Remind me not to get on the wrong side of Andrew Bacevich:
Iraq has not been kind to the reputation of senior U.S. commanders. For a brief moment in the early ’90s, for example, H. Norman Schwarzkopf seemed a likely candidate to join the ranks of history’s Great Captains. No more: Schwarzkopf’s failure to finish off an adversary of remarkable ineptitude left Saddam Hussein in power, his Republican Guard largely intact, and Iraqi Kurds and Shia under Saddam’s boot. One result was a large, permanent, and problematic U.S. military presence to keep Saddam in his “box.” Once seen as a stupendous victory, Operation Desert Storm deserves to be enshrined as a giant step down the nation’s road to Persian Gulf perdition.
In 2003, General Tommy Franks set out to clean up Stormin’ Norman’s mess. Although Franks has modestly described the ensuing invasion of Iraq as “unequaled in its excellence by anything in the annals of war,” future generations are unlikely to sustain that judgment. When it came to leaving a tangle of loose ends, Franks made Schwarzkopf look like a piker. His niche in history will always be alongside Bremer and George Tenet, fellow recipients of the Medal of Freedom–the Three Stooges who labored mightily to convert a small, unnecessary war into an epic debacle.
After Franks came the team of John Abizaid and Ricardo Sanchez (and, later, George Casey). These earnest and no doubt well-meaning men inherited a difficult situation and gave it their all, expending lives and money with abandon. Despite much huffing and puffing about “progress” and “turning points,” they achieved negligible results: Iraq slowly descended toward chaos.
Petraeus is now engaged in an effort to slow and reverse that descent. Although the deluded and disingenuous may persist in pretending otherwise, his mission is not to “win” the Iraq war. Coalition forces in Iraq are not fighting to achieve victory. Their purpose is far more modest. According to Petraeus himself, U.S. troops and their allies are “buying time for Iraqis to reconcile.” President Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have explicitly endorsed this new strategy, but history will remember Petraeus as its principal architect. To avoid the fate of his hapless predecessors, Petraeus must show that his strategy of buying-time-to-reconcile can produce tangible results. Yet an exploration of what the buying-time strategy actually means reveals that the prospects of its success are exceedingly slim. The cult of Petraeus exists not because the general has figured out the war but because hiding behind the general allows the Bush administration to postpone the day when it must reckon with the consequences of its abject failure in Iraq.
Read the whole thing, if you can stand to; it doesn’t get any more cheerful.
A correspondent familiar with the army and with Iraq, and who describes Bacevich as “one of America’s leading soldier-scholars” offers a shortened version, using what I understand is a technical military term:
We are f*cked.
Update On the other hand, apparently it’s impossible to defend the surge without descending into babbling incoherence.
I’d still like to think that a miracle could happen, but father’s poker maxim still seems sound: “If you draw to inside straights, you will die in jail.”
It’s astonishing that supporting throwing good blood and treasure after bad counts as responsible and moderate, while proposing that we cut our losses counts as reckless.