In several of his essay's about Iraq, Mr. Card will say something to the effect of "The media says we're fighting a terrible war, but this is the best war we've ever fought." I tend to get into debates with my friends (most of whom are opposed to the war), and I'd like to use this statement. But, if they ask me to back it up, I can't.
Now, my knowledge of history is terrible, my knowledge of war history/tactics even worse. So, does anyone know what facts/reference Mr. Card is using to make these claims (for that matter, what facts/references the media is using to make their claim)? More generally, does anyone know of some good books which cover war history or war tactics in a fairly balanced way? Note that I don't neccesarily care that the U.S. fought in the war, though I'm much more familiar with those wars.
On a related note, I would like to expand my history horizons in as many ways as possible. Could anyone recommend a good biography? A good generally history book? A good biographer (I've seen several books by David McCullough, is he any good)? A good political ideals book (covering, perhaps, marxism, communism, socialism, captialism, etc etc)? A good < insert anything else I forgot >?
Number of casualties? Too bad you can't go back in time and pull the estimates on casualties the blind pacifists were proclaiming before the war started.
The primary objective of regime change was effected almost immediately, and the "frosting" of catching Saddam himself followed in less than a year. Control has been shifted from our representative to an elected Iraqi government. The only goal that remains is for Iraq to take over their own security so that they feel confident asking us to leave.
But Iraq has been placed under a microscope. Is there really more violence that goes on there than in other unstable countries? It's hard to know, since we only get reports of Iraqi casualties on the days when there are no American deaths to report. If you based in on the news of the last month, you'd think the war was going well because the conflict in Israel has pushed most of the "little stuff" from the headlines.
Something I've thought for a long time is that one way the media manipulates this war is by not discussing any generals or military leaders. Even in the ridiculously brief first Gulf War there were two hero generals: Powell and Schwarzkopf. But not covering generals, and focusing on the Washington heads, the media increases the "feel" of Vietnam around this war, which to me spits on the tragedy that was Vietnam. We lost over 40,000 Americans in Vietnam. I don't think Vietnam was what people perceive, just as the Intifadah and Jihad are not. People see them as David and Goliath struggles, but they are wrong about which player is which. Vietnam withstood America not because they were wiry little Asians on their homesoil, but because they were being fortified by China and Russia.
Likewise the Jihadists both in Iraq and Palestine and not rebel freedom fighters. They are expressing the will of the wealth from oil trade. Get at your friend's romantic illusions of what these fighters represent. I would not call them "operatives" because the people who use them count on them being ignorant of their religious doctrine, which does not consider Jews and Christians the infidels deserving of destruction.
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I don't know OSC's reasons, but I'll give mine. I would say that this is the Iraq war is the 3rd-best war we've ever fought. 1st is the first Iraq war: less than 100 US casualties IIRC, and the war was short; essentially, wherever we went, the enemy surrendered.
The 2nd is the Afghanistan war. AAFIK _no_ foreign power has ever effectively changed Afghanistan's government except the Mongol Horde, and they used tactics we wouldn't dream of (exterminating the residents). The UK couldn't do it. The USSR couldn't do it. We did it when winter was coming on, with no direct access to the country (getting permission from Uzbekistan and even Pakistan, which is fairly Wahhabist), and we did it with almost no ground troops (we had some on the ground to help pinpoint targets for our fighter planes), and we did it in a few months. US casualties were again very very few.
This one has a very low US casualty rate compared to any earlier wars (except for those in which there was no resistance, e.g., Grenada), and despite the gargantuan task of nation-building, which everybody said wasn't possible -- and they still may be right -- we've been on schedule doing exactly that. So far.
I have some recent history books to recommend. I don't know if they're what you'd want.
Out of the Ashes, a case that Hussein remained in power after 1991 because that was US policy.
America's Secret War. Title isn't accurate. It's an account of the war(s) the US has been in since 9/11. Problem is that the guy doens't document his claims, so I can't be sure he's right, although he's plausible.
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As Will pointed out, this isn't the war with the least casualties. Gulf War I, the 1989 invasion of Panama, and the 1983 invasion of Grenada all had fewer casualties. Of course, comparing Grenada or Panama to this war would be as ridiculous as comparing this war to ones like Vietnam, the World Wars, or nearly any other war we've fought.
