March 22, 2006
The U.S. is on the verge of losing the war in Iraq
Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
The United States toppled Saddam Hussein in a short and decisive campaign three years ago, yet is on the verge of losing the war in Iraq to a faceless insurgency three years later. What went wrong?
“Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” may apply to people but not to wars. The impending American withdrawal from Iraq is, in Samuel Huntingtonian terms, a civilizational disaster, far worse than the U.S. defeat in Vietnam three decades ago.
Vietnam was a war that should never have been fought. The Vietnamese Communists proved to be no danger to the U.S. and were content, after 1975, to govern their own state, albeit, of course, in a non-democratic fashion. But at least they turned out not to be an international threat.
Iraq is different. The defeat there will leave the country in the hands of religious fanatics and terrorists who will be emboldened to launch further attacks on American allies in the region – and, eventually, on the U.S. itself.
The Iraq war has also demonstrated a major weakness in the ability of a western state to win a war against those who completely disregard the value of life – their own and those of fellow citizens as well as those of the opponent. The rules of war are to them totally irrelevant.
The only way to defeat such people is through massive terror of one’s own, which of course the U.S. and its allies will not (despite accusations to the contrary from left-wing radicals) engage in.
The Americans lost a war in Vietnam they could have won, but at a tremendous political and moral cost. But at least the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, though fighting as guerrillas, were still an identifiable military force, and did engage in regular battles against American and South Vietnamese forces
In Iraq, though, it seems that all it has taken to make the U.S. go home is simple terrorism – suicide bombers in cars, roadside bombs, improvised explosive devices lobbed at military units, and so forth.
The terrorists and fanatics are not even organized in guerrilla formations. And yet they have managed to defeat the mightiest power on earth, a country that accounts for almost half of all military spending in the world – the U.S. allocates more money for its armed forces than the next 17 states combined.
This does not bode well for the future of the Middle East, nor for the rest of the world as well.