Your cries have been echoing across the Internet for almost four years now. I won't bother to quote them, link to them, or even name names; you know who you are. Iraq is a quagmire! Iraq is Deja Nam! The anti-war Left have raised these rallying cries for two primary reasons: their unreasoning, intransigent opposition to anything favored by President George W. Bush, and a belief, held almost as deeply, that Western culture is inherently flawed. Since they see our culture as imperfect, any attempt to spread it is an act of evil.
These same leftists have been very right about Iraq, but only because they misunderstand war.
War is not simply the opposite of peace, nor its absence. War is not simply "diplomacy by other means". War's purpose is not to bully the other side into letting you have your way, to create vassal states or puppet regimes, or to build nations. Neither is it war's end to remove the enemy's means of enforcing his objectives. The purpose of war is Victory, which I hold to be quite different from any of the above.
While Peace is a good thing, Peace is loathsome without Justice, Freedom, or Honor. To accept Peace without Justice is to force rage below the surface. Denied our final vengeance, we exact terms; unconvinced of his error, our terms cause rage in our foe which will rise when we expect it least. To accept Peace without Freedom is as contrary to Liberality now as in 1776. To accept Peace without Honor is to accept a prize which we have not ourselves won, and will not love.
The purpose of war is to extract a sincere apology. The enemy must be so thoroughly defeated that he understands his defeat not merely as poor luck or unfortunate circumstances; he must understand it as a measure of the value of his ideas. His loss must cause him to disavow his reason for fighting.
In the early Nineteenth century, the converse was taught to Napoleon Bonaparte by some Spaniards whom he had thought defeated. Taking to the countryside, these men fought on. Unable to face down the huge Grand Army of the Napoleonic Empire, the Spaniards in their "little warfare" harassed and annoyed Napoleon badly enough that the British were able to turn him back from Spain. Ever since then, the Spanish word guerrilla has been used for the tactics employed by armies which are too small to fight conventionally, but which have not been brought to heel.
When Napoleon was later defeated by the combined armies of Britain, Russia, and the rest of Europe, it was because France learned it could not do what Napoleon said it could do. France fought for the personal cult of Napolean, and after a first defeat he went into exile on Elba. He retained his life and some personal property, and while some troops remained loyal, he was forced to renounce the right of succession. It took an escape from Elba and another defeat before all of France was finally done with him.
Consider also the American Civil War, in which victory by the North caused the Confederate States to realize that the Union, not just the Union Army, was their master. No more would States be allowed to challenge Federal authority. The end of slavery was a happy byproduct of that more fundamental and perhaps less fortunate change.
After World War I, Germany was allowed to negotiate an armistice, or cease fire. To the Germans, what should have been seen as a defeat was merely seen as a setback. Without the epiphany of utter defeat, the reparations imposed on them caused rage to bubble under the surface. The dream of at least symbolically reviving the Holy Roman Empire lived on. It took another war, and millions of lives, to drive the lesson home.
The purpose of war is to have a defeated foe say, "We are sorry. You were right to oppose our wicked ways." Victory is incomplete until the loser internalizes the outcome.
It is a mistake to stop merely because the enemy no longer has the means of opposition. As Napoleon, the guerrillas, and the Germans in 1933 demonstrate, where there is will and hope, the means will appear.Which brings us back to Iraq. Our mission in Iraq did look like Deja Nam, and it did have the makings of a quagmire, but it looked that way and had those makings because we were not willing to bring the enemy to a thorough repudiation of his prior position. We left Saddam's loyalists in the field, hoping that they would come to understand his thorough political and moral bankruptcy, but we declared victory before the enemy aplogized. Retaining will and hope, the means have arisen from Iran, Syria, and other islamoterrorism funders eager to control Iraq and to oppose the United States.
The shape of victory in Iraq is left as an exercise for the reader.
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