Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Winning Battles, Losing War

This morning's paper contained a letter to the editor supporting continued war in Iraq. The author, a father of a lieutenant killed in Iraq, claimed that we could win "because we have never lost a battle". That was the same claim made about the Vietnam War, which we lost while (some say) we never lost a battle. Some people just don't understand that the Iraq War is not about battles.

Unconventional warfare, for the aggressor, is all about preventing the defender from achieving its aims. It is not about winning battles. In fact, the aggressor has no interest in fighting battles which it will almost always lose due to its being significantly outgunned and out-maneuvered by the defender. The aggressor attacks in force only when it feels it has a significant local advantage and a good escape route. Mostly, however, the aggressor simply carries out tactics to keep the defender from achieving its aims.

What are these tactics in Iraq? Destroying infrastructure and "holy places". Bombing population centers to create general fear and and a belief that the defender is not capable of protecting the people. Assassinating leaders who might rally the population against them. Disrupting transportation and fuel supplies, thereby significantly hampering the economy. The various fighting factions in Iraq have been successful in carrying out all these operations, and they will continue to be successful because they have safe havens within the country. Consequently, the defender (the U.S.) will be pinned down for the forseeable future and will never "win". The lieutenant's father's hopes are quixotic.

In my view, we should leave Iraq now and let the chips fall where they may. We should not give the Iraqis a single additional weapon with which to kill their countrymen. Will this result in chaos? Of course. And it will be our fault, a blot on our nation that we created this ugly mess and had to walk away from it. In retrospect, having a despotic and sadistic Saddam in power was far better than the current situation. But relative peace in Iraq, which was the status quo under Saddam, will not return until the Iraqis have sorted themselves out and found a new strong man to rule over them.

1 comment:

Ron Davison said...

Ah, if superior military power made the difference in a war against ideology and nationalism, the French and Americans wouldn't have been driven out of Vietnam, and the Brits wouldn't have been driven out of the 13 colonies. It's rather like arm wrestling to solve an algebra problem.