Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama's Bay of Pigs?

Today's suicide-bombing of an Iraq peace conference and the American commander's warning that we are "not winning" in Afghanistan are sobering reminders that the Obama troop withdrawal plan did not close the file on US misadventures in the Middle East.

They underscore the final assessment of Thomas Ricks' new book, "The Gamble": "The quiet consensus emerging among many people who have served in Iraq is that we likely will have American soldiers engaged in combat in Iraq until at least 2015--which would put us not at about the midpoint in the conflict...In other words, the events for which the Iraq war will be remembered probably have not yet happened."

Ricks, whose new book along with "The Fiasco" constitute the definitive reporting on Iraq, concludes, "The surge was the right step to take, or more precisely, the least wrong move in a misconceived war...The surge campaign was effective in many ways, but the best grade it can be given is a solid incomplete. It succeeded tactically but fell short strategically."

His indictment of the military commanders who are now advising Obama includes the question by a retired officer. "Why did the American military establishment so fail to come up with a war-winning strategy that it was up to a retired general and a civilian think do their job? This is a stunning indictment of the American military's top leadership."

Today's Baghdad bombing with a toll of 33, along with an attack that killed 28 on Sunday, according to the New York Times, "suggest a renewed ability by insurgents to mount more effective suicide bombings, after a long period in which such attacks were relatively few and less lethal because of heavy security precautions."

With all the attention on the economy, there are sobering indications that the American Military Establishment may not have changed much since it misled another new American president into the Bay of Pigs almost half a century ago. Like Obama, JFK had the brains but not the experience to understand what he was being drawn into.

Kennedy learned fast. Will Obama?

1 comment:

RF York said...

Unfortunately, Obama inherited two wretched quagmires. Iraq is a profound moral dilemma, even for those of us who rigorously opposed the war. The most awful president in modern history, in our name, went into the country and destroyed it. Powell had it right: "You break it, you own it." All of us Americans bear a deep responsibility for what was done in our name. The issue facing Obama is how to fulfill our obligation to the Iraqi people with a minimum of bloodshed for all and not adding to the economic mess he inherited from the idiots.

Ironically, the Afghanistan mess was exactly the opposite. We went into the country, with more than adequate moral standing, cleared out the Taliban and Al Qaeda, then abandoned the Afghans to the criminals and warlords the Taliban had thrown out.

One can only hope that Obama is trying a holding action in Afghanistan to give him some breathing room in Iraq. The message coming out of the Pentagon these days is not "more is better", which your blog seems to indicate. It's more like "we lost our belt, pants and shoes, and we're just trying to stay warm here."

Senior military officers are often more historically savvy than their civilian counterparts. A basic knowledge of the history of Afghanistan (the British and Soviet attempts to control it) know it is a chump's game. I think they want out as much as Obama wants them out. But, that ole devil morality raises his ugly head again.

And, I cannot see any sensible remedies to these messes that don't involve long term personnel and financial commitment for the US.

Good luck with trying to persuade the American people about that.

Richard York