Saturday, May 30, 2009

War and Recovery

Richard Fernandez quotes an Australian Army officer's thoughts about the future of Iraq:

The future of Iraq is unknowable,’ he said, ‘but it has started again.’ That remark didn’t answer any questions about the future of events, but it helped frame my expectations.

I have responded with some cynical (but hopefully not too cynical) thoughs of my own:

I fully agree, but the corollary of this statement is that nobody involved in Iraq policy-making can possibly know what the hell they’re doing, and at this point one strategy is pretty much as good as another.

I think it was right around the 2006 midterm elections (USA) when I finally concluded that strategy was a moot subject in the Iraq War. It simply didn’t matter anymore. Iraq was going to recover someday (and be much better off than it had been under Saddam), but this would be due to the natural fecundity of life itself, not to any policy decisions. The survivors would pick up the pieces, cobble together a new life from the rubble, start having children, and gradually the war would fade away into the passing generations. The window of opportunity when policy decisions mattered had long since shut; a discontinuity in history had been reached, and now it was all up to nature.

I shrugged and began to think of it like this: “One of the things that wars inevitable do is to promote cultural exchange. There wouldn’t be so many Vietnamese immigrants in America today (the child of one such couple is one of my best friends), and a Vietnamese restaurant in every shopping center, if we had not fought a war in that country. We ought to just welcome the refugees from Iraq, and I can look forward to some aromatic tobacco and good falafel.”

What I mean to say is, it seems we could have achieved equality of result in Iraq If we had simply butchered and bolted, laid waste to the country’s economy, and dispatched a small interdictory force to watch over things while the locals rebuilt. We would have incurred the moral censure of the world, but it would have blown over in a few years (for fickle mankind is always ready to forget), and it would not have given the Left a McGuffen for 5 years’ worth of skeptical press coverage with which to beat up the Bush administration.

We might not be looking at a President Obama today if that had happened, and the situation in Iraq would be no different. Perhaps this is the ultimate indictment of Rumsfeld’s Defense Department and of modern precision warfare in general: it turns warcraft into too dainty a matter. It’s best to just rock-and-roll and then get the hell out. It does far less damage in the long run.

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