Green Voicemail

Monday, September 06, 2004

Intelligence and Diplomacy

John Kerry, for some reason, thinks that we can win the war in Iraq. Myself, I think he's deluded, as deluded as Boy George. However, he does operate under a different set of assumptions than George and is closer to stumbling onto one of the critical truths of the "War on Terror" -- a truth that rests on his Vietnam experiences, although I doubt that Kerry could put his fingers on the how and why.

I read a great article by Martin van Creveld at the Defense and the National Interest website. He draws three parallels between the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq, and although we've heard several times by people on both sides that Vietnam Is Not Iraq (TM), there were three critical components to our loss in Vietnam that we still haven't figured out 30 years later.

One of these was that bad intelligence undoes military superiority. In any even fight on the open battlefield, American firepower would be decisive. However, this is not an open battlefield. As the Iraqi Resistance grew in 2003, United States forces for the most part not only couldn't find out who they were fighting, but didn't even know where they were. (We all know how great intelligence gathering is under the Bush Administration. Hope that it's better during a Kerry Administration.)

This leads to the "bad sniper" phenomenon, where a frustrated army takes pot-shots at everything that looks hostile. The result is a lot of dead non-combatants, and a lot of new terrorists growing. People normally disinclined to become terrorists can change very quickly when their wives, children, or parents are killed by errant United States fire. I remember a story (my memory might be errant) where some Iraq child got his limbs blown off and some breathless airheaded American reporter asking someone if the child understands that we did this for his freedom.

The child might not have an opinion. His parents, however, probably DO.

Kerrry's key to victory in the Iraq war is to increase American intelligence gathering capabilities. He has a famous statement that we're incurring 90 percent of the costs of the war and taking 90 percent of the casualties among our "coalition". His plan is basically to get Europe back on board -- France, Germany, Russia, those guys. He figures out that he can at least get intelligence on the anti-coalition forces at least, and warm bodies on the ground if he's lucky.

Certainly, hard intelligence will shorten the war. If you can find out who the bad guys are and kill them, you have a good chance of ending the Resistance. My concern is why Kerry thinks that France, Germany, or any of the "Axis of Weasels" (as Boy George would put it) has any better intelligence on the ground than we do. I'm sure they have MORE intelligence -- how could you not have more intelligence than an organization run by Rumsfeld, Faith, Wolfowitz, Rice, et. al.? More intelligence in the sense of being "better critical thinkers" not blinded by ideology, which "can prove anything it believes and believes anything it proves". More intelligence in the sense that they might know things about what's going on Iraq that we don't and that they might share with us, if so inclined.

However, Kerry hasn't learned one of the lessons of Vietnam. It is the paradoxical problem of fighting a force which is many times weaker than yours. The moral problem is that if you lose to such a force, you're a fool, and if you beat such a force, you're a bully. Van Creveld stated that moral rot sets in three deadly phases.

First, you lose your allies. Next, you lose the nation. And lose the army.

France, Germany and the rest of "Old Europe" want no part of Iraq. France had its Iraq experiences in Indochina and Algeria. De Gaulle decided that Algeria was not worth the trouble. He pulled out, almost at the cost of his life as generals in the French army planned a coup. Germany and Russia had real empires, and learned hard lessons about the misery of empire.

Help isn't coming. Bush has lost our allies, except for Great Britian, Italy, Poland -- and Poland might pull out of Iraq in 2005. Whether "Old Europe" has any good intelligence in Iraq is a hard question. Their knowledge of what's going on in Iraq might be no better than ours.

Kerry's plan might not work. But it proves he's thinking outside the box. He's asking the hard questions and thinking of unconventional approaches. And even though I think that Iraq is a no-win situation, it proves that Kerry is willing to ask the tough questions that Bush refuses to ask because the mere asking of such questions is intellectual taboo. A Kerry that can ask those questions is a Kerry that might get us out of Iraq. And that's a good thing.

posted by Green Voicemail 9/06/2004 01:27:00 PM

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