [fit] the political conclusion, whether they be tax cuts or war or any other program. When the war is debated, it cannot ever be debated on these terms, despite the effort to do so. It is not realistic to presume that any course of action taken in a war is the right course of action, or that the failure or reevaluation of plans is automatically positive (rather contradictory to think so, in fact). How this war is prosecuted means as much as the prosecution itself. This was never sold as a hard war, as the hard but necessary way. The inevitability of this action precluded its relative ease - why would anyone be so gung-ho, without facts or the attempt at proof, to do something unless they were absolutely sure it could be done?