By Thomas Krehbiel
Here’s a pet peeve of mine: Calling the War in Iraq a “war.”
The way I see things, the “war” ended a long time ago. It took the U.S. military about 27 minutes to destroy Sadaam’s mismanaged army and roll into Baghdad. Political theatrics aside, I never found Bush’s much-maligned “mission accomplished” banner to be misleading because at that time, we had, in fact, beaten the crap out of Sadaam’s army and wiped out his regime. Which was the mission. Hence, it was accomplished.
At that point, in my opinion, the “war” turned into an “occupation.”
Liberals have always been saying it, but it seems like a lot of conservatives are now suddenly popping up saying the “war” in Iraq is a failure, too. (By “a lot,” I mean Bill O’Reilly and William F. Buckley — those are really the only two I can think of offhand.) Just today, I read Glenn Greenwald’s Latest Iraqi war casualty — conservative belief in “personal responsibility” on Unclaimed Territory. One part of Greenwald’s piece in particular bothered me:
The cost of our little adventure is incalculable and will be with us for a generation, at least – the destruction of American credibility; the indescribable weakening of our military which leaves us vulnerable to real threats and enemies; and the staggering cost in both money and lives.
I’ll grant our global credibility is down, but it bugs me when people diss the U.S. military, especially in the context of Iraq. There’s nothing “weak” about our military. They are clearly handcuffed in Iraq because they’ve been reduced to the status of a defensive police force. They have no offensive goals. Our military excels at aggressively pursuing an enemy, not standing around waiting to be shot while U.S. and Iraqi politicians jockey for position.
Perhaps if everyone stopped looking at the situation as a “war” and started looking at it as an “occupation,” they might feel better about our accomplishments in Iraq.
The fact that Iraq has not completely self-destructed after the post-Sadaam power vacuum seems like a good indication that the “occupation” is working pretty well. Can we stop every Iraqi kid with an AK-47 from taking potshots from the rooftops? Nupe. Neither can our police force keep American kids from shooting each other in our own classrooms. Can we keep roving gangs of Islamic terrorist thugs from picking off an American here or there? Nupe. Neither can we keep inner city street gangs from capping the occasional police officer.
Do steadily rising American casualties mean we’re failing in Iraq? I don’t think so. But that doesn’t mean I think we should stay there indefinitely, either. We’re morally obligated to put the critical infrastructure back together–power and water and oil and all. But after that, we ought to get the hell out of there, no matter what the Iraqi military status is. I don’t see why the Iraqi army needs any training anyway; the average insurgent can’t hit the broad side of a barn unless he blows himself up in the process.
And after we’re out of Iraq, we can turn our attention to the jihadists running amok in Iran.