Monday, November 21, 2005

Quagmire in Washington

I often wonder if the reason our worst foreign policy failures are always due to our greatest failures to come to consensus as a nation. Whilst the American public saw real reason to get involved with Gulf War I and the Balkans (two rousing successes where the Coalition was truly an International one), Vietnam, Somalia & Gulf War II all were conducted almost unilaterally, had no long term planning, and had a significant number of the American people who disagreed with the effort, for whatever reason.

The problem isn't that naysayers undermined the war effort at later dates, the problem is sending this nation's forces into harm's way when significant portions of the vocal and voting public have not been convinced they are necessary. The problem isn't having a bunch of nations like Poland and Spain lining up to join the Coalition, the problem is when America shoulders the burden, and not even Canada is willing to go with us. If the threat is to all the civilzations of the West, why isn't more of the West involved?

But it comes down to a very important fact that Corwyn made in regards to the last post. Noone's really operating off the same sets of facts.

I wonder then, if Corwyn feels good that his sentiments were mostly echoed in Newsweek. (At least I thought they were...) But I'd wager cash money it ticks him off that Newsweek paid somebody a lot of cash to say something that he said for free.

Here's some of that article that I thought were pertinent (and even SAWB may like some of this):

President Bush did not lie about why he took the country to war. Like President Clinton, he genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; after all, American troops found much more WMD in Iraq in 1991 than prewar intelligence reports had indicated. So it was logical to think the same thing would happen again. At the same time, suggesting that intelligence was cooked to create a souffle of misleading certainty is hardly "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city," as Cheney said last week. We have proof now that policymakers did indeed cherry-pick the evidence. Contrary to the wind coming out of GOP's elephant echo chamber, no congressional committee reports debunked the cherry-picking, and it is simply false that Democrats had access to the same intelligence as the president.

Rather than obsessing over it, we should be holding a big national debate about whether the presence of U.S. troops reduces the insurgency or fuels it, whether timetables for withdrawal embolden the terrorists or motivate Iraqi forces to perform better. Instead of cut-and-run versus more-of-the-same, we need a few imaginative "Third Way" alternatives.

The stakes in Iraq are higher than in Southeast Asia 40 years ago. Failure would give Al Qaeda a huge base from which to kill us. But for now it looks as if we'll keep sinking in the quicksand, with no consensus, no substantive debate and no end to the finger-pointing. It's almost enough to make you nostalgic for Vietnam.

I think the article really makes a point that is necessary. Questioning the Administration is something we need to do, and is not 'giving comfort and succor to the enemy' as they maintain. We can't really fly off the handle and just abandon the place either, especially knowing that there is progress being made wether the MSM reports it or not. But we can't keep repeating 'stay the course,' and we can't just 'cut and run.' What else is on the table?


patsbrother said...

Not to get too far off topic, but I don't remember a consensus one way or the other on why we got involved in either the Balkans or Somalia. If you think the American people had two coherent thoughts on the Balkans, before or after our involvement began - enough to reach a consensus no less - that would be news to me. And I remember thinking the reason to send people to Somalia - starving, starving people - was both easily understandable and something lots of people could and did get behind. So much for first impressions. It wasn't until certain events that America turned sour on Somalia; and perhaps why those few who remember the Balkans consider it rousing (if that is in fact true) is because, unlike the in Somalia, Americans didn't really touch the ground and we avoided casualties.

Patrick Armstrong said...

As far as the Balkans were concerned, both times we got involved were as parts of massive international coalitions. The first time we got involved because UN peacekeepers were getting slaughtered on the ground by Serbian heavy weaponry. Then they kept shooting at us as we enforced a no fly zone. That's when America got involved and cast our dice behind a mighty air armada of American, French and Dutch fighter-bombers. That, along with the Irish, Australian, Canadian and Pakistani ground forces being given the green light to fire back allowed us to rout the Serbians in spectacular fashion.

American, German, and International peacekeepers were quite successful in returning order to war ravaged Sarajevo.

The reasons we didn't actually hear much about it was because once we were fully involved, our success was nothing short of spectacular, and the press had nothing bad to write about.

Pretty much the same thing played out in Kosovo. Milosevic thumbed his nose at the world, and the world responded.

Those campaigns, just like Gulf War I, exemplify the Powell Doctrine: overwhelming force at the point of attack to subdue an enemy quickly and decisively, regional international groups to administer and rebuild smaller zones after that decisive victory and rapid reaction forces to respond to any rising threat before it becomes uncontrollable.

Somalia is where it started coming apart because of rifts within the international community. Unlike Europe, which had both NATO and OSCE to carry the ball and share the burden, the OAU in Africa has no ready to go rapid defense force to take over once the initial strikes were successful. After the first year of Somalia, which was successful, strategy changed.

The International community went back to the "targets in blue hats" plan and the Americans went with the 'world police' strategy which always seems to get us in trouble.

With ill defined roles, we let the Somali insurgency gain too much power before attempting badly planned and strategized surgical strikes against individuals. That was Clinton's second biggest foreign policy mistake, and we turned our attention elsewhere until tragedy struck.

No one complained about us 'cutting and running' in Somalia (as a matter of fact, Republicans demanded it), because without cohesive planning it didn't matter how long we stayed.

Consensus was reached in America by those of us paying attention, that the massive international coalition was necessary to beat down on Milosevic in the Balkans (twice) because the cost of letting it escalate was far too much. We reached the same conclusion about the opening stages of Somalia, and it worked. The change of policy negated that success, and turned consensus against involvement.

The 'anti-war' movement was against involvement in both regions. I agreed with both, and I even thought that we had acted too late in both.

But, then again, the Powell Doctrine, when followed correctly, is undefeated in both application and follow through. If we had used that approach in Gulf War II (instead of the Shock & Awe fireworks display) we'd have either gone in with 2 million troops from 100 nations (like last time) or we wouldn't have gone at all.