Limited war gives us nothing

Posted: Jul 13, 2007 12:01 AM
Limited war gives us nothing

This is a how-to column: how to win in Iraq by changing course, dissing Democrats, ignoring the Iraq Study Group and altogether eradicating Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iran in Iraq, not to mention Iran in Iran.

Sound crazy? I'll tell you what's crazy. The current strategy: Surge till Iraqis merge. Put our fighting men's lives and limbs at risk going house to booby-trapped house to create adequate security so that Iraq's factions will break out singing "Kumbaya" and decide to fight global warming, instead of one another. It's incredible but true: Our ultimate military success, our national prestige, our vital stake in the "war on terror" rests on something over which we have no control -- a post-surge reconciliation hoped for between, mainly, Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq.

Such a Hail Mary (Holy Allah?) strategy is rooted in the politically correct fallacy that Western-style democracy could -- presto -- flourish in an Islamic culture. Even as the White House has reluctantly lowered at least some expectations in this regard, it has stuck with the policy that all will come right in the end -- or, at least, that it might. And that's enough to "stay the course" for several key reasons that fellow conservatives in particular are quick to cite.

One argument has to do with understandable concern over signaling defeat to jihadis everywhere, including Al Qaeda in Iraq. Certainly, the Democrats' withdrawal plans run up the white flag, as do breakaway Republican plans to resurrect the Iraq Study Group's pee-yoo pointers. So forget them. Ditto the ISG, which suggests, for example, that the terrorist likes of Iran and Syria will help with Iraq (how delusional can you get?), and that the U.N. Security Council (rivals Russia and China) will help with Iran.

But these aren't our only choices. We may be stuck in an intellectual tidal cycle -- tide in (surge), tide out (withdraw) -- but there's a big wide ocean of answers out there. First, we need to ask new questions. For example: When will it become clear that even if everything goes as planned in Iraq (or doesn't), the United States will only have succeeded in securing a Hezbollah-supporting, Shiite-majority state that is a natural ally of Iran? And how great is that for America's national security?

Not so great. But it's a shockingly likely outcome. This realization should make us question whether securing Iraq, a potential client-state of Iran, is really key to American national security. In fact, it is Iran's terror exports to the entire Middle East and beyond, along with its genocidal nuclear ambitions, that threaten us, not Iraq's domestic violence. If we want to quell global jihad -- and we must -- it is Iran that should become the target for our military minds, not Iraq. Far from handing jihadists a win, this new course, which would likely rely more on Air Force and Navy than ground troops, would put them on the defensive.

At this point, my conservative friends will remind me that we must destroy Al Qaeda in Iraq. And I couldn't agree more. So let's destroy Al Qaeda in Iraq -- a neat name for an amorphous network -- and any other threats including Iranian-supported Iraqi Shiite forces. The Washington Times' Sharon Behn recently asked Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger why the world's most powerful army hadn't yet accomplished this mission. He replied: "We could absolutely crush every one of them, but would you be happy with what is left?"

He's referring to the catastrophic destruction that is, and has always been, the price of total victory. It's something that never makes anyone "happy," but previous generations have found it necessary. Not ours. Postmodern man prefers a kind of limited warfare, fighting with one hand tied behind his back as a matter of choice -- a moral choice that lends even a superpower the humanizing aura of victim-hood.

Presumably, the U.S. military could destroy Iraqi terror-towns and strongholds with a well-guided aerial bombing campaign, and thus go a long way toward bringing this whole war to an end; instead, we opt to send our young men to fight precisely as the terrorist wants them to fight -- in booby-trapped towns, among duplicitous peoples. Lately, we even argue that these same soldiers should stay in those towns among those peoples to prevent the "bloodletting" to follow an American exit. But for how long? One year? Ten years? Until Iraqis learn to sing "Kumbaya"?

Maybe until we, as a society, learn how to prize total victory over limited war.