The “surge”—and the ruinous prodigality of George W. Bush
to the discussion in “The surge,”
Jonathan L. writes:
George W. Bush’s entire career seems to have followed this recipe: exploit family connections to achieve position unwarranted by meager talents; squander recklessly the resources which predecessors so carefully accumulated; when disaster approaches, turn to family retainers to salvage what is left.
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In orchestrating and executing the Iraq war Bush has so far squandered the good will and trust of our British, Australian, and Eastern European allies, who will think twice before joining another U.S.-led adventure. Bush has also spent over $500 billion dollars, a total that’s already exceeded all U.S.-fought wars save WWII. And now to save face and salvage a bankrupt policy he will consume the remaining reserves of morale and professionalism which every previous Republican administration since Vietnam has so carefully built back up, and he will not stop before the long-term health of the United States armed forces is seriously imperiled.
This war is simply not winnable, and contrary to the assertions on your site would not suddenly become so if the U.S. were to start fighting a “real war.” The enemy does not fight in the open or concentrate his forces; he moves among the civilian population and ambushes American soldiers at his convenience. And no matter how many of him you kill or capture, you can be certain that others will rush to take his place, based upon what damage the U.S. army may have accidentally done to him or those he knows in the course of defending itself, or have been said to have done according to village rumor, or deserve anyway because it is manned and run by infidels. So what if the U.S. army can maintain a kill ratio of 10-to-1 in its favor; that means 10,000 of our soldiers will die before we kill 100,000 of theirs. With the natural replenishment of population and the jihadis still flooding in from across the Muslim world, how far could they push this exchange? Until 20,000 U.S. soldiers are dead? 30,000?
50,000? The only way to pacify the country would be to use such massive and brutal force that— and I do not exaggerate here— it would put us on the cusp of genocide. To keep this savage, fissiparous country together might require brutality exceeding even Saddam Hussein’s, since he never suffered the extra handicap of being a non-Muslim trying to rule a Muslim country.
I find it grimly ironic that long after conservatives agreed on a policy of benign neglect toward our inner-city ghettos (as the inherent pathology of those communities would doom any social improvement projects), a “conservative” president has now spent so much time and money uplifting an immeasurably less civilized people who are not even fellow countrymen.
David H. writes:
I noticed that Jonathan L. wrote:
“This war is simply not winnable, and contrary to the assertions on your site would not suddenly become so if the U.S. were to start fighting a “real war.” “ (emphasis added)
I don’t recall someone on the site saying the war in Iraq, as it has been waged to this point, is winnable at all—I know I have not. However the war against Islam certainly is. If America returned to its traditional methods of waging warfare (the methods that terrify so many Europeans in this day and age), then Iran would have been neutralized long ago, Saddam would be a distant memory and as Mr. Auster has so correctly stated, Islam would be safely contained. I get the impression (of course he can correct me if I’m wrong) that, if one extends Jonathan’s logic, no war against an enemy who hides among civilians, has a large base of reinforcement, and fights in the manner of the “insurgents” can possibly be won without resorting to “borderline genocide.” I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have never been in favor of a war of “liberation” for the Islamic world—such a thing is impossible to begin with (you must first want freedom and justice to embrace them)—however a war in the tradition of World War II can certainly result in victory, whether that be branded “genocide” or not. During World War II, American generals such as LeMay did not weep over enemy civilian casualties, as destruction of the enemy’s factories and his will to resist required the destruction of cities (it may sound barbaric, but compare these brutal necessities to the death camps of Germany, the rape of Nanking, or the hideous evil of Unit 731, all of which would have continued or been repeated without American resolve). Looking back at World War II, it would be easy to call the American air offensive against the Japanese homeland as borderline genocidal (I have heard from a professor at a major university that it was a “war crime”); easy but incorrect. If we had fought that war as we fight this one, liberally, if we had been terrified to inflict “collateral damage,” and if we had even been able to mount an attack on Japan itself, the land invasion would have decimated the U.S. military and resulted in the death of millions of Japanese, soldier and civilian alike (an irony of history—the fire bombings, and finally the atom bombs, were ultimately humane). If the enemy uses civilians as shields (whether he hides among them or literally forces them to march between him and his enemy), it is his war crime when they perish. If this policy were enforced the practice would soon cease as ineffective (and captured enemy who use this vile tactic should be executed as criminals), which would be initially brutal but ultimately humane. In this age of liberalism, virtually any belligerent act by a non-leftist (and now, non-Islamic) power is branded “genocide” whether legitimate or not.
