Friday, December 01, 2006

Communicating the War in Iraq

The History of Iraq

I was just reading some of the history of Iraq. From ancient times until now there has been nothing but intrigue, civil war, war, coups, upheavals and internecine strife. Part of its modern history is that the British artificially created the borders of present-day Iraq after WWI by just declaring it a country. (The same kind of thing happened in the Middle East with Israel and Palestine). It has always been an unnatural mix. Currently, Iraq is divided unofficially into three territories controlled by long-standing foes in the historic struggles. The Shias hate the Sunnis hate the Kurds hate the Shias, and on and on.

Civil War?

Colin Powell a few days ago said that Iraq is now in a civil war. Apparently so. This will be denied by the Administration until the two sides wear blue and grey and officially declare war on each other.

Lessons from Vietnam

I watched in dismay the government’s tendency to deny the truth in the Vietnam years.

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Generals in that war were always proclaiming that we were “winning,” no matter the situation on the ground. They may have been right, technically. We were always in control of the country more than the Vietcong, and we were always winning battles and killing more of them than they were killing us. Yet, the phrase “We are winning,” was not an honest appraisal of the situation in totality. I know Presidents Johnson and Nixon were aware that part of the war were the political and the propaganda wars. While we may have been “winning” the battle on the ground, we were losing the political and propaganda wars. This led to our ultimate withdrawal, a declared victory, but an actual defeat.

Communicating the War in Iraq

I continue to think it’s a miscalculation by government officials not to level with the American people. I know that Colin Powell has a few axes to grind, but on the other hand, whether he is right in his assessment that Iraq is in a civil war or not, I think it’s sad that people only begin to speak what they see as “truth” when they leave an administration. I’m sure Powell made his opinion known while he was in office, so I’m not blaming him. I blame Bush and his cadre.

I continue to maintain that the decision to invade Iraq was a good one. I won’t bore you with my reasons why, as you’ve heard them before, except to say that something had to be done in the Middle East, and Iraq was a good candidate for change. The purpose has always been to alter the Middle East formula to edge the world closer to peace.

Obviously, we are yet to see the fruits of this war, and my not see them for some time. Sometime in the future, though, I believe, we will all see why it was a good idea to wage the war in Iraq.

For now, though, I cannot understand why governments don’t learn the lessons of Vietnam. If you don’t level with the American people, they are going to mistrust you. You can’t say that things are rosy in Iraq and expect the people to cheer you. I side with Colin Powell on this matter. I see the natural forces in Iraq that have operated for centuries are coming to the fore, and that what is going on there now is an out-and-out civil war. Maliki is a weak leader and he cannot control the various factions from murdering each other. Why on earth must our government deny all this?

The Role of the President as Relates to the Goals in Iraq

Again, as I have said before, the President is acting only as diplomat and cheerleader-in-chief, and neglecting his role as communicator. I know exactly why he is not leveling with us. He wants the United States to save face, be seen as having been right in waging this war, and to keep alive the prospect of a united Iraq with a Western-style democracy. He also does not want to let down the military, who have given their lives and limbs and psyches for this war.

I think these are all noble goals. I don’t think, though, that Bush would have to give up on any of these goals if he also told the whole truth about the war. So, Iraq has descended into civil war, so what? It is an unanticipated consequence, so what? Stuff happens in war. That’s the name of the game—unintended consequences. If you can’t face this, don’t start the war in the first place. Plus, who are we to think we could have easily changed the basic nature of Iraq, as demonstrated by centuries of internal and external conflict, in a period of four years?

What’s the Worst that Can Happen in Iraq?

The worst fear is that there will be civil war leading to splitting the country into a bloody mess of Shias versus Sunnis versus Kurds. Then, war between the Kurds and Turkey will erupt. Plus, Iran will dominate part or all of Iraq, including the oil. Then, Iran will dominate the Middle East and, ultimately, destroy Israel. That’s the worst. We need to be brave and face these possibilities. They might happen. So, we’ll have to deal with them. In the meantime, facing these possiblities, we just must do our best to prevent them. That’s all we can do.

The Truth about Iraq

Bush was right to invade Iraq. It is and was a noble war. We will see its benefits in two, five, ten, or twenty years. And, things look bleak right now. Iraq is in a civil war. There is no need to deny this. Post-Vietnam, any government ought to know that honesty is the best policy. The American people can only sacrifice, can only be patient, can only accept the weighty decision of waging war—if they trust their government to tell them the truth. Plus, the American people need all the facts to decide whether waging this war is a good thing or not. An extended war cannot be won without the backing of the American people.

