Tuesday, August 16, 2005

And what is your exit strategy,
Mr. Kissinger?

A friend and reader just sent me this piece by Henry Kissinger on the propect of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. My friend asked simply, "What do you think?"

Win Henry Kissinger's two cents!

Is this a trap? I've written more than once on my belief that those guilty of war crimes should be excluded from political debate. And Hitchens claims Kissinger is a war criminal, though shamefully I don't know why, since I haven't read his writing on this topic. So should I even bother to read Kissinger's opinion? Well, I already have, and his essay is worthy of attention and comment. So I'm about to risk breaking my own rule. If Hitchens turns out to be correct, then I'm a hypocrite.

Kissinger's take on the supposed impending withdrawal of U.S. troops from what is undeniably an active theatre of war is most interesting and useful for reasons I believe were unintended by the author. He is vaguely--and not surprisingly--opposed to our reducing our troop strength in Iraq. Yet he comes across as so circumspect you'll be cross-eyed by the end of his meanderings. "Withdrawal" before victory is retreat. Granted, it might in some cases be regrouping, but I don't think anyone in the Pentagon suggests that we will go to the trouble of reducing our troop strength in order to increase it later in a second attempt at shock and awe.

What will the premature diminishing of troop strength achieve? It will not reduce casualties, since the terrorists at work in Baghdad and Basra will find is just as easy--if not easier--to inflict the now commonplace casualty rate of a dozen in a day on a force of 100,000 as they do upon the present force. What might actually reduce the casualty rate is not merely withdrawal, but disengagement. Are we giving up the fight? Does "withdrawal" signify that we have lost our nerve--our willingness to risk death to achieve the creation of a new Iraq, one stripped of its menace and yes, one aligned with our economic and social goals? Kissinger blandly puts these questions in a historical perspective better suited to rehabilitating his career than to winning a war.

He also refers to Saudi Arabia as a "moderate Arab state." This smacks of the worst kind of realpolitik bullshit. Saudi Arabia is a nation that denies its female citizens not only the right to vote but the right to drive a car or appear in public without a male escort. A nation that maintains the only city on earth officially off-limits to those who decline to join a certain religion. A nation that imprisons people without trial and whose trials send convicts to have their hands lopped off before cheering crowds. What claim have they to the label "moderate"?

There are no lessons from Vietnam that will serve us in Iraq, save the valuable experience of those men and women who lived through the horror of battles lost and battles won. And they don't need Kissinger to relay their wisdom to our troops in Iraq or those who send and keep them there. In case anyone needs reminding, Vietnam was a war we lost; and it became a loss that tore our nation to shreds. Seeking advice from the architects of either that war or the retreat from that war is the height of idiocy.

That said, I must acknowledge that I generally agree with Kissinger's assessment. The problem is that his analysis is obvious, something I could have penned if I had any authority on the subject or enough ego to override my lack of authority. But it seems that by virtue of having lost a war Kissinger is now an expert on how not to lose one, so here we are:
For someone like me, who observed firsthand the anguish of the original involvement in Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and who later participated in the decisions to withdraw during the Nixon administration, Casey's announcement revived poignant memories. For a decision to withdraw substantial U.S. forces while the war continues is a potentially fateful event. It affects the calculations of insurgents and government forces alike, so that the definition of progress becomes nearly as much a psychological as a military judgment. Every soldier withdrawn represents a larger percentage of the remaining total. The capacity for offensive action of the remaining forces shrinks. Once the process is started, it runs the risk of operating by momentum rather than by strategic analysis, and that process is increasingly difficult to reverse.

True enough, but is there anyone outside the ranks of the muddleheaded pacifist left who doesn't already get that? And are any of them going to listen to him?

Iraq is a new battle in a very old war, a war dormant for almost a century, since the fall of the last caliphate. A war briefly submerged in the titanic struggle between Communism and the west. It is a war now resurrected, not by Bin Laden or by western policies toward Muslims, but by the inevitable impossibility of reconciliation between two very different visions of what the world should be. Vietnam may mean quite a bit to Kissinger's place in history, but it means jack to what we're going through now. Sorry, Mr. Kissinger, your advice smells a bit stale compared to the knowledge of those who actually understand what this fight is about, and how it should be fought.

Should you find yourself mired in a bloody conflict between communism and capitalism and think that he could possibly be of some assistance, you can hire Mr. Kissinger here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christopher Walken for president
What a disappointment. For a brief but inspiring moment, we thought Blogma's favorite actor might really be throwing his hat in the ring, following in the footsteps of so many other Hollywood politicians.
Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a programy site/blog. It pretty much covers programy related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

2:25 AM  

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