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June 27, 2005

Piling on...

Oh, what the heck, I can be a me too! artist.

Here, for the 6 of you who haven't seen it elsewhere - QandO's Military Insignia Primer.

Don't miss Greyhawk's Dawn Patrol.

Then there's the RINO Sightings Carnival over at Say Uncle.

SWWBO is a Playful Primate! Woo-woo!

Don't miss Blackfive's "How to lose a war"

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Neptunus Lex asks, Could We Lose?

When the service of one's country in a time of need rests increasingly upon the sons and daughters of servicemen (a petri dish for praetorianism), rather than upon the nation's youth at large

When we come to examine cost alone, and not value of accomplishment -

When winning at politics trumps winning at war -

When the sacrifices of the many who fight for us are diminished by an unremitting focus on the failures of the few, sapping the morale of all -

When the public will of the greatest power for good the world has ever known, a country of unprecedented moral, material, economic and military power blanches in the face of the brutality of a sadistic few, betraying its ideals and allies -

Then yes, we could lose.

When I was a wrestler in high school, one of the things I would do getting up for a match would be to pace behind the team seats in an oval, visualizing what horrors I was going to visit upon my opponent, and essentially, chanting a mantra:

I cannot be beaten - I will not lose

I cannot be beaten - on this given day there is no one out there who can defeat me... therefore, I can only beat myself.

I will not lose - because of the first, I must ensure that I don't fail, and in so doing give away victory.

It worked for me. I was a State and AAU champion.

I won't deny, that prior to the March Upcountry, I was not a convinced fan of the invasion. Once we decided to throw the dice however, I was committed to carrying the burden and playing through to the finish - we owed that much to everyone who died, was maimed, or simply wounded - on both sides. We still do.

Right now we seem to be approaching a balance point - at least in the minds of emailers, some commenters, and certainly in the eyes (and seemingly strenuous efforts of) the MSM. And not a few war bloggers and conservatives are starting to go wobbly, too.

It's simple - the Insurgents are hoping to redeem "I cannot be beaten" by ferociously clinging on to "I will not lose." They read their Vietnam Briefing Books. The cling to the belief that the weakspot in American politics still exists, and a huge chunk of that weakspot - the aging 60's types, are still vulnerable to the cut and run - especially when they see, regardless of the external consequences, the path to power resting there. Yes, I do believe that a good chunk of the anti-war left would find a disintegrating Iraq acceptable, if it leads to the White House, and control of Congress. Plus - let's face it, for them, wobbling in the face of a determined enemy is grounds for running away.

Does that mean that we blindly follow the path we've set out on, regardless of consequences? Of course not. But this is not Vietnam.

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Compare that to these graphs, at iCasualties.org (not a fan of the war, but pretty even-handed in their approach).

US Deaths by month.

The Trend-lines (yep, it's up - so what? - that's normal in wartime, the variability)

The point being - thus far, we've accomplished more (never enough, though, eh?) at far less cost on both sides than we ever managed in Vietnam. Simply put - this isn't Vietnam. Yeah, there've been cock-ups galore. That's why Clausewitz called it "friction." But as far as wars go, it's been pretty well run. Good grief, people, read anything that covers the start of any major American (or really, anyone elses) war. We are trying to do this on the cheap, and that has cost us somewhat - but it isn't grounds to surrender merely because the other guy is still mostly murdering his own people... at least the numbers of Iraqis dying at Iraqi hands are generally fewer than were dying under Saddam's tender loving care.

This is only Vietnam if we let it be, in our minds and hearts. This *is* winnable. But we have to stay the course long enough to let the Iraqi government truly establish itself in an environment where that is going to be difficult. And the resulting government is not going to be fully to our liking, either.

One of the biggest differences between this and Vietnam is the absence of Main Force units of another power being in play. The Viet Cong were never the threat romanticism made them out to be. The real enemy in Vietnam was the North Vietnamese government and it's Army. That is a type of player not present in the current conflict, and not likely to show up, either.

However, I do think we are sliding towards a point where we can lose, as in the second half of my mantra. We, the people, are the ones who have to have strength - the political class, in it's increasingly feckless way, is going to bend to the loudest voice. Some say that is democracy - I say it's an ad-hoc way to run a country - but okay, let's play it that way - let's get our voices out there, and heard. Loudly.

One last caveat - I *don't* echo Lex's fears of Praetorianism (of course not, I'm one of *them*!) nor am I fan of the implied draft in the quoted extract, but you don't have to agree with everything he says to agree with his basic premise.