Blogs > HNN > Soothsaying the Crisis

Aug 27, 2005 11:36 am

Soothsaying the Crisis

During this last week of August, pundits and editorialists in the media have been talking about a change of mood in the country and a turning point in the Iraq War. The buzzword or buzz-phrase is “tipping point.” Commentators have made comparisons with 1968, when many or most opinion leaders and citizens came to believe that the Vietnam War was unwinnable in any real military sense of the term or on any cost-effective basis—or at least that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Concerning Iraq, The U.S. Army and Marines are described as “broken,” the insurgency shows no sign of going away, violence continues, and there is speculation about the possibility of civil war between Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites—and even of escalated fighting between factions within each group. If the Kurds and Shiites gain too much autonomy, the Syrians and Turks will be upset; if the Shiites in the south gain too much autonomy, Iran may be more influential in the south than it is now. The Sunnis will be very unhappy, too, of course. The region will become more unstable, with consequences we can only imagine in our nightmares. Much seems to depend on what happens in the constitutional negotiations, which are not going well. Even if a mutually satisfactory resolution is reached, the road ahead will be difficult and American withdrawal problematic.

At home, antiwar sentiment is widespread—whether it takes the form of plain foreboding or active protest. It is compounded by concerns about the economy, jobs, oil prices, corruption in government and corporate America, and the apparent malaise of policy and leadership. Even though President Bush’s approval rating has plummeted, he continues to be unwilling to level with the public, to explain his intentions, and to discuss the difficult and limited options before us. He continues to invoke September 11, describe the war as one against terrorism, and talk of progress in Iraq. In his own words: “In my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

Doubly troubling is the administration’s encouragement of vicious stab-in-the-back thinking, which Rove and his propagandists spread through the right-wing media, and which finds fertile ground among Americans who are emotionally or intellectually unable to concede that their president lied us into this quicksand war. They believe that “supporting the troops” means supporting continued war and President Bush, as though willpower alone will see us through to victory, thereby honoring those who have sacrificed or fallen. It has happened before during and after other wars, especially during and after the Vietnam War, when the hawks who led us into war, both Democrats and Republicans, blamed the defeat on the antiwar movement, the press, liberals, and critics in general. One does not have to be a soothsayer to predict that when Bush is forced by circumstances in Iraq and public opinion at home and in Congress to get out of Iraq, his attack on his critics will intensify, absolving him and hawks of responsibility for an ill-conceived war.

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John H. Lederer - 8/28/2005

Your perception of the situtation, if true, would tie in with at least one foreigner's assessment of American

"But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where -- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order -- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the "heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the "chests" of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu."

John H. Lederer - 8/27/2005

The first cite refers to the Arny Reserves and does not support the original statement:

The U.S. Army and Marines are described as “broken,”

The second cite seems off point.

A google search found much on the reserves, but little to support the general proposition advanced other than an article by Lawrence Korb in Mother Jones, forecasting a future "breaking" if a third one year tour of duty in Iraq is required because he thinks it will vastly reduce the retention rate. So far the retention rate has been increasing (which is a s part of the Reserve problem since a principal source of manpower for the Reserve is active duty troops choosing not to re-up).

Note that the Reserve problem is very real, but also is to a degree caused by a deliberate political choice made post-vietnam. The army was structured so that any serious committment would necessarily require calling up the reserve, because vital elements were located only in the reserve. The thought was that it would force politicians to obtain public support.

I tend to support the policy, but it does bind in a longer term effort.

On the more general propositions, I guess we just disagree. I do think that political factors in the US are making Iraq ripe for a "Tet Offensive" last gasp by the insurgents in the hope of changing domestic opinion enough to win.

I do think a large number of political factions in the US have advanc3ed from quietly hoping Bush fails to ecouraging the failure of his poilicies for the political gain that would result. That is unfortunate.

I find articles such as this:

very unsettling.

Jeffrey P. Kimball - 8/27/2005

The main points of my post were:(1)pundits are talking about a tipping point; (2) the real circumstances in Iraq are bad; (3) Bush's non-response to the crisis; (4) Bush's scapegoating of critics. As to the question about sources for "broken" army, see, e.g.:

Googling "broken" with other keywords can yield other sources.

John H. Lederer - 8/27/2005

"Concerning Iraq, The U.S. Army and Marines are described as “broken,”

And the passive voice leads, where?

In what sense broken?

Present casualty rates, from a military point of view. are sustainable indefinitely, see e.g.

That of course is not the same thing as "politically sustainable",

Morale? By all indications it is very high. Retention rates are high. Surveys (thought they show lots of dissatisfaction) show less dissatisfaction than in prior years.

Recruitment? A few missed goals for one service (army) are hardly indicators of disaster, particulalry when not sustained and when susceptible to repair by increased recruiting. incentives etc.

The army, but not the other services, is definitewly under considerable strain, but "broken"?

Who says it is broken?

John H. Lederer - 8/27/2005

I wonder if we are beginning to see a pattern in which proclamations of disaster, disaffection with Bush's policies, etc intensify as a significant poolitical event in Iraq approaches.

My memory is that it previously intensified in the period before the first Iraqi election.