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Things that make me sad. - Elf M. Sternberg
elfs
elfs
Things that make me sad.
Terry Sater, in an op-ed in the St Louis Post Dispatch, writes that while dissent is patriotic, any mention of our troops as less than perfect is "despicable." Uh huh. He quotes the maxim that "In war, truth is the first casualty." And then he goes on to say:
We have lost more than 3,800 of our brave men and women in Iraq. Can there be any doubt that with our arsenal of weapons and tactics, we could not have drastically reduced that number, but at the higher cost of more civilian casualties?
I'm sorry, but Mr. Sater has forgotten two things: it was the murder of truth that got us into this war (I cannot harbor any illusion otherwise any longer), and that there our a few items in our arsenal we failed from the outset to employ, items that could have saved 3,800 American lives, as well as quite a few civilians: restraint, diplomacy, patience, and wisdom.

Would a terrible, murderous tyrant still be in power? Probably. But then, six years later, Kim Jong-il is still in North Korea. Robert Mugabe is still in Zimbabwe. We may wince at Gaddaffi's "new Libya," but it was his "Arabist identity movement" in the 1980s that laid the seeds of Darfur in Sudan, al-Bashir ignores or encourgaes it, and nobody cares. (Y'know what the national motto and anthem of Sudan are? "Victory is ours!" and "We are the Army of God," respectively. Charming.) Nobody's doing anything about Than Shwe. We've all "moved on", casually ignoring the ethnic cleansing of Burma. Nothing will happen to Musharraf, either, and we know he has nuclear weapons.

We would not have an active moral responsibility for the people of Iraq. We would not have taken that geas upon ourselves. We would not have thrown 3,800 men and women into a meat grinder, creating a butcher's bill so high that failing to fulfill it would be a national tragedy.

We broke Iraq. And even if Bartle Bull is correct, the price will have been so damned high we bankrupted ourselves both economically and morally before we were able to give it back, missing a few pieces, the glue weak and obvious.

Sorry, Mr. Sater. The troops are the troops. American soldiers have always done the best they can, and their moral worth must by necessity reflect that of their leadership. Their leadership deserves no accolades, will have no victories, will be remembered for no honors. Our troops deserved one thing better than all they have received above any other: they deserved a decent mission. They were not given one.

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Comments
solarbird From: solarbird Date: November 9th, 2007 07:15 am (UTC) (Link)
gromm From: gromm Date: November 9th, 2007 08:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Why the hell does anyone use the term "Ethnic Cleansing?" It's a frickin' euphemism for Holocaust or genocide. It makes it sound like Pol Pot was using Mr. Clean on the landscape or something. And wasn't the term invented by a bunch of genocidal maniacs in the first place?

Beyond that, great article.
tagryn From: tagryn Date: November 9th, 2007 04:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
But do we have an active moral responsibility for Iraq anymore? I'm not so sure. We broke what Saddam was holding together, but after five years of trying, its becoming increasingly apparent that our capability to enforce any solution on the ground is much less than we naively thought it was.

After five years and multiple elections, 'you broke it, you own it' doesn't hold much water anymore. If the Iraqis want to keep their country together, that's really up to them. If they choose to slaughter one another in a civil war, that's for them to decide, also. If they're not up to their responsibilities for running their own affairs, staying there indefinitely in the hopes that someday real soon now they'll get their act together seems even more a fools quest than what's happened so far. Five years of trying to get the different sides, tribes, and factions together in a government and of trying to rebuild their infrastructure for them has paid off all of our moral obligations to the Iraqis, and then some.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: November 9th, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
American soldiers have always done the best they can, and their moral worth must by necessity reflect that of their leadership. Their leadership deserves no accolades, will have no victories, will be remembered for no honors. Our troops deserved one thing better than all they have received above any other: they deserved a decent mission. They were not given one.

Why wasn't overthrowing Saddam a "decent mission?" Does overthrowing one tyrant mean that one morally must overthrow all tyrants in the world? Did we "lose" World War II because we overthrew the Axis, but not the Soviets?

Perfection is not necessary for victory.
elfs From: elfs Date: November 9th, 2007 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wasn't overthrowing Saddam a "decent mission?"

No.

A decent mission is one in which clear objectives are married to the means by which to achieve them. There were no clear objectives in our assault on Iraq. "Overthrow Saddam and we will be treated as liberators. There is no plan B." Our means were so far from sufficient as to cost us more lives than was at all reasonable. By every measure-- economic, moral, human-- this was not a decent mission.

We had a decent mission: destroy al-Qaeda's base of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and punish its allies the Taliban sufficiently that they would not bedevil us for another generation. We had the means by which this could be accomplished. We failed in our decent mission because of the distraction of Iraq.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: November 9th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
We had a decent mission: destroy al-Qaeda's base of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and punish its allies the Taliban sufficiently that they would not bedevil us for another generation. We had the means by which this could be accomplished. We failed in our decent mission because of the distraction of Iraq.

We haven't failed yet. We haven't succeeded yet, either.

We seem to be winning in Iraq now, and the events in Pakistan are also encouraging -- the Pakistani regime finally seems to be realizing that an Al Qaeda unconquered is a deadly threat to their own rule.

So I still have some hope of victory.
tagryn From: tagryn Date: November 9th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Problem: Pakistan has nukes. Invading them was never an option for that reason. Also, the Indians can attest to what kind of insurgents the Pakistanis make, from their experiences in Kashmir. That's why the "we should have finished the job in Afghanistan" argument isn't nearly as clear-cut as it seems. The last chances to eradicate al-Qaeda before they started re-establishing themselves in Waziristan were at Tora Bora and Operation Anaconda, both of which happened before the ramp-up to Iraq started.
phred1973 From: phred1973 Date: November 10th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Also, let us not forget that Musharraf is totally 'our guy' - WE put him in position to take over. WE used him for our own purposes... until, just like any other of the people we place in power illegally, when he starts doing his own thing it's inconvenient, and we have to hem and haw.
tagryn From: tagryn Date: November 10th, 2007 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, the Pakistani generals put Musharraf in the position he holds, and the U.S.'s ability to influence the Pak. military is tenuous at best, considering it took intense pressure and threatening for them to even half-heartedly start clamping down on the al-Qaeda regions in the NW. The 1999 coup that put the generals back in power was indirectly a reaction against the U.S.-brokered settlement of the Kargil war, so saying the coup was orchestrated by the U.S. is a stretch.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 14th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hello

I'm new here, just wanted to say hello and introduce myself.
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