Recoiling From Real War

How is the “surge” going? Who knows? But I still see little evidence that the Bush administration is willing to use the kind of force necessary to demonstrate to the various bad guys over there that they have no hope of prevailing. I’m sure General Petraeus is a terrific guy, but he reminds me of public school adminstrators I encountered when I taught school: He seems more interested in technique than results.

I apologize for quoting Mark Steyn so much, but in writing about the First Gulf War, he says it all:

Traditionally, a nation that goes to war has war aims. But the US forswore any war aims [in the First Gulf War] other than the restoration of the status quo ante (the return of Kuwait to its seedy princelings), preferring to prioritize coalition-building as an end in itself: the more nations that signed on, the less they signed on to.

In recoiling from real war, in assembling such overwhelming high-tech might for such attenuated goals, Washington thought it was projecting a kind of high-minded UN selflessness, when it fact it was communicating weakness. … If you stage a devastating bombs-away video game on CNN and at the end the bad guy is still standing, it’s not merely that “nothing has changed”. If Team USA achieves a scoreless draw against the South Sandwich Islands, by definition that’s a much better result for the latter than the former. In other words, [the First Gulf War] was perceived on the Arab street and beyond to have been won by Saddam. To be sure, an elaborate and expensive dictatorial management program was erected by the UN – Oil for Food, No-Fly Zones – but it proved to be a cash cow for him and ensured that the Americans and British spent the years before the 2003 war being berated by the Euroleft and the NGOs for wreaking ongoing humanitarian devastation on Iraq.

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