Tuesday, December 13, 2005

20/120 Hindsight from Kaplan at The New Republic

Over at The New Republic (following link requires registration, easily circumvented by visiting BugMeNot), Kaplan says we've forgotten the lessons of Vietnam by turning our backs upon counter-insurgency, and that this failure comes from the policy level:

Returning to conventional orthodoxy made a certain amount of strategic sense
during the cold war, when the Army's mission was to defend against a Soviet
thrust across the plains of Central Europe. But, thanks in no small measure to
the direction of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell and the
doctrine of overwhelming force named after him, the Army kept training for that
mission, even after the Soviet empire collapsed.

Gee, Larry, perhaps you've forgotten about Iraq I and the Balkans? This is merely hindsight: a dedicated insurgency (who, btw, we've been kicking the shit out of) was merely one of the potential problems we were bound to face, and a significantly more minor threat than the "is China about to pull the trigger over Taiwan" issue that you seem to have conveniently forgotten about. Perhaps total overwhelming force is why China has continued to back off that trigger?Furthermore, facts on the ground would have been starkly different if Turkey hadn't suffered a serious political hiccup on the eve of the invasion: blaming the military for a diplomatic failure is simply silly.

Kaplan furthermore moves the goalposts by making every counterinsurgency into the Vietnam Tet-vs-media approach:
As in Vietnam, an effective counterinsurgency strategy requires time and
patience. But, just as in Vietnam, Americans have run out of both. Had the Army
employed its current approach from the beginning, it might have had a chance at
winning the war in Iraq before losing it at home. But, as the war grinds into
its third year, the clock has nearly run out. Which can only mean one thing:
It's almost time to forget about counterinsurgency again.

Which translates to "I don't like Rumsfeld, and the Democratic leadership continues to try to screw over the military at every opportunity." Gee, tell us something we didn't know. Like the fact that perhaps our political leadership simply has more stones than the guys who pulled out of Vietnam, and then, crucially, failed to fulfill treaty obligations by funding the SVs, who would have been more than capable of holding off the wrecked North Vietnamese military. (Why is Kaplan simply assuming that we're going to cut and run b/c of what some NYT editors and career leftist protestors think?)

It's a nice try, but blaming people for losing while they're winning is simply inane wishful thinking. Blaming the military for supposedly failing to learn the lessons of Vietnam, while demonstrating to the world that one is completely clueless regarding those same lessons, is prima facie proof that Mr. Kaplan would greatly benefit from a reading of Mark Twain:

Far better to remain silent, and allow others to wonder at the extent of one's ignorance, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

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