Concerning the Iraq war (and to a large extent the war in Afghanistan), since we cannot go back in time, it has become a no-win situation due to the liberal idiocy of the American administration. The war should have been one of neutralization and punishment and as such could have been won quickly. But that possibility is long gone. The best option, in my opinion, is to create allies in the region (non-Islamic states like Ethiopia—which is in dire peril, India and of course Israel), withdraw from the Iraqi death trap and isolate the Islamic world as suggested by Mr. Auster. And when we must destroy military targets (nuclear research facilities, munitions factories, military air power) then let us unleash an unforgiving war upon those targets. Maximum damage to the enemy with minimum casualties to our own.
David writes: “however a war in the tradition of World War II can certainly result in victory…”
I’ve never proposed anything like what David is calling for here. His analogy of World War II type mass warfare and destruction is not appropriate to a war against an insurgency such as in Iraq. We’re not fighting a state and its army. We defeated a state and its army in three weeks in 2003. Now we’re facing a multisided guerrilla enemy. I don’t think it’s possible for a non-Islamic power to defeat permanently such an insurgency. The massive tactics David speaks of would not work, because the enemy would just go away while we were attacking him, fading back into the civilian population, just as the Bedouin of old would fade back into the desert’s burning solitude, as unforgettably described by Gibbon.
I think Jonathan L.’s view is closer to the truth. Unless we were willing to engage in quasi-genocide, we cannot rule a Muslim country. That is why my Rollback, Isolate, and Contain policy calls for policing the Muslim world from its margins and quickly destroying actual regimes when they become dangerous to us. Destroying a regime is something we can do; a regime is a government, it is sitting there, it can be destroyed, its leaders killed or otherwise rendered harmless. But directly imposing our will on a whole Arab society is something we cannot do. To do that, we must become the government, and then we are in the exposed defensive position, as has been the case in Iraq since April 9, 2003.
David H. writes:
I believe I’ve failed somehow to make myself clear. I do not support any form of occupation of Iraq, under any circumstance. I wrote
“…If America returned to its traditional methods of waging warfare (the methods that terrify so many Europeans in this day and age), then Iran would have been neutralized long ago, Saddam would be a distant memory and as Mr. Auster has so correctly stated, Islam would be safely contained…”
There is no implication of occupation and engaging the enemy on his terms. I refer exactly to what you then wrote:
“That is why my Rollback, Isolate, and Contain policy calls for policing the Muslim world from its margins and quickly destroying actual regimes when they become dangerous to us.”
It was never my intention to even imply that America must occupy those nations. As I wrote, “Concerning the Iraq war (and to a large extent the war in Afghanistan), since we cannot go back in time, it has become a no-win situation due to the liberal idiocy of the American administration…The best option, in my opinion, is to create allies in the region (non-Islamic states like Ethiopia—which is in dire peril, India and of course Israel), withdraw from the Iraqi death trap and isolate the Islamic world as suggested by Mr. Auster. ..”) I am sorry to reproduce so much, but perhaps I wasn’t sufficiently clear and I do not want such important points to be misinterpreted. (emphasis added BTW)
My defense of World War II tactics and strategies of warfare is a general defense against the “genocide” claim, NOT an overriding proscription for the Iraq situation (I followed my defense with my beliefs on the matter).
Randall Parker writes:
Imagine all the ways we could make ourselves safer for just this fiscal year’s cost of Iraq. We are talking about a number of dollars that has nine digits in it.
The Bush Administration says it costs too much to build a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexican border. Well, the cost is at most $10 billion. That’s less than a month of the Iraq burn rate. Or how about finishing the VISTA program to track visa holders who never leave the country? Or how about expanding the number of CIA and FBI agents who track terrorists? Or how about more people to screen visa applicants more carefully?
