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July 01, 2005

Political Victory & The Rules of Engagement

I've been thinking about the principled questions surrounding the role of women in warfare which has taken me up to questions about the political contexts of victory and how these dictate the rules of engagement.

For example, there is no current political context for which rape would be considered a valuable weapon. The aim is not to save our bloodlines from extinction. But there is a political context in which victory could be defined as destroying the infrastructure of command and control over the enemy. That can be done with jets and missiles, instead of rape squads. How do you deploy jets and missiles? Sometimes it's just as easy to use a female as a male soldier. The answer is in the details.

The rules of engagement are always dictated by the political terms of victory.

I can see how liberal politics might decide to change the rules of engagement so that a war might necessarily become a 'quagmire', and what conservatives like me are constantly bitching about is how liberal opposition to the entire war in Iraq, keeps jumping on every minute opportunity to redefine victory away from the Bush policy and what makes sense to soldiers on the ground.

First it was antiquities, then it was missing ammunition in dumps, then it was firing on mosques, then it was naked pyramids, then it was body armor... the list is as long as every liberal complaint.

So I would like to invite my liberal and progressive friends and enemies here to outline their definitions of victory in Iraq, and speak honestly about what kinds of costs they are willing to endure appropriate to their investment in victory. Those not interested in victory need not apply.

My challenge to you is to explain how your belief that the expenditure of 2000 or even 5000 American soldier's lives outweighs the benefit of victory in Iraq as the president has promised. I suspect that you believe Iraq's a quagmire not only because you want it to be. I believe in the minds of many Americans, opposition to Bush is more important than victory. Their objective is to politically alienate Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz but not to deliver victory in war. From this moment until the withdrawl of every last American, they will continue to scour the news for failures of every sort to retroactively call Bush's plan a failure.

Posted by mbowen at July 1, 2005 11:55 AM

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First I think we need your definition of victory.

Is victory democracy in Iraq?

Is victory democracy in Iraq that is friendly to the US?

Is victory democracy in Iraq that is friendly to the US and we still control (or have easy access to) the oil fields?

Define victory to you, and I'll tell you what cost I'm willing to pay for it.

Posted by: Okolo at July 1, 2005 12:57 PM

For me, victory would be an arab democracy in Iraq with no state hostility to the US, with basing rights sufficient to offset a military drawdown in Saudi Arabia. I think that if it takes 3 years to build that at the cost of say 10,000 American soldiers, it would result in a country that's good for at least 10 years of neutrality in the midst of islamic Jihadists. It reduces our dependence on Israel. That's a good deal.

As an escalation of the No Fly Zones, the War against Iraq made perfect sense - the first one was never finished.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2005 02:45 PM

"As an escalation of the No Fly Zones, the War against Iraq made perfect sense."

Hmm, I missed that as one of Bush's reasons for going to war.

3 years and 10,000 soldiers, I hate to quantify things in terms of human lives, but if that were to happen I would probably be willing to grant the victory to Bush, and thus the US. (as long as none of those 10,000 people are anyone I know)

The problem I see is, I just don't think that will happen.

Constantly changing why we are there, re-justifying why we went to war, and constantly having to adjust our goals, makes for a moving target that's hard to hit.

Now the #1 reason for staying in Iraq (so some argue) is that we've created a hot bed for terrorists and we can't allow them to take over that country. (although the people making this argument would be slow to admit that *we* created this hot bed)

My greatest fear in all of this is while the publically stated goals and reasons and justifications keep changing, the private, true intentions, are right on course.

3 years and/or 10,000 soldiers from now, we'll see where we are.

Posted by: Okolo at July 1, 2005 05:53 PM

I was thinking about 'reasons for going to war'. If there were 50 and only 34 turned out to be true, would you quit? It's like raising a child. This war is Bush's baby, and everybody is shitting on him because his baby isn't their idea of a perfect child.

The very idea that it boils down to WMD for most opponents is only evidence to me that they only think about geopolitics in the terms served to them by the administration. This further justifies the administration sticking to manufactured propaganda. I heard it all week. No WMD and Saddam wasn't behind 9/11, as if these were the only two reasons that matter. They're not, of course, but they are simplified reasons that work in the mass media.

There could be 400 things going wrong today in Afghanistan but nobody cares. American opposition is not about geopolitical reality, it is about domestic partisanship.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2005 06:10 PM

The simplified (simplistic even) reasons for going to war have come from Bush, not the media.

To get to the point of justifying manufactured propaganda, in any form, is a sad sad say. IMO.

