This was written a few weeks ago but I'm just now getting it posted...
There it is again today - "The Iraq War has it's lowest popularity yet". When did wars get their own tracking numbers? And since when do we make war by public opinion? Since Viet Nam I guess. But first things first...
I have a problem with this "war". No, it's not what you think. I'm actually in favor of the invasion of Iraq and the fighting there. I think we did the right thing (deposed Hussein), for the wrong reason (Bush family beef). But it's still the right thing, however it gets done.
My guess is the anti-war types will stop reading right about HERE...
But if you're open-minded, I hope you'll read a bit farther. You might be surprised (or even more outraged). Who knows, you may even agree with some of my points. Besides, the open-minded are the only ones I'm writing for anyway.
As I've said, I'm in favor of the Iraq war. I just have a problem with it being CALLED a "war". It's far less of a conflict than most wars in our history. Our presense in Iraq is about as much of a "war" as our invasion of Korea was a "police action" as an inverse.
Our political leaders (and media) have a tendency to marshal resources by using dramatic terms. Or the inverse. There are lots of examples - War on Drugs, War on Poverty, War on Crime. Not one of those campaigns were an actual war, nor is this thing in Iraq. I think it's more like baby-sitting angry children, some of whom happen to have guns and bombs. If it become's an actual war, politicians will deny it, as was done in the Korea example above.
OK, I'll grant you that for the first few weeks after we invaded, Iraq was more like a war - tanks rolling in and airplanes bombing. But soon things were secure enough for it to just be called a very hostile environment, which it remains in various places to various degrees.
But Iraq is not just ANY hostile environment. It's a very VALUABLE hostile environment - I like to call it a Shit Magnet. Here's why it's so valuable...
When our troops first rolled across Iraq, it looked like things would be over fast. I remember during those few days when the Iraqi Defense Minister said on TV, "America is about to encounter a kind of war they have never seen, and will never be able to win", or something to that effect. A bold statement indeed, and largely spoken out of desperation.
He was of course talking about the coming insurgency. He knew the call had gone out, and weapons had been stored to carry out this long-term campaign of troop harassment.
His objective was to tap into the American media's soon to be warmed over Viet Nam script. You know the one. It's all about body bags and getting bogged down in un-win-able wars. He was looking for a political solution when the military one was already lost. And of course most American media signed right up for his cause. And they continue to soldier on largely in his behalf. But back to the topic at hand.
Ever swat a fly on the sidewalk and noticed another one landing on the carcus? When you swat that one, two more land? Pretty soon you've killed off all the flys in the area without even getting out of your chair. My cousin Dave did this very same thing with rats, one at a time using a .22 rifle. And he never left his postion on the porch.
Immediately after the "war" started, Iraq became a place to defeat "American Imperialism". Fundamentalist Muslims from all over the world began to funnel into Iraq through a cooperative Syria, and plant bombs. Falluja became a hot-bed of action with terrorist from as far away as Indonesia and even America. At one point it's reported that more foreigners were fighting Americans in Iraq, than Iraqis! If so, it proves my point.
When we finally went in and cleaned out Falluja, we killed more terrorist in a shorter period, than we ever could have done chasing them around the world one at a time. And just like the flies and rats, this process continues.
There are those in the world who hate western culture while selectively enjoying it - go figure. Whatever their reason, they are gathering in Iraq to take a shot at Uncle Sam. That's why I call Iraq a shit magnet - an it's an effective one. It brings our enemies to one location where we can do our target practicing on OUR terms and away from America.
I believe this shit magnet is the main reason we've had less trouble here at home. It's far better facing these guys in Iraq instead of Omaha, Atlanta or Portland. The "war" in Iraq is a major success for this reason alone.
But wait! There's more! It slices! It dices!
We've been very lucky in Iraq. Our losses have been relatively light for a "war". The troops have performed well and are learning to do even better.
Three thousand dead out of a typical of 150,000 deployed over four years is still on the same order of magnitude as training losses for comparably intense training.
I once spent two weeks in the desert at Fort Irwin, California. I was there with tens of thousands of other GIs doing military exercises. Our death rate was exactly one per week, and this wasn't even LIVE fire training! One was shot with a flare gun and died. The other was backed over with some piece of equiment, having the same result.
But light or not, death is a pretty heavy cost when it's you or your loved one. Each death is a tragedy somewhere. War is hell, even if it isn't a real war. But it's what these soldiers sign up for. Every recruit has that very risk in mind when they take the oath. It speaks volumes about their courage. It's a sad part of the job, but a part none the less. The key is to minimize the casualities and provide good medical care when they happen. In this area, the U.S. Army is probably the best in the world. And getting better specifically BECAUSE of this war. Which gets to the real point of this post...
At the beginning of most wars, troops are green and losses are high. Only after a few battles do the veterans emerge, and the army become mores effective. Losses decrease. This is well known to students of military history.
So how do we create veterans BEFORE the next real war starts? That too has a standard answer - training. But normal training can only take you so far.
As Winston Churchill said, "There is nothing so exhilarating as being shot at and missed.". THAT experience is the key to creating true veterans. That's right. Live-fire is ultimately the best kind of training. And it's even more effective when someone's shooting back. This is why Iraq is helping to make the U.S. military a much better fighting force.
Not only does Iraq train our toops, it's also driving the development of new technology in urban warfare by improving armor and sniper detection, as well as tactics in separating the good Iraqis from the bad ones and learning to fight in an urban environment. The U.S. military couldn't BUY that kind of training resource anywhere in the world. In Iraq we get it for free, except for it's obvious costs.
I know this post is going to challenge the sensibilities of some of my Burning Man friends, and I welcome their comments. You might think I'm some kind of war monger, but the opposite is true. I think war is actually an obsolete aspect of human behavior - right up there with jealousy, rage and selfishness. Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the memo. And until they do, we must maintain an effective military. For all it's cost, Iraq is helping us do just that.
And if a truely new democracy comes into existance in Iraq, that will be a bonus. We've given these people a chance. Now they need to take advantage of it. It happened in South Korea, creating an amazing contrast with North Korea even Kim Jung Il can't deny.
And as far as Americans being "Imperialist", one need only look to Germany, Japan or Korea with their true democracies, freedom and standard of living to realize we're an ultimately benevolent force.
If we can do the same in Iraq, those three thousand GIs will certainly not have died in vain.
I for one would like to see each of them count for something noble.
And I believe they will.
Where am I wrong?
Please leave your comment below.
... seeking simple answers to complex problems, and in the process, disrupting the status quo in technology, art and neuroscience.
Friday, August 17, 2007
This was written a few weeks ago but I'm just now getting it posted...