Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Surge

The President's decision to beef up the number of troops in Iraq raises a number of questions.

If the Iraqis have ten thousand or twenty thousand troops ready to step up, where have they been and what have they been doing until now?

Will a half-assed surge of twenty thouand American troops really overwhelm the various resistance groups in the country?

These are questions the average American cannot answer. We don't get the tiniest fraction of the information available to the government entities who decide these things. But we can certainly wonder, especially when friends and loved ones are being sent over and permanently altered by the experience of war.

We have to welcome these people back in whatever form they are returned to us. We have to say something encouraging to them while they're over there in danger, whether we believe in their mission or not.

We are sending human soldiers to fight inanimate devices. The explosives on roadsides, in cars and worn around the bodies of deluded humans do not fight. They just lie there. They can't lose or win. They're as impersonal as rat poison. One could lurk in any pile of trash or any car's trunk. This is not a battle.

The various hostile factions in Iraq operate in a region and culture familiar to them. Because they can engage in harassing tactics and use set-and-forget weapons, snipe from vantage points in familiar neighborhoods, even without resorting to suicide operations, then melt into the crowd, we cannot speak with confidence of our inevitable eventual victory. A philosophical shift might sweep the region. But as long as someone feels like fighting, they will be able to do so. If a schoolkid in the United States can make pipe bombs and stick them in mailboxes, people in Iraq with much stronger motives can do at least as much. The only way to prevent it would be to install a tyrant who would crush the troublemakers.

Because the definition of victory has changed many times since the famous "Mission Accomplished" photo opportunity signaled the begining of the real war in Iraq, how can we be sure we will ever achieve one satisfactory enough to allow us to leave?

Personally, I can't forget that troop numbers are actually made up of individual human lives. Many of them might consider me contemptible or naive for thinking that we need to outgrow war, but that does not allow me to turn away from them as they pay the price for the mistakes of their Commander-in-Chief.

I will admit that I do not know what has gone into making these decisions, so I can only speak very generally about how they look. I do know that many of the people in the greatest danger cannot be allowed to know a great deal more than I do. Their job is to carry out orders, not question them. They deserve a plan and an operation worthy of the risk of their lives. Are they getting it?

No comments: