Mistakes

Via Betsy’s Page, an essay by VD Hanson. VD-H argues that its no biggie that mistakes have been made in Iraq… after all, mistakes were made during the US Civil War, WW1, WW2 (European and Pacific theater), Korea, and Vietnam. (He goes on to list a bunch of ’em.)

This strikes me as illogical as… the sort of nonsense that VD-H usually writes.

In the US Civil War, the disparity between the Union and the Confederacy wasn’t all that big. Either side, by itself, would probably have been considered one of the ten or so most powerful military entities in the world at the time. In WW1, we entered against the Germans and Austro-Hungarians… who had managed up until then to fight the other major European powers plus the Russians to a standstill. In WW2, the war was against the German and Japanese empires, which in a few short years had managed to take over much of the world. In Korea, it was against China, the most populous nation on earth – with by far the biggest military. In Vietnam, it was a proxy war against the USSR, the world’s other superpower at the time.

Clearly even VD-H should be able to see a difference in magnitude. The Iraqi military, after more than a decade of sanctions, was a shadow of its former self – the same former self that had surrendered en masse to CNN cameramen. Sure, the CNN cameramen had reams of spare of videotape, but still. And the insurgents are even more pitiful examples of military prowess – when insurgents tried to take on Saddam’s defeated (by CNN) military after Gulf War 1, they were crushed.

One can only conclude that the mistakes in the current war are orders of magnitude beyond those described in VD-H’s essay. Leaving every one of the enemy’s captured ammo dumps unguarded in our haste to protect the Oil Ministry in Iraq means a few thousand more American soldiers die over a period of five years. On the other hand, a tiny miscalculation against the Germans in World War 2 could mean tens of thousands of casualties immediately. Heck – ask the French what happened when they made of mistake of assuming that the Germans would respect the neutrality of the low countries. Failure to translate an intercepted Japanese message almost wiped out the entire US Pacific fleet. It was only blind luck that US flat-tops were in the open ocean during Pearl Harbor or there wouldn’t have been a Battle of Midway – instead, there would have been a Battle of San Francisco. Miscommunication with the USSR almost led to World War 3.

The kind of mistakes that are prolonging the mess in Iraq are very different from the the kind of mistakes you can recover from when dealing with the Confederacy, the Third Reich, the Empire of Japan, the PLA, or the Soviet Union. If VD-H can’t tell the difference, I guess he can always continue writing for the National Review and similar publications.

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