Rock

(*Wikipedia is always my source unless indicated.)

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6 comments:

DTW 06 said...

It seems we are on the same page.
Civil War or Religious War?
In yet another display of diplomatic genius, Bush and/or Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki snubbed each other by canceling two previously scheduled days of talks in Jordan. These meetings were replaced by a two hour breakfast meeting followed by a photo-op and controlled press conference. The real reasons for this abrupt change in plans are unclear. Still, we have learned much about the power structure in Iraq.

SGT DUB said...

Rock,
We have the Sunnis, we have the Shias, we have the Kurds....are we leaving anyone out of the picture? The true enemy of Iraq, the insurgents. Although I have not done a tour in Iraq and am not really wanting to, I still can't call it a civil war yet. My reason? Because I still believe that the insurgents, former Baath Party members, AQ, might I say some other countries that have an interest in seeing Iraq fail. I see a plan of attack by these groups to make percision strikes not against the country as a whole, for they tried that and failed, we won that part of the war. I see a strike against the individual groups that make up Iraq now. If I strike only Sunni interests for a week then turn around and strike only Shia interests, I get to be the conductor at a play. I push the buttons that make these groups tick and eventually cause them to start a civil war, then the insurgents win. Our media is one of our biggest foes in this war. Wagging the dog was never orchastrated by the government, it was waged by the media itself. It's all about the hype. Look for example the amount of coverage TomKat got for their wedding, I mean updates a week out and coverage daily? The media serves itself and has no interest in reporting the truth or what is fair. The guerilla warfare tactics of the insurgents and the lack of moral fiber by our media will be the downfall of Iraq.

Rock said...

dtw 06, thanks for your incisive comments and your great analysis on your blog. You said:

It seems we are on the same page.
Civil War or Religious War?
In yet another display of diplomatic genius, Bush and/or Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki snubbed each other by canceling two previously scheduled days of talks in Jordan. These meetings were replaced by a two hour breakfast meeting followed by a photo-op and controlled press conference. The real reasons for this abrupt change in plans are unclear. Still, we have learned much about the power structure in Iraq.


There's a lot going on that we never hear about. I don't think our government needs to hide all this.

To Bush: Talk about it, and show why you make your decisions, and then we'll be in on the decision-making, and perhaps you'll get more support.

Rock

Rock said...

Sgt Dub, great to hear from you. You said:

We have the Sunnis, we have the Shias, we have the Kurds....are we leaving anyone out of the picture? The true enemy of Iraq, the insurgents.

Great point. I'd like to hear more about the difference. Who are they exactly?

Although I have not done a tour in Iraq and am not really wanting to, I still can't call it a civil war yet. My reason? Because I still believe that the insurgents, former Baath Party members, AQ, might I say some other countries that have an interest in seeing Iraq fail. I see a plan of attack by these groups to make percision strikes not against the country as a whole, for they tried that and failed, we won that part of the war. I see a strike against the individual groups that make up Iraq now. If I strike only Sunni interests for a week then turn around and strike only Shia interests, I get to be the conductor at a play. I push the buttons that make these groups tick and eventually cause them to start a civil war, then the insurgents win.

If this is happening as you say, that's certainly relevant. We should hear this kind of thing on the news, and from our leaders. Thanks for the insights.

Our media is one of our biggest foes in this war. Wagging the dog was never orchastrated by the government, it was waged by the media itself. It's all about the hype. Look for example the amount of coverage TomKat got for their wedding, I mean updates a week out and coverage daily? The media serves itself and has no interest in reporting the truth or what is fair. The guerilla warfare tactics of the insurgents and the lack of moral fiber by our media will be the downfall of Iraq.

I agree with you 100%. There is so much substance to report and so much crap that gets on air instead. Plus, the liberal media just kills the morale of the nation (hopefully not of the troops).

God bless once more, and keep telling us how things really are out there. Thanks.

Rock

DTW 06 said...

Rock,

Thanks for visiting QuestionItNow - Still In Iraq. I originally found your post via a Google search of "Iraq Civil War."

I think you will be interested in Checking out Bring It On! This is a blogger forum that I have been cross posting to four a few months. This is a diverse community that discusses a wide spectrum of issues in a mostly respectful way.

The Bring It On! conversation around Civil War or Religious War? generated 32 comments.

Rock said...

DTW 06, thanks. I went to this site and have bookmarked it. Keep writing your blog on this most important topic.