This was posted on a Pro-Bush website. Enjoy.
In Defense of the War
For just over three years and eight months we have been at war; for a bit over 26 years for the purists on the issue if you take the Iranian hostage crisis as the first shot in the war. At any rate, it has been a while and it is time, perhaps, to take a look at the overall picture and see where we stand. Whenever one is telling a story, it is best to start at the beginning and go on to the end. Given that, lets step back in time to September 10, 2001 and see the shape of the world.
On that day, all of us oblivious to what was to happen the next morning, the Taliban ruled supreme in Afghanistan, supported by both bin Laden's al-Queda and Pakistan's intelligence service. In Pakistan, itself, Pakistani nuclear scientists were operating a WMD bazaar, selling the ingredients for nuclear devices to anyone who could pay. Saddam was firmly in control in Iraq with the so-called sanctions designed to control him in tatters as various European politicians and businessmen tripped over each other to take bribes from Saddam for looking the other way. Syria's decades-long occupation of Lebanon was a permanent fixture in middle eastern politics. Iran's mullah's were untroubled by the few dissidents who dared raise their heads. Libya's dictator was diligently working on nuclear and chemical weapons. Israel was beset by the second Intifada, suffering suicide bombings at an heart-breaking rate. Arafat held the rapt attention of the world and was considered vital in any peace agreement between Israel and the Arab world. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was openly grooming his son to succeed him via sham elections. Terrorists were sure that they could defeat the United States because experience had shown that American governments would not tolerate heavy losses of life.
Nice picture, wasn't it? Anyone want to go back to that point in time?
Now it is June of 2005. Many people are concentrating heavily upon the long, cruel month of May in Iraq; during that month, hundreds of Iraqi's and dozens of Americans were killed in terrorist attacks which seemed to happen several times a day. Taking note of this, some people are wondering if we've done anything at all. This is the curse of modern society: the inability to step back and see the whole picture. So, let us look at how we stand in this 6th month of 2005:
The Taliban are gone; a spent force in an Afghanistan rapidly recovering from decades of war, civil war and repression. Pakistan's intelligence service is at least being a lot more cautious in its pro-terrorist activities while no longer do Pakistani scientists support secret WMD programs. Saddam will soon go on trial for crimes against humanity. The oil for food scandal threatens to bring down not only UN leaders, but politicians throughout Europe as the scope of the corruption becomes impossible for even the MSM to overlook. Syria is out of a Lebanon which just had its first free elections in decades. Iran's government totters on the path to destruction; desperately hoping to build a nuke before popular resentment against the mullocracy boils over into genuine revolution. Libya is firmly out of the WMD business. The second Intifada failed (think quickly about the last time you heard of a suicide bombing in Israel); Arafat is dead and there is a chance for genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Mubarak proposes elections which will at least pretend to be multi-party; a short step, but at least a step in the right direction. The terrorists, cruel and bloodthirsty as ever, wonder if there is any number of American dead which will make us quit.
Is this failure? Is this drift? Is this an indicator that our political and military leaders don't know what they are doing? For some people, it is...and not just leftwingers (who pronounced the war a failure about 10 seconds after the towers fell), but also a lot of rightwingers are dismayed and angered over what they see as Administration fecklessness.
We know, for instance, that both Iran and Syria are assisting the terrorist campaign against Iraq. The response of many to this fact is "go get 'em. NOW!" Nothing would please me or, I suspect, the President more than to be able to get rid of Little Assad and the Iranian mullahs - but there is a bit more involved than just "go get 'em". While we are an overwhelmingly powerful nation, we are not all-powerful. We have strict limitations on our power and we have to weave our way carefully from point to point as we pursue victory.
First and foremost is the fact that the Iraqi government and military are not 100% capable of securing Iraqi territory. If it were just a matter of wiping out the few remaining domestic terrorists, we could leave Iraq today; but Iraq is being attacked by Syria and Iran and cannot withstand these two nations alone. If we left to, say, liberate Syria then large parts of rural Iraq could easily be infiltrated by Iranian forces which Iraqi forces could not eject; ditto if we left to liberate Iran as the Syrians would just move in from the other direction. We don't have the ability to hold Iraq while simultaneously liberating Iran and Syria. So, we have to secure Iraq first. I had hoped that we'd have it wrapped up by now, but it looks as though it will take at least some more months; progress is being made, however, and we can reasonably expect that by the end of the year major American forces can start to leave Iraq.
Where do they go?
Officially, they go home: but a battle-tested army during wartime is not really meant to be at home. Once Iraq is reasonably secured, the United States regains its freedom of action and we can proceed as necessary upon whatever next steps present themselves. But we must not get too far ahead of ourselves; our military is magnificent, but it can't just be thrust in wherever we'd like it to go at any given time.
