Friday, December 28, 2007

VDH on the Long War

Simply superb. Required reading to get the "big picture."
The debate, since 2003, has hinged on our own culpability, and postfacto, on our reasons for going into Iraq in the first place. It has focused almost solely on American lapses, not recognition of either the capability, or zeal, or brutality of the enemy. Acrimony instead arose over our inability to stop the looting, the dissolution of the Iraqi army, the laxity in patrolling ammunition dumps and borders, the first pull-back from Fallujah, and our naiveté in allowing Shiite militias, particularly those under the control of Moqtada Sadr, to act as destructive surrogates for an ascendant Iran.

Rarely did anyone remind the American people — nor would they have desired to hear — that in all of America’s major wars such tragic errors of commission and judgment were commonplace, or that our present lapses were not in that regard at all unique. The initial victory had raised expectations so high that such reflection would have been seen as little more than morbid fatalism.

Rarely also did we hear that our missteps were not only correctable (as for example the recapture of Fallujah or the reconstitution of the Iraqi army attest), but also did not imperil the ultimate goal of stabilizing the Iraqi government. And almost none suggested that in a televised war of the postmodern age, it is difficult for a liberal Western society to defeat and humiliate an enemy — at least to the degree necessary for it to accept a radical change of heart.

Also forgotten was any appreciation of the magnitude of the undertaking — going 7,000 miles into the ancient caliphate to foster constitutional government where it had never taken root, among outright enemies like Iran and Syria, and duplicitous allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. In that regard, to suggest the tragic loss of lives and money in Iraq were, by standards of our past major wars, a reflection of American competence and concern was paramount to blasphemy.
...The felony of untruth and distortion against a war counts far less than any misdemeanor in support of one. Photoshopped pictures, fraudulent documentaries, printed lies about flushed Korans, or bogus published stories about atrocities turn off the public less than a single untruth or hedge by a military officer or government official.

While the success of a war hinges on the military’s destruction of the enemy and our ability to win the hearts and minds of the population, critical time and support for those efforts are won only by non-stop explication, not periodic assertion.

In an age of glitzy graphics, e-mail, instantaneous blogs, and minute-by-minute news updates, there is still no substitute for wartime oratory and brutal candor. We should assume in any future war, those in the media, the universities, and the arts will ipso facto oppose the use of force, which in turn can only be supported by arguments that are as moral and ethical as they are logically, honestly, and elegantly presented.
That is why MilBlogs are so important. Think how the war reporting would have been without them. Just ponder. Sure, we argue and snipe - but in the main, I think we self-police very well. Except for the fringe that manage comments like a Potemkin Village - if you make and error or shade a truth, the smart readers (which thankfully I have legion at CDR Salamander) will always point it out quickly - and usually with a very sharp flaming point. Honest mistakes, if corrected, are accepted and welcome as a natural event in an imperfect human medium; blatant lies and embellishments bring down a he11fire. As it should be.

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