Monday, January 08, 2007

"What's the Worst that Could Happen" If Bush Sends More Troops to Iraq?

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That is the question Joe Lieberman asked and answered at a war escalation party held at the American Enterprise Institute over the weekend:

In words that should trouble any Democrats counting Lieberman in their camp, Lieberman was praising Bush as a “great leader” for bucking American opinion, as expressed in the 2006 election, in his determination to double down in Iraq. Lieberman then said something incredible:

Even those opposed to the surge, he said, “ought to at least let us try it.”

The worst that could happen,” he continued, is that this policy could become another partisan flashpoint in Washington.

Ahem. I believe, senator, that the “worst that could happen” is that a significant number of the 20,000-30,000 troops we send to police the hornets’ nest of Baghdad could come home in body bags.

Yes, but none of those body bags will contain the remains of anyone that Sen. Lieberman cares about.

Video at Crooks and Liars.

Glenn Greenwald has a superb commentary on the hypocrisy and cowardice of troop surge planners and advocates who insist that the escalation is so absolutely essential to winning the war that Pres. Bush should issue a "personal call" for young Americans to volunteer to fight in Iraq, so that the military will have the 30,000 minimum additional troops to send there:

Kagan makes it absolutely clear that an increase in the number of available troops and American military volunteers is critical to the success of the surge specifically, and for "victory" in the war in Iraq generally, and he therefore emphasizes how urgent it is for more Americans to enlist in the military if we are to Win:

Victory in Iraq is still possible at an acceptable level of effort. We must adopt a new approach to the war and implement it quickly and decisively. . . . This approach requires a national commitment to victory in Iraq:
. . .
The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this generation.

The reason for Kagan's plea for more Americans to enlist is clear. We simply do not have the available troops to sustain the glorious Churchillian war plans for those who want to take a resolute, militaristic stance against Islamofacism. In fact -- according to the U.S. military itself -- we do not even have close to enough troops to sustain Kagan's "surge" plan, let alone the broader regional war which our great domestic warriors are urging:

CBS’s David Martin has learned military commanders told the President they could execute a ‘troop surge’ of 9,000 soldiers and Marines into Iraq, with another 10,000 on alert in Kuwait and the U.S.

Regardless of disputes over specific numbers, Kagan is making clear that "Victory" in Iraq requires that more American volunteers to fight. According to Kagan and Keane's Washington Post Op-Ed advocating their surge plan:

We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad -- the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development -- is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

According to the surge planners, a failure to provide at least 30,000 troops will doom the U.S. to defeat in Iraq, but we do not have the troops to send. Both this Op-Ed, as well as Kagan's new report, leave no doubt that a shortage of willing warriors is a real impediment to American War Victory, and that Victory over the Terrorists -- as this worldview sees it -- requires that more "young Americans" volunteer to fight.

As I've pointed out before, I don't personally subscribe to the view, expressed as a general proposition, that there is something immoral or illogical about supporting a war that you don't volunteer to fight in yourself. As the overwhelming support for the invasion of Afghanistan demonstrates, that is a standard to which most Americans do not adhere (since most supported that invasion without volunteering to fight). Broad support for military action in Kosovo under the Clinton administration demonstrates the same proposition.

But the current situation is completely different. Even according to the war's remaining advocates -- particularly those who want to escalate in Iraq -- there is a serious and harmful shortage of willing volunteers to fight in Iraq and to enable a more aggressive application of U.S. military force generally. So we do now have a situation where those who are cheering on more war and escalation really are needed not at the computer screen but on the battlefield, in combat. And their refusal to fight is actually impeding the plans of those on whom the President is relying for "Victory."

As a result, it is now morally indefensible for those who are physically able to do so to advocate a "surge," or even ongoing war in Iraq, without either volunteering to fight or offering a good reason why they are not doing so. One of the war's key architects is sending out a desperate plea for volunteers in order to enable the U.S. to achieve "Victory" in Iraq. How can those who believe in the premise and cheer it on -- all the while depicting themselves as strong and resolute -- possibly justify not taking the necessary action to enable the U.S. to "win"? As Kagan put it:

The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this generation.

In light of the current troop shortages impeding Kagan's plans -- to say nothing of plans for confronting other countries and Terrorists beyond Iraq -- how can those who strut around as Churchillian defenders of American greatness in the face of Evil possibly justify their ongoing refusal of this call? The World War II values they are constantly invoking in order to justify endless war weren't defined by war cheerleaders but by war fighters.
Following these premises, it seems one could construct a univerally applicable (and self-evidently reasonable) definition of "cowardice" as follows:

A "coward" is someone who (a) fails to fight (b) in a war they consider to be necessary and just (c) notwithstanding their country's need for more fighters and (d) in the absence of a unique and compelling excuse for doing so.

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