Of the two prime targets for future American military action, Syria is the easiest to overcome, while Iran poses the far greater threat. Moving into Syria has the advantage of taking down a major terrorist base (the whole country is essentially a big terrorist training camp, R&R area and recruitment center) but if we were to move into Syria then the mischief that Iran is currently making for us in Iraq could be made for us in Syria...tying us down to another two to three year process of rebuilding a country; three years in which Iran could build nukes and make themselves de-facto impervious to American military power. So, the logical next step is Iran...unless it has a revolution first.
Certain lessons have been learned in this War on Terrorism. The primary fact of political life is that any American move in the War on Terrorism will generate massive opposition both at home and abroad. While the purpose of the war is to end terrorism as an acceptable politico-military tactic, the enemies of the United States hate us so much that they'd much rather put up with an annual 9/11 than see the United States emerge triumphant in the war. The President has learned, the hard way, that you don't telegraph your moves too far in advance because that just allows time for the opponents of action to mobilise and thus delay whatever the proposed action is.
The delay imposed upon us in the run-up to the liberation of Iraq has played a large role in the post-liberation difficulties. While not privy to White House secrets, I believe that President Bush was working towards an August, 2002 showdown with Saddam prepatory to a September/October liberation. Varied political factors intervened and it was April of 2003 before we moved, providing at least 6 months for the Saddamites and terrorists to lay their plans to undo our effort. Had we moved sooner, then even if things had gone just as roughly for us, we'd be six months further down the road...ie, the Iraqi elections would have taken place in July of 2004, not January of 2005, etc. I think that we'd actually be about a year ahead of where we are, had we moved sooner.
Be that as it may, the lesson is still learned; lay down markers (ie, the oft-stated determination that Iran shall not have nuclear weapons), but don't indicate what your options are until you're just about to exercise them. What we will ultimately do with Iran will be determined by various factors still unfolding: the revolutionary ferment in Iran; the strength of terrorism in Iraq; the readiness of varied American military units at any given time; emergent threats elsewhere in the world, etc. The only thing we as observers can say with certainty is that the President, who keeps his word, has stated that Iran shall not have nuclear weapons. If push comes to shove, we can rely upon there being military action - when and in what character we cannot know, and the President will not advise us in advance.
The element of surprise in war is vital; if you enemy knows precisely what you will do, then he can dispose of his forces accordingly and thwart you. Surprise can come in many guises; place, time, weight, direction, etc. One might think that the Iranian mullahs believe for certain that American military action is a foregone conclusion; but this is not the case. They know we've made statements and they know our President is a very determined man...but they can also read the newspapers as well as anyone else. What they see is a President who wants this and that, but he has domestic critics who are trying to stop him. Additionally, the Iranian mullahs know they cannot withstand American military might and the natural inclination to people facing an impossible situation is to pretend it doesn't exist. What this all means, in short, is that the Iranians may very well fear US action, but they don't know if its coming...furthermore, if it does come, they don't know where, when, what form or what extent. Grasp that thought: They don't know what we will actually do.
It is of vital importance that the Iranian leadership be kept in the dark about our true intentions until the very last moment. If we tip our hand too soon, before we are ready to take them out at a blow, then they can (and would) cause us as much trouble as possible on the theory that if they are to be destroyed, there is no reason for any further caution. While it might satisfy a deep desire to have our President handle the Iranians roughly in diplomatic circles, it is not in our interests to have the Iranians awakened to our intentions. Better to lull them, to let them think that we're infirm of purpose...that we really believe the EU diplomacy can work. The mullahs know they are taking the EU for a ride and it is immaterial if the EU understands this...but as long as the Iranians even suspect that we might be agreeable to taking a ride, then we should encourage this belief.
It is also important that the President's domestic opponents not be able to mobilise so-called "anti-war" actions prior to the action being taken. Most importantly, the proposed action may not end up being necessary, but no President can afford to have foreign leaders even so much as think that domestic opposition prevented action. A President who is apparantly stopped by his own people from acting is a President who cannot carry any weight in the councils of the world. The President must stride on to the world stage the apparant master of his domestic political situation...a man free to make any committment or order any action with the full expectation of support from his people. As it turns out, this President has developed a well of trust in the American people and if the President did order a military action, the people would largely rally behind the President; but no sense in giving those who view a national crisis as an opportunity for domestic political gain their chance.
To sum it up, the war has been going on for a while, we've had our successes but there is still very much to do; much to do and we must tread carefully and do it right, because nothing is more unforgiving than war. Lives, literally, are at stake here and while the bold man can accomplish much, the carefully prepared man accomplishes more. We can carp and complain all we wish, or we can stand in awe at the man, President Bush, who actually has to make the decisions which can bring life, or death, to others far away. As a military historian, I could easily pick apart the varied decisions which have been made - but as I don't have all the facts and, more importantly, don't bear the responsibility before God and man, I refrain from making harsh judgements. We owe our leadership loyalty unless there is conclusive evidence of misfeasance or malfeasance in office; I shall stick with the President who brought us out of 9/11, oversaw the liberation of 50 million people and has put the enemy on the desperate defensive, fighting our armed forces thousands of miles from our homes.
Posted by Mark Noonan at June 2, 2005 09:06 AM