The misguided logic of the “long war”
In a fascinating new twist of logic, top Bush administration officials have used a series of speeches in the last week or so to say that we don’t need a military strategy for victory in Iraq, we just need the political will to stay there indefinitely. In Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s words: History has shown time ...
In a fascinating new twist of logic, top Bush administration officials have used a series of speeches in the last week or so to say that we don't need a military strategy for victory in Iraq, we just need the political will to stay there indefinitely. In Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's words:
History has shown time and again that if Americans have the patience and perseverance to see an effort through — no matter how hard or how difficult — we prevail.”
Here’s the problem with the administration’s logic: History proves the exact opposite. The administration’s “long war” logic might be true of cold wars, but it is not true of hot wars. No hot U.S. war in the last 100 years has been fought for more than five years without being lost. World War I, World War II, and Korea were all won within five years of America joining the fight. Only Vietnam, which lasted more than a decade, was lost. Does anyone really believe that if the policy in Vietnam had been “stay the course indefinitely” we would have eventually won? Just ask the Russians if that strategy worked in Afghanistan.
These speeches are timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and they are laden with heavy historical rhetoric, invoking World War II, Korea, and even Vietnam, which Rumsfeld says “the nation and history increasingly appreciates.” With mid-term elections bearing down and a presidential election just two years away, the Bush administration wants Americans to believe that political will is more important than having a plan to win. Again, in Rumsfeld’s words:
The question is not whether we can win. It is whether we have the will to persevere.”
Sadly, history proves the opposite. The fight against extremist ideologies in the Middle East might be a long war. But Iraq and Afghanistan had better not be. Invoking the heroism of history is all well and good, but with the lives of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops on the line in Afghanistan and Iraq, please tell me that their commanders have a better plan.
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