Summary: Each major decision point for a great nation is an intelligence test of its people. As is the decision to re-involve ourselves in Iraq. The architects of the failed war urge action, based on the usual threat inflation. Those who correctly forecast its futility urge caution. Have we learned anything from our long failed War on Terror?
This is a follow-up to Will lies shape our actions in the last chapter of our war in Iraq?, 13 June 2014
“Waving the bloody shirt” refers to the practice of politicians invoking the blood of heroes to criticize opponents. It’s a manipulative form of propaganda, used on emotionally driven mobs. As in “Julius Caesar” Act III, Scene 2
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on;
‘Twas on a summer’s evening, in his tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii:
Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb’d;
And as he pluck’d his cursed steel away,
Mark how the blood of Caesar follow’d it …
Two thousand years later it is used against us: “Iraq veteran: This is not what my friends fought and died for“, John Nagl, op-ed in the Washington Post, 11 June 2014 — Excerpt:
For a veteran of the fighting there—and proponent of the counterinsurgency strategy that provided a chance for the country to stabilize — watching the recent unraveling of Iraq has been disheartening but not surprising.
… We are reaping the instability and increased threat to U.S. interests that we have sown through the failure of our endgame in Iraq and our indecisiveness in Syria. There is a clear lesson here for those contemplating a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Having given al-Qaeda a new lease on life in the Middle East, will we provide another base where it began, in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
This is not the end state my friends fought for and died for.
The Post describes Nagl: “a veteran of both Iraq wars, is the headmaster of The Haverford School and author of the forthcoming Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War.” That is coy, even misleading. He was no simple soldier fighting our wars. Nagl was one of the architects of our wars (see his bio in Wikipedia).
- Nagl wrote one of the key texts for COIN, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (2002).
- He served as military assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense until 2006.
- During that time Nagl co-authored the Counterinsurgency field manual (FM 3-24), the military’s textbook for Iraq and Afghanistan.
- After retired from the US Army as a Lt Colonel in 2008, he joined the Center for a New American Security, a high-profile and well-funded advocacy shop opened in 2007 to shill for our wars. He was its President from 2009-2012.
The futility of our 9-11 Wars resulted not from their “endgame”, or our sensible refusal to jump into the Syrian maelstrom, but from their mad design (see the links in the last section below).
Nagl is a true-blue America, and not just for his service in the Army. Like so many Americans today, his motto is “it’s not my fault.” The deaths of Americans, our allies, the Iraqi people — our complete failure to attain the goals for the war. He assumes no responsibility, admits no flaws in his theories. Nagl and his neocon friends have learned nothing from our failed wars, and they work to see that we learn nothing.
We need not listen to those who seek to manipulate us. Even across the Atlantic the situation is clear, as in this from The Telegraph:
Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s ambassador to the US from 1997 to 2003, said the handling of the campaign against Saddam was “perhaps the most significant reason” for the sectarian violence now ripping through Iraq. “We are reaping what we sowed in 2003. This is not hindsight. We knew in the run-up to war that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would seriously destabilise Iraq after 24 years of his iron rule”. …
For more detailed analysis we should turn to another vet, but one whose advice about our wars has been proven correct by time. Such as Andrew J. Bacevich. Bacevich retired as a Colonel, US Army; today he’s a Prof History, Boston U (see Wikipedia). Here is explains “The Duplicity of the Ideologues: U.S. Policy & Robert Kagan’s Fictive Narrative“, Commonweal Magazine, 4 June 2014. It’s a review of recent neocon propaganda that inexplicably has received much attention: “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire. What our tired country still owes the world“, Robert Kagan (Bookings, CFR; see Wikipedia), The New Republic, 26 May 2014.
Even before September 11, 2001, Kagan was among those fixing their sights on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as the place to validate this approach. The events of 9/11 reinforced his determination along with his sense of self-assurance. Writing with Kristol in April 2002, he declared flatly that “the road that leads to real security and peace” is “the road that runs through Baghdad.”
George W. Bush took that road. Yet much to his considerable chagrin, Bush discovered that it led to rather considerable unpleasantness. As it dragged on, the Iraq War exposed as hollow any American aspirations to global hegemony. Left behind when U.S. troops finally withdrew was their reputation for military supremacy. Meanwhile as reports of prisoner abuse, torture, and the killing of noncombatants mounted, American moral confidence lost its luster. As for the Iraqis themselves, although few Americans are inclined to take notice, today they enjoy neither security nor peace.
On all of these matters, Kagan chooses to stay mum. That is his privilege, of course. Yet in exercising that privilege he forfeits any claim to be taken seriously. … without accountability there can be no credibility.
William Buckley once remarked that the country would be better off governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. Here’s a corollary: When it comes to foreign policy, the president of the United States would be better served to consult a few reasonably informed citizens from Muncie, Indiana, than to take seriously advice offered by seers such as Robert Kagan.
For More Information
(a) Posts about John Nagl:
- Recommended: How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I, 7 June 2008
- Nagl gives a profoundly wrong vision for the US military, 22 June 2008
- Another sad little bit of agitprop, this time from John Nagl, 28 February 2010
- “COIN of the Realm” – reviewing one of the books driving our strategy in the Long War, 18 March 2012 — Review of Nagl’s How to Eat Soup with a Knife
- The Essential 4GW reading list: John Nagl
- All posts about John Nagl
(b) Posts about Andrew Bacevich:
- A joust between two schools of American military theory, 19 May 2009 — A dialog between Nagl and Bacevich
- Writings of Andrew Bacevich; they deserve your attention
(c) See these Reference Pages for a wealth of information and links:
- Posts about our wars in Iraq, Af-Pak & elsewhere
- The iraq war — other valuable articles and reports
- Our Goals and Benchmarks for the Expedition to Iraq.
(d) COIN by foreign armies almost always fails:
- More paths to failure in Iraq, 16 December 2006 — Myths about COIN in Iraq
- How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
- Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story., 21 June 2010 — Boot discusses 7 alleged victories by foreign armies fighting insurgencies.
- A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it, 28 June 2010 — Doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard. She examines the present and past of counter-insurgency.
- A look at the history of victories over insurgents, 30 June 2010
- COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure., 7 August 2012