On withdrawal from Iraq: heed the Law of Thirds
Here's another demonstration of the Law of Thirds (via Pajamas Media)
It's a post by Bill Roggio that analyzes what the midterm election might mean in terms of future policy on the Iraq War. He cites STRATFOR analyst Fred Burton, who mentions polls suggesting that, whereas two-thirds of US citizens "disapprove" of the war in Iraq, only one-third seems to favor a full withdrawal of troops.
Polls are polls, of course, and subject to all sorts of criticism. In my training and experience as a social science researcher, I learned just how easy it is to find flaws in all such studies. However, I've also noticed--over and over--the Law of Thirds operating. And here it is again; only a third seem to advocate the most radical solution, while two-thirds are more moderate. Which group will be heeded by our new Congress?
For myself, I can't quite imagine answering "approve" to a question about the war. One can agree with the decision to go to war given the facts we had at our disposal and the alternatives. One can think things are going better there than the MSM regularly reports. I fall into both these categories, and yet even I would not have answered "approve" if polled--war is too terrible, and there are too many ways in which the war could have been executed better (or at least we think so, with the benefits of 50/50 hindsight and the knowledge that, since we have no authority to implement our suggestions, our thoughts on the matter will never be subjected to the harsh light of reality. )
Like most of the two-thirds who answered "disapprove" to that poll, I've had quarrels with the conduct of the aftermath. It started with a terrible disquiet I felt at the outset, when widespread looting occurred and was allowed to continue. It set a tone of anarchy and lawlessness when a crackdown would have sent a different message. Yes, I understand the troops were busy fighting a war and wanted to ingratiate themselves with a population that they thought was only giving vent to anger at Saddam. Yes, they wanted to avoid the appearance of an occupation. But it seemed to give the wrong message, which was that anything goes.
As I've said many times before, I never expected this war to be easy or short. Actually, I fully expected it to be much worse than it has been; both in terms of initial casualties, and the subsequent battle. Whether you want to call that subsequent battle an insurgency, guerilla war, civil war, or terrorist war, I expected it to go on for a long time and to cause a great deal of suffering, as all such conflicts do.
As for mistakes in planning, failure to anticipate future events, and whether the administration expected the war and its aftermath to be easy or difficult, I've written at some length, here and here, about these questions, including the "cakewalk" issue. Please read both pieces; I have no wish to reiterate what I said then. Suffice to say that it's impossible to anticipate these things fully, and of course the administration did not.
What I never expected, however (and should have expected) was the way the media--and some Democrats and Republicans, just to be bipartisan--demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the nature of war and wars. We've been spoiled, both by our ideals (who doesn't want a cleaner war, one in which hardly anyone gets hurt? Count me in on that one) and our recent history (the Gulf War as the template, rather than World War II).
There is no question that if we expect perfection and give up if the going gets hard, we will become unable to fight any war. Some would say that's wonderful. If we give up on war, all will be peace and light. I say: tell it to the jihadis.
In a piece found at The Corner, a reader sounds a warning:
It seems to me that Americans believe wars end when we say they end. Whether we win (WWII), lose (Vietnam), or draw (Korea), our wars have ended when we said they ended. The defeated Germans, victorious North Vietnamese, or stalemated North Koreans never came after America when hostilities ended. But the jihadists are coming, no matter what happens in Iraq. Make no mistake..
Have we lost the will for any fight that's difficult or at all uncertain, that takes longer than a few weeks, that involves ambiguities and unknowns? I think we have. I hope we have not.
I hope the words of David Warren aren't true:
...in trying to build a secular democracy over the ruin of Saddam’s regime, the Americans tried something they had not the stomach for. From the outset, they imposed upon themselves restrictions that would make that fight unwinnable. As in Vietnam, they adopted a purely defensive posture.
So far as President Bush can be blamed, it should be for showing insufficient ruthlessness in a task that could not be accomplished by half-measures. Alternatively, for failing to grasp that America was psychologically unprepared for real war, not only by the memory of Vietnam, but by the grim advance of "liberal" decadence in domestic life over the generation since.
Read the whole thing. Read the whole thing. And then read it again. And then hope and pray that Warren is a lousy prognosticator:
If Iraq is abandoned, the credibility of America and the West is lost. Iran's hopes of regional hegemony are assured. The Americans will have cut and run after enduring less than one-twentieth of the casualties they suffered in Vietnam; and from a battle more consequential, for it is against an Islamist enemy that is rising, instead of a Communist enemy in decline...
...the consequences of abandoning Iraq will come home to the United States and the West, in a way Vietnam never touched us.
[ADDENDUM: I don't mean to imply that decisions in war ought to be made by reading polls. However, since the majority of Americans don't appear to want an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, if the Democratic leadership thinks they do and acts on that supposition, they may find themselves out of office next time round.
Many people (even among those who don't want an immediate pullout) seem to have lost touch with the difficulties and uncertainties, as well as the inevitable mistakes, that are part and parcel of any war, and demand that wars be easier and faster than they ever are. This means that many wars--and the Iraq war is among them--are fought with half measures, and with the knowledge that public opinion is fickle and that people don't have the stamina for the long haul. This can lead to decisions that are not strategically sound, because of knowledge of the impatience of the public. And our enemies know that, and count on it, and act accordingly.]