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Iraq: Are We Winning? – War v Occupation January 11, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Must Read, Politics, Video.

Recently, Webmerica has been receiving a flood of comments regarding the “War in Iraq.” The basic problem boils down to this: there are those who feel winning is worth any price, and there are those who feel withdraw is worth any price. How to reconcile the two belief systems becomes the greatest question pressing our country today. Unfortunately, if you stand with either of these positions: YOU’VE BEEN HAD!

I think now is the time to explain to the American public, and the world in general, the difference between “War” and “Occupation.” This may come as quite a shock to many who read this, but the War in Iraq was won on Thursday, May 1st, 2003 when Bush declared an end to major combat operations from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. We had taken the capital city, Baghdad, and ousted Saddam’s Ba’athist government. Everything before that point was “war” and everything since then has been “occupation.”

Traditionally, the term ‘occupation’ has earned a negative connotation in the minds of the public… probably dating back to the German occupation of France in WW2 (which was definitely a bad thing). So, it should come as no surprise that the Bush administration declined to use the term, betting that we would not stay in Iraq as long as we have, and that everything would kind of mesh together in history as a “war victory.”

Jump to 4 years later……….

We are still in Iraq. But, make no mistake about it, Iraq has been functioning on a provisional government installed by our country, and Iraqi police forces are working in conjunction with our own troops. Our State Department, military, and executive branch have been providing continual advice and guidance to Iraq, even as we have executed their former leader. This does not even resemble war. In addition, we are not fighting Iraqi military units, but rather civilian based militias that have sprung up as “resistance.” You may recall that there was also a resistance movement in France, circa WW2, that fought an occupation…. even while “war” raged throughout the world. I am not comparing our government to Germany’s, or our methods to theirs! I am only trying to illustrate the difference between occupation and war out of a strictly historical context.

So, I will say it again: We won the war in Iraq on Thursday, May 1st, 2003. That is called “history,” and since that date, we have been occupying the country. So… How is that occupation going??? Horribly! The war was easy; we essentially rolled our tanks into Baghdad, largely unopposed. The occupation, however, has been long, complicated, and trying, requiring much more political positioning and nuance than brute force and military might. I argue that George Bush and his administration have handled this period with nothing more than incompetence and gross negligence, coupled with a healthy dose of ignorance, denial, and a tiny modicum of dumb luck that explains away any small successes they may have had (though few and far between, with none springing to memory).

The only way to have a successful occupation is to be heard, but rarely seen. We must control the government without patrolling the streets. The people of Iraq must come to learn that a permanent judiciary (having nothing to do with the US) will hold them to account for their crimes, but will also remain in place for long after our soldiers have packed up and left. Our detention facilities must give way to their permanent prisons, our troops to their law enforcement. This is the only way to “win” an occupation…. the seemingly unstated goal of which is to leave behind a benevolent country sympathetic to our own values. This, I am strongly in favor of. Sending additional troops, however, is clearly movement in the wrong direction and does not take into account the basic lessons of military history.

The most famous increase of foreign soldiers during an occupation, and one you will all surely recall, is also found in American history. When the newly formed United States of America decided to push west from the Eastern Seaboard, we found a population already occupying that land: Native Americans…. Oops. While I wont say anything good about our methods (mass slaughter and biological warfare), they involved increases in troop levels, relaxed standards of prisoner treatment and a seemingly endless military campaign, each of which proved damn effective. Today, there is no American Indian resistance, and the tiny remnants of their once massive, flourishing, diverse society have been forced into ‘reservations,’ small areas of land that essentially remain under their control. If this is what Bush is pushing for, inadvertently or not, we are heading in the wrong direction.

Now lets look at an example of a country that we beat into the ground with the most devastating weapons ever devised, but instead of large scale occupation after surrender, we simply provided them with a new Constitution (not for democracy, but for a Constitutional Monarchy), a small number of troops as a peacekeeping force (which lasted from 1945 to 1952, 7 years), and an aggressive program of economic development and aid: Japan.

Today, Japan has the world’s second largest economy (by nominal GDP, a calculation of all goods and services produced within the country) yet they only have the tenth largest population. They are the world’s largest creditor (loaning more money to foreign nations than anyone else), and a member of the UN, G8 and APEC as well as one of our closest economic and military allies. They have free universal healthcare, an education system that blows ours out of the water… and despite all of this, they have managed to hold on to their cultural identity far better than others.

To rehash: treatment of American Indians = Bad…. treatment of Japan = Good. So, when I advocate things like phased withdraw, more specialized, less visible forces, focused economic aid, and an emphasis on Iraqi independence, I do so out of regard for history, not out of simpleminded distaste for a single man who’s made a few mistakes (George Bush). In return, I expect those who support current policies (increases in troop levels without relief for current forces, mismanaged economic development, Iraqi non-autonomy, and a general disinterest in finding better solutions) to provide more than “Do you hate our troops?” and “Why don’t you support America?”

How about you back-up your ideas with substance?

This site has, and always will be a ‘free-speech zone.’ You will find no greater American Ideals than those contained within the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, however, many Americans can’t claim to have ever read either document. It is my feeling that, those who think dissent a bad thing, fall into this category; I wont even go into the general lack of knowledge when it comes to history.

  • So, will we win the war? We already did.
  • Will we win the occupation? That remains to be seen. However, we should be careful to describe “winning” as anything other than leaving behind a fully functioning, allied government. The requisite, of course, being that we leave.

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1. Health man - January 24, 2007

Who really now is engaged in the control of health? To mine it neglected the large pharmaceutical companies and the medical centers. There should be a centralized management WBR LeoP

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