It's a foolish comparison. It'd be foolish even if we were comparing the first Gulf War to these wars based on number of casualties, because the number of people on both sides was much less, the balance of power more unequal, and the level and use of technology much higher.
For all that, the initial military phases of the war were masterfully planned (perhaps, though it's hard to say, on par with the astounding performance during the first Gulf War, when the Iraqi military actually posed a serious threat).
It's what came after that was poorly planned and continues to be going poorly. There's a reason that the administration's pre-war predictions were so incredibly poor. It's been asserted (by Peter Galbraith, former ambassador to Croatia and expert on Iraq, who was invited to planning meetings) that George Bush didn't know the difference between Sunni and Shia as late as January of 2003. Donald Rumsfeld suppressed even the use of the word insurgency in the DoD until long after it became clear that this was what we were dealing with. The troops were sent without proper support (e.g. people who actually spoke the language) or training (e.g. cavarly commanders being put in charge of cities without any sort of training or support structure).
Assessing how well things are going is pretty difficult. I don't trust the media and you obviously can't trust the administration. By their tally, we're "turned the corner" on Iraq so many times that the shape formed can no longer be described by Euclidian geometry. We can't rely on the absurd pre-war predictions. There's been an aversion to providing a time table of projected accomplishments we could use to judge progress by.
A majority of the people on the ground, both our soldiers and the average Iraqi, don't believe it's going well. Many of the things we can measure, such as utility services like electricity and running water, are worse off than before the war. As is average number of people dying. Terrorist recruitment is up very, very high. There are still an apparently significantly large number of terrorists and insurgents in Iraq. There is considerable strife between the Shia and Sunni factions that could potentially bloom into a civil war. There don't seem to be many reasons to expect any of these things to change any time soon.
Von Clausewitz's On War is the classic recommendation You can pick up something like the Army Ranger's Handbook that would likely be very illuminating. For guerilla/terrorism, I recommend a biography of Michael Collins (the Irish revolutionary, not the astronaut). I liked Skunk Works by Ben Rich. It gave some big insights into the role advanced technology plays in modern warfare. The Art of War. Honestly, I found many of the insights in this book not particularly profound, but when you look at the history of war, you can see where few people follow them.
Historywise, I don't really know what to tell you. I've read various books, but none really jump out at me. I watch the History Channel and PBS stuff too, which really helps to get a sense of things. History is, to me, one of those things you need an agglomeration of sources to get a handle on.
Will, You said we are on schedule in Iraq. Could you point me to this schedule? It's been one of the things I've been agitating for for a while and I'm heartened that there finally is one.
Posts: 10177 | Registered: Apr 2001
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I just stumbled on this website, http://www.usiraqprocon.org/ I haven't dug into it yet, it claims to be a neutral look at the pros and cons of the Iraq war, whether the US should have gone in with or without more allies, etc.
quote:Originally posted by MrSquicky: It's been asserted (by Peter Galbraith, former ambassador to Croatia and expert on Iraq, who was invited to planning meetings) that George Bush didn't know the difference between Sunni and Shia as late as January of 2003.
I have heard this in recent months, thanks for the sourcing, Mr. Squicky. Assuming it's true, it shows a staggering level of ignorance in our Commander-in-Chief. When the Ottoman Turks governed what is modern-day Iraq, there were 3 different provinces, Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish. The Turks would pit them against one another in classic empire tactics, to weaken each group in turn. Those century-old hatreds are the main reason the post-war period has gone so disasterously wrong, despite the beer-googled Pollyanish rah-rahing like Will B above.
300 garbage collectors were killed in Iraq this year. How is that a successful, on-schedule job of nation building?
Posts: 6316 | Registered: Jun 2003
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quote:The 2nd is the Afghanistan war. AAFIK _no_ foreign power has ever effectively changed Afghanistan's government except the Mongol Horde, and they used tactics we wouldn't dream of (exterminating the residents). The UK couldn't do it. The USSR couldn't do it. We did it when winter was coming on, with no direct access to the country (getting permission from Uzbekistan and even Pakistan, which is fairly Wahhabist), and we did it with almost no ground troops (we had some on the ground to help pinpoint targets for our fighter planes), and we did it in a few months. US casualties were again very very few.
Count no man happy until his day is over. The Soviets didn't have any difficulty sending in enough troops to let a regime of their choosing sit in Kabul. And that was against guerrillas supported by a Great Power. Just because you don't see them on the news doesn't mean the Taliban is dead.
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