24 April 2008

War in Iraq - Dolchstoss

I'm working my way through the twelve points in this article, applying an historical perspective to the assertions made. (Click on the War in Iraq label to see the other blog entries in this series.)

Points (7) and (8) are, if the Vietnam War is any guideline, related. If the U.S. intends to replace its troops on the ground with Iraqi troops, the American military has a tradition of using air power to support its clients in combat. Using the same reference point, the 1972 offensive, we can regard problems with the Iraqi Army and police during the fighting in Basra as significant, or we can explain them away as problems of an army which has been thrown together from assorted militias (registration required) and put into combat for the first time.

The American army has never institutionally embraced a "stab-in-the-back" myth about the Vietnam War, although there are probably both officers and Republicans who think it should do so. However, with my self-confessed cynicism about power brokers and journalists, the fact that the American political leadership found itself deeply divided over the Vietnam War makes me suspect coverage that highlighted the failures of the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam, while ignoring its successes. I'm fairly confident in saying that the American Army thinks it won the war in Viet Nam during 1968-70, and that if the country had sustained its support for the south during 1973-5, the north would have been defeated just as it was in 1972.

Thus, the American military quite probably thinks it can win in Iraq with the same strategy of leaving ground combat to the Iraqis, who will get better as they practice their craft more, but supporting them with air power. And I'm not so sure America's political leadership is as divided over Iraq as it was over Viet Nam. So those arguing against the war had better seize on incidents like desertion in Basra now, before these problems are ironed out and the Iraqi army puts in a better show.

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