If terrorism is such a threat then we should pull out of Iraq and spend that money dealing with the threat.
Ahh, but Mr. Parker, have you forgotten Off-The-Planet Boilerplate Argument #6, that if we were not fighting the terrorists in Iraq, we would have to fight them here? Apparently it is only the fact that our army and marines are in Iraq that (1) prevents Muslim terrorists throughout the Muslim world and in Europe from getting on planes and coming here, and (2) prevents the terrorists who are already here from attacking us.
You’re probably familiar with my discussion of Non-Islam Explanations of Islamic Extremism. Well, we might consider the “We must fight them there, in order not to fight them here” argument as a Non-Immigration Solution to a Problem That Can Only Exist as a Result of Immigration.
Mr. Parker replies:
Foolish me. We invaded Iraq to take over their airport so we can check IDs of people as they try to fly out of Baghdad. Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?
Okay, then I see the next step: We need to invade and occupy every airport in the Middle East in order to install and defend US customs agents in those airports. Only then can our customs agents do their crucial work to defend us from Jihadists attempting to board aircraft to fly toward Europe and America.
Is there also a boilerplate argument for why we can’t do this work at the stage of processing visa applications and when screening people in US customs? Or why not just ask the Middle Eastern governments to let us station custom agents in airports like we do in London and Toronto?
I am sure that the neocons have a reason why we can’t take that simpler and less costly approach. But since my stomach isn’t strong enough to digest all their writings I’m hoping you can tell me why they say we can’t use immigration and visa policy rather than occupying whole countries.
Mark P. writes:
It’s interesting how all these figures about how much it would cost to build a fence are bandied about. I remember watching a show on prison construction and the kind of material used in building a fence. The fences designed around prisons are strong enough to stop a truck from barreling through them. They cost around $1,000 per linear foot (I’m not sure how “linear” modifies “foot”.) This means you could not only build a fence, but for $10.6 billion, you could build the kind of fences that surround prisons.
Anything above that $10 billion, and you could buy the other goodies that go with prisons: 1) Larger versions of prison doors. Normal prison doors weigh about 350 pounds and sit on hinges embedded in concrete; I’m sure larger versions can be created with the same tech 2) Miles and miles of razor wire; 3) Special concrete the dries much harder than the concrete use is skyscraper construction.
It’s truly amazing what a little creativity and $50 billion (annualized cost of Iraq) could buy.
Randal Parker writes:
We are going to spend $170 billion in Afghanistan and Iraq in this fiscal yer. So Mark P’s $50 billion just for Iraq is far below the current burn rate. The US military does not appear to break out the relative costs of Afghanistan and Iraq (I suspect that’s politically motivated). But comparisons of deaths and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan can suggest a close approximation. To date American deaths in Iraq are 2956 and in Afghanistan 356 or a ratio of 8.3 to 1. Elsewhere I’ve read that we have 7 times as many troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan. Though with the coming surge in Iraq we are probably going to have more like 8 to 1. So a fair guess is that 8 out of 9 of those $170 billion in war dollars for this fiscal year will be for Iraq or over $151 billion. That works out to almost $3 billion a week.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 20, 2006 11:54 PM | Send
For a month’s worth of the Iraq war we could build a deluxe border barrier with Mexico. Highway sound barrier walls cost between $175 and $200 per square meter. Suppose we wanted to build a 5 meter (over 15 feet) high sound barrier wall along the US border with Mexico. Here’s the math:
- $200 per square meter.
- 5 meters high.
- So $1000 per meter in ground length.
- Or $1 million per kilometer.
2000 miles (actually 1950 but lets take the high figure) is 3218 kilometers.
- So $3.218 billion for a 5 meter (about 16 feet) wall that runs 2000 miles.
That’d cost one week of the Iraq war. Then add 4 more weeks of Iraq war cost to pay for multiple parallel layers of fences and access roads and sensors.
Of course, the current $3 billion a week burn rate greatly underestimates the cost of the war since equipment is getting worn out faster than it is being replaced and also we are incurring much larger long term costs to care for all the chronically injured. Plus, we are borrowing the money we are spending on the war and will have to pay interest on that debt for decades to come.