Thursday, May 05, 2005

"Winning Uglier"

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: this war with Iraq should really be looked at in the context of our misguided "police action" in Vietnam.

I give you Exhibit A, by Paul Rogers. The following paragraph, for instance, is loaded with a gloomy deja vu for anyone who has some knowledge of the US's recent history in southeast Asia:

"It is obvious that the United States occupation forces – despite the overwhelming superiority in conventional military firepower available to them – are unable to control the insurgency. The undertrained and overstretched Iraqi security forces offer little help. It is becoming clear that the insurgency is too deep-rooted and pervasive to be defeated by the usual American counter-insurgency tactics, and the repeated use of heavy firepower in urban areas, including yet more air-strikes in recent days, is doing little more than deepening hostility to occupation as the 'collateral' casualties increase."

And then there's Exhibit B. Here Todd Gitlin actually makes some key distinctions between Iraq and Vietnam. In the last paragraph, he's certainly right (as are the pro-war folks) that Saddam Hussein is no Ho Chi Minh. That doesn't make this war any less painful, of course, and it doesn't guarantee a happy resolution. Perhaps we should really be focusing on Gitlin's next observation: that Americans will not launch any meaningful anti-war protest until the US casualties start to become more obscene in scope.

Just what that would mean is difficult to say. Do we need to have soldiers killed 100s at a time instead of "merely" a death here and there every day or two? Either rate can ultimately produce the same number of bodybags--it's just that the latter is stealthier, and easier to miss.

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