I was never a big fan of the Iraq War. However, once we sent our military in, of course, we all had to support them. With the recent “downsizing” of the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to less than 50,000, we recently brought many troops home; and, we shifted others to Afghanistan which is itself becoming a more controversial war. At a moment’s notice, we suddenly declared that the remaining troops in Iraq were no longer combat troops; now they are advisers. This sends chills up my spine as I recall that this is also what we called those first few thousand troops in Vietnam in the early 1960s. Either way, the day after this magical transformation from combat troops to the less war-like term of advisers, the danger of their mission didn’t really change that much. They still have to watch for road-side bombs, suicide bombers, and IEDs; and, unfortunately, more will continue to be killed.
I saw some video of some of our troops leaving Iraq. They made comments like, “This phase of the war is over.” Some even sheepishly, but unconvincingly, declared victory–a logical psychological goal for those who had invested so much there.
As I watched this downsizing occur, a couple of questions came to mind. First, when was the last time that the U.S. actually won a war–according to the old school version of winning wars? By this I mean, when did we last decisively defeat our enemy, to the extent that they willingly signed a declaration of surrender? When this occurred, the defeated aggressors would give up all claims to the land they had seized. They would then be held subject to the moral mercies of the victors of the war, who would choose how to fairly draw the new boundary lines between countries, and, at their discretion, choose how to offer humanitarian assistance to the people of the defeated nation. Then, in the worst cases, the national and military leaders of the defeated nation would be held accountable before a military tribunal for any war crimes.
I believe that the last time this happened was over 65 years ago when we won World War II. President Truman was the last U.S. president who was actually able to hold his head high as he oversaw the surrender of Germany, Italy, and Japan to the U.S.
Yes, instead of winning_ wars, consider some of the politically correct language we have used since World War II:
– We chose not to decisively win the Korean War, even though it was a winnable war, because we were afraid of what other nations, like China, would think of us. Instead, we drew a line–a North-South line, and we agreed with the Communists that we would each stay on our side of the line. Well, how has this worked out for us? We brought some troops home, and left some there (like Iraq today); and this has continued to drain our resources for the last 57 years (so far). As a result, we now have a terrorist with nuclear capability running North Korea.
– We chose not to win in Vietnam–another winnable war. Instead, we sacrificed 58,000 American lives there, and then withdrew with honor. We trusted our adversaries to be honorable, only to have South Vietnam quickly fall to the Communists when we left.
– In the Gulf War, we liberated Kuwait, but we didn’t defeat Saddam Hussein. Instead, we went only as far as the UN resolution would allow.
– The Iraq War has lasted seven years so far, with no end in sight. Now we’re withdrawing, with plans to eventually turn the country and the fighting back over to the Iraqis. This sounds dangerously close to what happened in Vietnam. As soon as we pull out, the country is likely to return to a state of civil war, and this never turns out good. If this happens again, will our soldiers have died in vain? How can we possibly withdraw_ without bringing the heart of the insurgent forces to its knees, begging to surrender?
– The Afghanistan War has lasted nine years so far, and it’s still escalating. We’ve already lost twice as many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan as we did on 9/11.
So, the other question that comes to mind is: Why don’t we choose to win wars anymore? We seem to no longer have the intent and the will to win. We’re willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of our young soldiers, and then we fail to fulfill our mission, making their deaths seem in vain. We no longer have the willingness to stand up for our Judeo-Christian values by entering only those wars that we really intend to win, and then to actually choose to win those winnable wars.
Instead, we get into the task of nation building. We try to rebuild a nation; we withdraw and we let the native people take over; we claim a watered-down victory; and, then the nation returns to a state worse than before we started.
In Vietnam, we let the military leaders fool us into thinking that we were winning the war by using the kill ratio. As long as we lost far fewer lives than our enemy, we were supposed to feel like we were winning–and the media played along. I can remember watching the national news during the Vietnam War. I would hear that we lost a dozen men in a battle, but we had killed 200 of the enemy, so we were supposed to feel good. Well, this doesn’t work anymore. Although our kill ratio in Iraq and Afghanistan is impressive, we still don’t feel good because we still don’t win the wars.
Yes, now we only end wars–we no longer win them. Are we still supposed to believe that we are the strongest nation on earth, with the strongest military? Recent history would suggest otherwise–perhaps even that our military leaders (and CIA) are simply incompetent. Do we no longer have military leaders like Eisenhower and Patton, who can actually formulate and execute a strategy to win a war? Or, have we given so much power to incompetent commanders-in-chief (Johnson then, and Obama now) such that waging war has now become political? Are our young people sacrificing their lives for politics–for the personal political gain of Washington bureaucrats?
I’m sorry, but I’d like to claim victory again, no matter what other nations might think of us. Why are we really willing to settle for withdrawing and downsizing instead of winning? Only victory will bring the appropriate honor to our fallen soldiers.