Thursday, January 25, 2007
Fighting Words, Losing Words
So what about the line of argument that goes, "Dissent emboldens our enemies, whose tactical aim, given their inability to defeat us on the battlefield, is to weaken our resolve"? That opposition to the war is the only thing that will cause us to lose the war? That we're talking ourselves into defeat in Iraq, as Daniel Henninger argues in a WSJ Opinion piece? Let's take them one at a time.
To begin with, yes, the primary tactical aim of any guerilla insurgency against an occupying power is to weaken domestic resolve to continue the occupation. And it seems pretty hard to argue that the folks setting off car bombs and IED's in Iraq aren't encouraged by the growing level of opposition to the war in this country. Certainly they must consider it a sign that they are nearing their goal of getting us to leave, which must in turn embolden them in some way.
So is opposition to the war to blame for us losing the war? If you define defeat by withdrawal, then obviously the answer is yes. The Iraqi insurgency cannot militarily force America to withdraw its troops from Iraq in the same way, say, that America and the Gulf War Coalition forced Saddam Hussein to withdraw his from Kuwait. But in most military campaigns, defeat precedes withdrawal. In some, it precedes the initial deployment. And I think the Iraq War is one these campaigns.
Because so far, domestic opposition to the war hasn't interfered in any way with the war's prosecution. If we are failing to achieve our goals in Iraq, as just about everybody but Dick Cheney now agrees is the case, it is mainly because: 1) we never devised a broad strategy to guide our tactics; and 2) our tactical approach failed to achieve what few narrow goals we did define.
Which brings us to Henninger's piece. Are we talking ourselves into defeat in Iraq? Only someone who believes that we are on our way to achieving our stated goals there, and that for lack of political will we risk leaving those goals unaccomplished, can answer yes to that question. Okay, so make that just about everybody but Dick Cheney and Dan Henninger now agrees: The answer is no.