Friday, January 21, 2005

Are We Losing the War in Iraq?

by John R. Brinkerhoff
The buzz around the Beltway is that we are losing the war in Iraq and will have to delay the elections and pull out our troops. Well, I don’t know if we are losing or winning, but I do know that if we quit we will lose. During a war, it is hard to know about winning or losing, for the fighting can continue long after the outcome has been decided. Judgments on when and how wars are won or lost are cannot be made by the participants at the time and can be made only after the fact by historians.
We know now that the climactic events of World War II occurred in 1942 when the Soviets won the Battle of Stalingrad against the Germans and the United States won the Battle of Midway against the Japanese. After these conclusive victories, the triumph of the Allied forces was certain. But since this was not obvious at the time, the forces fought on for three more years with thousands of casualties on both sides.
We know now that the climactic events of the United States Civil War occurred on the same day, July 4 1863, when General U.S. Grant captured Vicksburg and General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac rested after repulsing the Confederates at Gettysburg. After these battles, the triumph of the Federal forces was certain. But since this was not obvious at the time, the North and South fought on for two more years causing thousands of casualties on both sides and the devastation of the South.
These two examples deal only with military victory, but military victory is only part of winning a war. It is possible to win the battles and still lose the war from lack of will to win. In the case of World War II, the Soviets, the British, and the United States were determined to continue to fight until Germany and Japan surrendered unconditionally. In the case of the Civil War, the United States had the will to fight on to preserve the Union despite doubts about military victory and a terrible price paid in the blood of soldiers. The Civil War continued even though there was great sentiment in the North to stop the fighting and allow the Confederacy to become a separate government. Democrats wanted to end the fighting and were willing to allow the South to perpetuate slavery. In the election of 1864, a failed general headed the Democratic ticket and was supported by the antiwar crowd and the press. President Lincoln and General Grant were vilified and accused of being monsters. Fortunately, Lincoln and Grant had the will to win.
The Vietnam War is a case in which military victory was achieved but the will to win faltered. The climactic event of that war was the 1968 Tet Offensive by the communists. This battle was a great military victory for the Republic of Vietnam and the United States, but the antiwar crowd and the media turned it into a political defeat. This caused a loss of will on the part of the United States Government that led ultimately to defeat for the United States and the subjugation of the people of South Vietnam to totalitarian rule. The final tragic event of the war was when Congress refused to stand by our promises to South Vietnam and cut off the funds to supply the Army of Vietnam and forbade the use of U.S. forces to provide air support against the invaders from the North. This act of treachery assured victory for the communists.
The situation in Iraq is eerily reminiscent of Vietnam. We are winning militarily, but the antiwar crowd and the leftwing media are working to diminish our will to win. At each stage in the progress of the campaign, the antiwar crowd and the leftwing media have clucked and moaned over the perceived failures of the United States and its Coalition partners. The sandstorm, the ambush of a supply convoy, the looting of the Museum (which it turns out did not really happen), the Sadr uprising, the upsurge in improvised explosive devices, the Baathist insurgency, and the Fallujah attack have all been touted by the antiwar crowd and the leftwing media as failures that demand we stop fighting and bring the troops home. Barely noticed in all of the “bad news” is the steady progress made by those troops and the Iraqis in quelling a relatively small (but violent) insurgency by a small group of Sunnis. Now the crisis of the day is the election scheduled for January 30, 2005. The antiwar crowd and the leftwing media favor delaying the election because it will not be “complete.” Many of them are saying this because they really want us to lose. Let us hope that President Bush and the majority of the American people continue to have the will to win.
I don’t believe we are losing in Iraq. It is likely that the climax of the War in Iraq has already been reached even though we don’t know it. Someday, a historian will write about some event and declare it to be the turning point at which military victory was certain. We must take care to assure that this historian will not be able to write that, being unaware of our victory, we quit fighting, brought the troops home, and achieved defeat.

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