Friday, October 20, 2006

Is the war in Iraq really a “war”?

I am just musing on the actual meanings of words vs. what the person who utters that word would like everyone else to believe. To me, this whatever it is that we have going in Iraq seems actually very little like a war. Yes, we have a lot of military men and women in action, in harm’s way, and it is an unfortunate fact that many of them have been and will continue to be killed or severely wounded. If that is the definition of a war, then yes, that is what it is.

Maybe I have been too influenced by movies about World War II or documentaries on the History Channel. To me, a war is actually fought between two armies, with competing goals. There is strategy involved, objectives to be reached. Governments are involved, and each side has a recognizable command and supply structure. They wear uniforms. Generals have stars on their shoulders. Even though what the U.S. was involved in on the Korean Peninsula was formally called “a Police Action”, it was a war by any other definition. It fit all the items I described above.

I have absolutely no idea what is going on in Iraq or why we are there. Yes, at the beginning, it was a war between the military of the United States and the military of Iraq. That lasted only several weeks. Now, we have a mish-mash of all sorts of violence. Sunnis and Shias are at each other’s throats, with brutal slaughter of mostly civilians on both sides each and every day. There is a group of people who can legitimately be called terrorists who are intent on inflicting as much damage to the U.S. military as they can. They are not out to “defeat” the U.S. in a traditional sense. They just want to blow up their enemies. We are not there fighting a traditional army that has the backing of a government. We have no overall objectives or strategy. “Victory” is neither an objective nor a strategy. It is a goal. And we have absolutely no defined method to achieve that goal.

This would be a ridiculous situation if it weren’t so grim. Estimates of Iraqi dead range now anywhere from 20,000 to 600,000. Even if one assumes actual totals on the lower end of the estimates, that is still an appalling number. Our military is taking an incredible beating, in manpower, moral and equipment. It will be many years before it recovers. Meanwhile, Iran and North Korea know that the U.S. is in no position to do anything other than bluster and threaten. We might drop a bunch of bombs on someone, but there is no way we are going to commit any sort of ground force to yet another war with a more formidable enemy than the two that we have going right now.

Whatever we are doing in Iraq, it certainly isn’t fighting a traditional war. To me, it seems more like the U.S. military is being used as a target in target practice. Rick Santorum, who I sincerely hope gets his hat handed to him in the upcoming election in Pennsylvania, said as much the other day with his very weird “Lord of the Rings” analogy. He said that our military in Iraq was drawing the focus of the Eye of Sauron so it wouldn’t be focused here in our country. So, to decode what he really said, it seems to me he was saying that our brave men and women in the military are being used as a distraction, an easy target for terrorists, something on which they can focus their hatred and violence, just so we can sit here in our country on our fat duffs, driving our 16 mpg Hummers and watching “Dancing With The Stars” and not be at all worried about getting our trains blown up or buildings knocked down. Unless George Bush and his cronies pop up on their predetermined scheduled to tell everyone how terrified they should be.

Like I said, ridiculous.

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