Run, Pass or Steal Away

The ideas for the Iraq war coming from the Pentagon seem to echo a possible sports strategy. Since West Point fields a nationally recognized football team, the ideas are couched in terms appropriate for that sport – “Go Big,” “Go Long” and “Go Home.”

The Washington Post is reporting on the review being done at the Pentagon.

“Go Big,” the first option, originally contemplated a large increase in U.S. troops in Iraq to try to break the cycle of sectarian and insurgent violence. A classic counterinsurgency campaign, though, would require several hundred thousand additional U.S. and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police. That option has been all but rejected by the study group, which concluded that there are not enough troops in the U.S. military and not enough effective Iraqi forces, said sources who have been informally briefed on the review.
“Go Home,” the third option, calls for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops. It was rejected by the Pentagon group as likely to push Iraq directly into a full-blown and bloody civil war.

The group has devised a hybrid plan that combines part of the first option with the second one — “Go Long” — and calls for cutting the U.S. combat presence in favor of a long-term expansion of the training and advisory efforts. Under this mixture of options, which is gaining favor inside the military, the U.S. presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, the officials said.

The persistent theme coming through the article and indeed the political rhetoric is that there are no good options. The options are increasingly pointing to lose-lose situations. Winning is no longer an option. It isn’t even on the table.

It is poetically appropriate that George Bush visited Vietnam this week because I think Americans need to brace themselves for another loss. This loss, much like the failure in Vietnam, is less due to military mistakes than political decisions.

Donald Rumsfeld cut his professional teeth during the Vietnam era. He learned and lead the Pentagon during the nadir of the American military comparable in the last century only to the military prior to the First World War. He took those lessons back to that job at one of the most critical times in American foreign policy since the Second World War. He did exactly what his mentors during the 1970’s did, he and Dick Chaney manoeuvred the military into a no win situation. He recreated the military of his ‘childhood.’Now, post-Rumsfeld, the Pentagon and the political leadership are trying to find a way out of the problems he caused.

To be honest, the only criteria that should be used to judge which play to call in the Iraqi War, is the one that limits casualties. Not of American troops but total casualties. This probably means an immediate pull out – the “Go Home” option. Those units that leave the country last will suffer quite a bit and American casualties will be higher. The total casualties will probably be lower. The ethnic cleansing and civil war will end sooner; the faster we leave, the sooner the inevitable restructuring of Iraq will finish.

If we look at George Bush’s visit to Vietnam, we see that the political differences will probably fad in time. I suspect that the differences between American troops and the average citizens in both countries have never been large (try to feed and educate your children; live and let live). While Vietnam was a foreign policy loss but rea defeat was the domestic support that the American government squandered. Although foreign policy never changed from MAD and the communist expansion didn’t change, domesic support took years to rebuild. The recent election showed that domestic support has once again evaporated. That is the state George Bush and his 1970’s trained cohorts have repositioned Washington.

Will Bush’s administration show enough courage to do the right thing? As long as they keep using sports analogies to describe wars, I seriously doubt it. I hope – but I don’t believe; I don’t have faith. But maybe Bush will still score a homerun, now at the top of the ninth, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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