Posted by: Okolo at July 3, 2005 06:16 AM

If people had listened closely, they would have found that Bush named several reasons early on for war, but gravitated toward WMD because that was the most compelling rationale to give the masses.

Unfortunately, insuring stability in the Middle East, or freeing people from a dictator, or spreading democracy, or insuring military access in the region, are not nearly enough for most people.

"That does not affect me," they say to themselves. Ah but nukes raining down on your head, that can really mess up your day. So Bush stressed that at the expense of what I feel are more compelling arguments.

If anything, we can look at this war as the remaining half of the first Gulf War, where Saddam got his ass kicked and agreed to comply to certain conditions which he then spent the next decade manipulating and avoiding.

From a legal standpoint, a valid argument could be made for his removal, and whether it takes 2000 or 20,000 men to right the country, the amount dead (while unfortunate) is not the method by which to determine the practicality of a given military action.

Posted by: Finn at July 4, 2005 12:23 PM

I agree that for many fighting Bush is all that matters. Many want US soldiers to be killed so it will make Bush look bad.

Posted by: Anita at July 5, 2005 07:53 AM

And in all of this, it matters not to you whether he lied/deceived in stressing those more compelling arguments, because the others you feel were justified?

Posted by: Okolo at July 5, 2005 11:04 AM

I hate to be glib at this late date, but the answer is yes. Geopolitically, Saddam had to go and I think the US bore a special responsibility for ousting him, not the least because we armed him against Iran. Remember how important that argument was before the conflict? Everybody was putting up pictures of Cheney shaking hands with Saddam with that very implication.

Another reason I had, owed to the fact that I abhored CIA-based destabilization. We went through all that with Central America, and never put a real fighting force on the ground. Nicaragua doesn't rank, but Iraq did. So I think a declared ground war using Regular Army is morally superior to anything done by 'advisors' and 'contras'. So compared to every other military engagement in my life, Iraq was more moral.

The point wasn't that he had WMDs, the point was that he was a sworn enemy of the US. Can anyone doubt that?

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 5, 2005 01:56 PM

Justifying lying to the American public (and Congress) potentially, and using the word moral at the same time,

Would that be newspeak or doublethink? :-)


Well I understand where you are coming from now, thanks.

Posted by: Okolo at July 5, 2005 02:47 PM

I have fifteen things to say.

Start with this:

And isn't it interesting that your moral calculus begins and ends with the American public and Congress. Could you make the case that we were lying to the Kurds?

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 5, 2005 03:23 PM

The second thing I have to say starts with the PNAC position on Iraq which predates the 9/11.


I agreed with and still fundamentally agree with this neoconservative geopolitical stance. Once upon a time, the discovery by average Americans of the agenda and position of the PNAC was huge news, and a shock. I say anyone who has any credibility in foreign policy should be aware of such thought ahead of time. That any politician has to dumb down think tank recommendations is a foregone conclusion. But imagine the gall of the opposition to presume that GWBush is basically making his decision based on something like 'axis of evil' written on a 3x5 card. Yet it is just this kind of shallow logic which presumes THERE IS NOTHING ELSE WORTHY OF CONSIDERATION EXCEPT 'WMD' AND 'SADDAM WAS BEHIND 9/11'. It simply proves that no matter what thought goes behind the policy, there is indeed a segment of the public which bases its support on soundbites.

Do you hear what I'm saying? 'Bush lied' is shallow, geopolitically naive, soundbite opposition.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 5, 2005 03:46 PM

But it is those very sound bites that got us in there in the first place. (at least got public support in there, Bush's mind was made up long before 9/11)

A fact, I imagine, that is irrelevant to you, and very clearly irrelevant to Bush. (by Bush of course I mean Bush et al)

Maybe you'll share with us the authors of the PNAC position, and their relationship with Bush. (ah, I see it is above on the same page) That work actually supports my view that invading Iraq was a foregone conclusion, and 9/11 was just used as the excuse to galvanize the nation.

I mentioned the American public and Congress to represent the American people and our government (in an off the cuff way), because that's who the President is (well should be) first responsible to.

But you bring up a very good point. He truly lied to the whole world, and I think the backlash from this deception will haunt us for years to come. It gives the terrorists very good recruiting sound bites, and has caused lots of nations to pull back from helping us, when otherwise they might have. Now it is becoming clear we desperately need their help. Iraq has not been the slam dunk as promised.

God help us if we get a real threat from North Korea, or China even, or heck anywhere, we are already stretched too thin.

Or, the subtle, underhanded, covert support that many middle eastern nations are giving to terrorism (Saudi Arabia for example, if not in arms and money, certainly in philosophy), gets more brazen. Unites even.

