What is depressing is that a host of formal civilian and military officials, who during their tenure assured everyone that victory over the insurgents was in sight, then, upon leaving in the wake of criticism (one thinks of Bremer, Franks, Sanchez, etc.), post facto lambasted the effort. The net effect is a lack of credibility among the military and civilian overseers—sort of ‘why should I believe you now, since when and if you are relieved, you will only retroactively tell us how bad was what you now say is good.’
There’s a whole lot more blah blah blah there, but I was inspired to go back through the National Review Archives and see what our stalwart military genius had to say a while back. So let’s look at this from two years ago:
And in this type of socio-cultural war, a smaller foreign footprint is critical, since the last thing we wish is an enormous ostentatious American military bureaucracy in Baghdad.
The shortcoming was never the number of U.S troops per se, but our self-imposed straightjacket on rules of engagement that apparently discouraged the vital sorts of offensive operations that we have at last seen the last two months.
The lesson of Vietnam is that the south was more secure in 1973 without almost any American ground troops than with over 500,000 present in 1968.
That the United States needs at least 4-5 more combat-ready divisions is not the same question as the wisdom of putting more American personnel into Iraq.
So… from this we learn, a build-up of troops (i.e., a “Surge”, so to speak) would be a bad idea. Putting a straightjacket on rules of engagement – perhaps holding folks at Blackwater responsible if they shoot into a crowd of unarmed civilians – is also a bad idea. And that bit about the vital sorts of offensive operations that we have at last seen the last two months sounds to me like Hanson felt we had finally stumbled onto the winning formula. Two years ago.
And incidentally, for those who like to blame the loss of Vietnam on the American withdrawal, clearly that’s not the case.
So what does the future of two years ago hold? Where were we going to be today, given that by then we had started to observe the vital sorts of offensive operations that we have at last seen the last two months? Well, I’m glad you asked:
So here too there is general agreement emerging about our goals as outlined by most of the military’s top brass: in a year or two begin to downsize our presence in Iraq, ideally leaving behind special forces and elite units embedded within Iraqi units, backed up by instantaneous air support.
Well, a year or two from October 7, 2005, is either October 2006, or October 2007. and Victor Davis “Always Quick to Expound at Length About Military Matters” Hanson doesn’t pipe up. One senses his expert military opinion is that this must be correct.
But how good will it be? Hanson asks:
Who knows what Iraq will look like in, say, 15 months, given that its liberation had about that much lag time after the fall of the Taliban?
Perhaps the military genius, upon turning his steady gaze upon Afghanistan, might tell us to beware the Taliban, which now, in 2007, rises again, and feels itself strong enough to ignore overtures from the Karzai government? Um, no. He really is looking at Afghanistan as a leading indicator for Iraq, and in 2005, as far as VDH was concerned, that was all to the good.
The point of all of this… in October 2005 he told us the new strategy recently put in place in Iraq was working, that a Surge of troops was a bad idea, that we could expect some sort of a draw down beginning probably in October of 2006, but no later than October 2007, and that all was well in Afghanistan. All that in one single post. I believe I remember some other comments from Hanson that are equally buffoonish. Which raises the question for VDH:
Why should I believe you now, since … you will only retroactively tell us how bad was what you now say is good?
And it raises any number of questions about the sort of people who take Victor Davis Hanson seriously at this point.