Monday, June 19, 2006

Insurgency Mentality

NY Times reporter John Burns just told John Roberts on CNN that the mentality of the insurgency is: You take one of ours, we'll take two of yours.

It's so much more difficult to deal with a murderous insurgency during a long occupation than it is to invade a country and make it to Baghdad in a few weeks.

Your statement is correct: the post military operation of a war is very time consuming and trying. That there are 40,000 troops still in Germany is a testament to this. I could go on but any real student of history already knows of facts like these.
The American troops stationed in the American Zone in West Germany after the war were not dealing with deteriorating conditions the way they are in Iraq (i.e., with an insurgency looking to fight the occupying power.)

Condi Rice tried the post-war Germany comparison back in 2003, claiming that post-war West Germany was very unstable and American soldiers had to fear for their lives. But according to this Slate article by Daniel Benjamin (link below), her arguments about post-war Germany are erroneous. Here's a quotation from Benjamin's article:

"Although Gen. Eisenhower had been worrying about guerrilla warfare as early as August 1944, little materialized. There was no major campaign of sabotage. There was no destruction of water mains or energy plants worth noting. In fact, the far greater problem for the occupying forces was the misbehavior of desperate displaced persons, who accounted for much of the crime in the American zone.

The Army history records that while there were the occasional anti-occupation leaflets and graffiti, the GIs had reason to feel safe. When an officer in Hesse was asked to investigate rumors that troops were being attacked and castrated, he reported back that there had not been a single attack against an American soldier in four months of occupation. As the distinguished German historian Golo Mann summed it up in The History of Germany Since 1789, 'The [Germans'] readiness to work with the victors, to carry out their orders, to accept their advice and their help was genuine; of the resistance which the Allies had expected in the way of 'werewolf' units and nocturnal guerrilla activities, there was no sign. …'"

Come on, arch stanton, just admit that the administration didn't plan well for the occupation. It takes nothing away from the invasion itself, as you have noted and as I myself have admitted. But these comparisons to the post-war German occupation don't work. Yes, the Americans had to reconstruct the part of Germany they occupied and worry about the Soviet side, but they surely didn't have to worry about IED's by the sid eof the road, car bombers, suicide bombers, kidnappings, sectarian retaliatory killings, and international terrorism. It seems to me the adminstration could have prepared for just a few of these. Certainly people in the State Department were aware that an insurgency could develop. But Rummy and Cheney were too hubristic to listen. And so we have an occupation progressing southward each year.

Shall we compare the Iraq occupation to Japan next? We still maintain 40,000+ troops in Japan too, and we had nearly 400,000 in Japan during the post-war occupation period, but again the Americans weren't dealing with an insurgency.

You know, maybe the amount of troops the U.S. kept in both Germany and Japan after the war had something to do with the success of both occupations. Wouldn't the Iraq occupation be easier if the Americans had more troops in country to handle security?
So, now that we agree that the major combat in Iraq which ended May 2 2003 is a great military victory, please provide me an example of an American military operation that had a more successful postwar outcome and provide the criteria you would use to make such a judgment.
arch stanton, you didn't address what I wrote above your latest comment. You mentioned the American post-war occupation of Germany as very time-consuming and trying. I responded to that point. Please address what I wrote.
I have a great deal of respect for you and I hate to come at it this way, but we are both very passionate people and as such we are both inclined to hail the subjective as proof of our position. I feel that if we are able to relate the Iraq war in terms of how we measure success to historical events, our conversations will have more meaning. So as soon as we get on the same page and you quantify what success means with a real world event by which we can compare today’s events in Iraq I will be happy to respond.

You cant find any better postwar outcome at this stage than Iraq can you?
I see you have decided not to engage me on this. Oh well, I tried.
I am going to engage you on this, arch stanton. I just wanted to think about my response before I posted it.

Though we have both made comparisons to the post-war occupation of Germany, I think comparing occupations is beside the point here. How's the Iraq occupation itself working? Is it working as well as the administration told us it would before the invasion? Did the administration provide enough troops to maintain order and security in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad? Did the administration provide enough forces to protect infrastructure, the oil industry, the weapons dumps? Was the administration on the up-and-up about how difficult the occupation was going to be and how long it was going to take BEFORE they invaded Iraq? Would the American public have been so willing to support the invasion if they had known a) Saddam no longer had WMDs b) was less of a threat to the region and the world than Iran c) it was going to take so long (3.3 years and counting) and cost so much ($300 billion and counting).

Now that we're stuck in Iraq, I would like to see a stable nation come out of this. I just don't think these particular people in D.C are capable of building one (and btw, war supporters like Bill Kristoland Andrew Sullivan feel the same way now), though I continue to hope it happens.

Nonetheless, I maintain that this invasion and occupation did not have to happen. I maintain that the U.S. could have achieved it's strategic objectives without invading Iraq. I maintain that the U.S. and the world would have been better off with a contained Saddam than they are now with a destabilizing Iraq threatening to bleed out its sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites into the region as a whole. I also maintain that our policy in Iraq has hurt U.S. interests. By bogging down our military in Iraq for so long and by spending so much money on the occupation, we have weakened our ability to deal with both Iran and North Korea, the other two members of Bush's "Axis of Evil," as well as international terrorism. It is no accident that the terrorists responsible for the Madrid and London bombings and the ones arrested in Toronto last month all claimed to have been radicalized by the Iraq war and the alleged treatment of Muslims at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. If the administration's true objective is to defeat radical Islamic terrorism, it seems to me that the Iraq war has been proven to be counterproductive.

I think we will not come to any agreement here, arch stanton. I just cannot change my feeling that the Iraq war and occupation have hurt long-term U.S. interests, not helped. Nonetheless I understand your point about the success of the invasion. I understand your point about the difficulty of military occupations. My point is, the administration should have thought about the problems they were going to face BEFORE they invaded and they should have told the American public about those problems.
I believe that relating Iraq’s post war environment to previous post war environments is necessary. As I have stated earlier, without such a comparison, the whole conversation is subjective. Once that is on the table, we can talk of pre/post war missteps (& yes there were many). So I implore you to either come up with any historical or reality based event of a similar nature that usurps the success in postwar Iraq or cede the point that in terms of any historical measure, it is thus far a success.

We can go on from there. OK?
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