Eeeks, now we done did it. (any of ya'll Christians been reading your Revelations recently?)

The problem with this "neoconservative geopolitical stance" is it looks at taking over nations as something you write a memo about, it doesn't take into account the problems and issues that we are now, for example, facing in Iraq.

And we both know, Iraq wasn't the last place on their list. But it was supposed to be the easiest.

The US is now seen by many in America and around the world as the boy who cried wolf. Do we really want to take on the whole world by ourselves? Bush (et al) might be stupid enough to believe we can (for us or against us) but are you?

Looking through history, it is when countries start to take this "rule the world, or at least the parts we want to" mentality, their demise is nigh.

We shall see. Let's hope either this course will work as advertised, or we change course in time.

Today, right now, Iraq is not geopolitically safer than it was with Saddam in power. (well, at least we control the Oil and we did get that pipeline through Afghanistan we always wanted I guess)

Posted by: Okolo at July 6, 2005 12:53 PM

OK then the third thing I say is that it's not about the oil and it never was.


To the extent that the joke I made at the end could be taken literally, how exactly are we to calculate the 'wrath of france'? What exactly is France doing to the US today that is making us pay for going to Iraq without them? I think the answer is nothing more or less than political noise. It rolls of my back.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 6, 2005 02:29 PM

As for the PNAC, the basic thrust of their argument is that while the US is the lone military superpower, we need to do something with that power or lose it.

I think their statement of principles speaks for itself.


Now answer me this: What has the war in Iraq done to destabilize the peace process between Israel and Palestine? If Iraq is such a mess, why is Israel not further embattled with muslim fundamentalists? This is the question nobody against the war dare answer truthfully, because they'd have to admit that pacifism is a limited strategy.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 6, 2005 02:38 PM

First, there aren't a run of Muslim fundamentalist in Israel for the same reason that we haven't invaded Iran or Syria (yet).

Their focus is elsewhere. Despite the stereotypes of Muslims that Americans believe, terrorist numbers are not limitless.

As for your oil argument, I feel you misunderstand the importance of oil. It isn't about the profits, it is about the power that controlling the oil brings, or put another way, the lack of power not controlling it causes. These calculations can't be put in dollars.

If we have the power to reduce, say, China's oil, or to reduce our reliance on a terrorist supporting state like Saudi Arabia, that is power worth far more than money can ever count. It isn't about the money, if you had said that, now there I agree. To gain that power, now *that's* a reason to go to war. (according to PNAC and Bush logic)

"we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;"

Funny how they don't say regimes that are a threat to our security, it mentions interests. Imagine for just a moment, if the oil supply to America were interrupted. Total collapse of our economy and way of life, in a matter of days.

Once you have all the money in the world, what do you go after? Power. Power over others, and power to maintain your own power base. ("we need to do something with that power or lose it.")

Let's see, France, simply, we need their troops. There are Americans who are on their 2nd, 3rd, (4th?) tours to Iraq. I also don't need to tell you about the low recruiting numbers.

But besides from all of this, whether the Bush/PNAC strategy is good, bad or indifferent, the real question is will it work. Time will tell, but so far all of their calculations about Iraq have been wrong. Not very encouraging.

Posted by: Okolo at July 7, 2005 10:11 AM

Well what about the question of sovereingty? How long did we suffer through the diatribes about Bush's sinister plans to create a puppet regime that would allow America to control the oil?

Where is that argument today? Is Iraq sovereign or not? There are a lot of implications that follow. And remember that Russia and France both have contracts on Iraqi oil. I would be persuaded some by evidence that the Bush administration had pressured Iraq not to honor those contracts. So let's Google up Majnoon, a very specific oilfield that I paid attention to long ago, and see what could be found to suggest that Iraq is not in full control of their oil.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 7, 2005 10:23 AM

No, Iraq isn't sovereign right now.

In the political sense, okay, the practical sense, no way.

Who guards and secures the oil fields today?

What would happen if an unfriendly gov were to take control of Iraq?

Does Iraq have the sovereign authority to ask the US to leave? If they did, would we?

Posted by: Okolo at July 7, 2005 11:36 AM

I would define victory in Iraq as a stable Democratic government, a well trained security force and military structure abd a realiable utility available throughoutt the country.

Price I'd pay. Personally, it feels like we're paying someone $200,000 to refinance $300,000 of debt. It has cost us too much to be in the position that we are in right now. But I think it is going to take double that amount to get out of it. So take the cost of the war and lives lost and multiply it by two and that is the price I'm willing to pay.

Posted by: ShoeDawg [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 7, 2005 01:12 PM