Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Victory in iraq? Bin Ladin is smiling.

Tony Blankley demonstrates a gross ignorance of both the short and long term consequences of our ‘war’ in Iraq in predicting a “Victory in Iraq” (Washington Times, 11-14-07) because of recent gains in that devastated Arab nation.

Victory in Iraq was achieved the day Bush landed on the aircraft carrier hosting the banner “Mission Accomplished”. From then on it was a blundered occupation that fertilized Al Qaeda’s global roots, attracted foreign fighters, and alienating Iraq’s local population into a crescendo of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence, American murdering and dismembering IEDs and a flood of millions of Iraqi refugees and countless Iraqi deaths and disabilities.

What’s vital for Blankely (and anyone else serious about learning useful lessons for defeating Al Qaeda on the global level) is understanding the fact that “we” are not winning in Iraq due to our military surge. Current progress is far more the result of Al Qaeda’s brutal treatment of Iraqis and a wise change in US military tactics of putting the winning of Iraqi ‘hearts and minds’ above our inclination to achieve victory with ‘shock and awe’.

In the creation of our own nation it’s instructive to remember that the British redcoats won just about every battle before they finally lost the war.

Mr. Blankely needs to consider the true cost of the war regardless of any so called ‘victory’. The costs are actually unimaginable and may never really be fully recognized or finalized but a list worth examination.

The cost in lives: Before it is over, well over 5000 American soldiers will have given the full measure of devotion and 50,000 more will have sacrificed a measure of life few of us can contemplate. This does not include the uncountable Iraqi deaths ranging anywhere between 100,000 and one million, an uncomprehendible loss given the size of Iraq’s population (equivalent of one million to 15 million US deaths over 5 years of war). The cost in quality of life for the 700,000 US troops who have serve and returned from Iraq will be seen in the future domestic abuse of drugs, alcohol, spouses and children, and increases in homelessness, suicides, murders and a variety of mental and physical health problems.

The economic costs: In advocating for approval to invade Iraq the Bush Administration calculated a total cost of $50-60 billion. When the top White House Economic Advisor, Lawrence B. Lindsey suggested the cost would be as high as $200 billion he was shown the door. The most recent calculations suggest the true economic cost will be at least 10 times what he predicted ($1 to 3 trillion) without counting the economic costs of dealing with future human, environmental, energy, social and political consequences.

Political costs: Bin Ladin’s top two goals in defeating the US was to divide us politically and break us economically. The war in Iraq won’t break us economically but it has weakened our economy and may have split the American people more politically than the Viet Nam war. Accusations of murderous treason are not uncommon. On the global level almost every nation that aligned behind us after 9-11 stands silent or against us in calls for assistance in Iraq or cooperation in dealing with Iran.

The moral costs: Waging an effective campaign against Al Qaeda will require winning the hearts and minds of the moderate Arab world. Our ‘Shock and awe’ invasion took extraordinary efforts to avoid collateral damage but it and the occasional exuberance of our boots on the ground or as Iraqi prison guards made us far more enemies than we have eliminated. Our invasion and occupation was a recruiting windfall for Al Qaeda. Our outsourcing of security to unaccountable Blackwater elite forces and the pittance of resources devoted to provisions of clean water and electricity for Iraqi people imply or directly demonstrate our real ‘American’ values.

Security costs: Even with total victory in Iraq American troops and businesses will not be welcomed if the fighting ever ends…and the Shiite majority government we leave behind will ally more with Iran than us. Our nation’s security depends on access cheap foreign oil. The war has increased the cost of oil, reduced our friendly access to it and could yet result in terrorist attacks that could destroy global oil production and availability significantly. There is also increasing evidence that Iraqi insurgents and Al Qaeda have honed their killing skills and spreading them in person and via the world wide web to every corner of our empire. There is clear evidence that the US invasion of Iraq inspired home grown terrorists in our allied nations and has also created them here in the US. “Fighting them there” ensures that we will eventually be fighting them here. Finally, in order to find and bring suspected terrorists to justice before catastrophic attacks we will need to make many more friends in the world. Especially more friends in the Arab world. Bush’s war only made us more enemies and diverted limited and precious resources away from the most important task of finding and capturing Al Qaeda’s leaders.

Blankley’s ‘victory in Iraq’ will come. But it will be hollow. And it may yet cost us everything. We can be sure that Bin Ladin is smiling.

Addendum: Blankely’s story of his Veterans’ Day commemoration at the Dallas Fort-Worth National Cemetery patriotically honored an American “eight-year-old – who idolized his fallen big brother” and “can hardly wait to be old enough to join up to finish his brother’s job”. I have no doubt that tens of thousands of Iraqi children can hardly wait to avenge their family losses as well. Blanklely goes on to say “Of course, we know that in this world, that job of warrior will never be done – as the post war period ever glides seamlessly into the new prewar period”. How trapped he is by his own thinking! Never ending war is not inevitable. War will stop one of two different ways. We will either extinguish ourselves as a species with the most powerful weapons imaginable…or adopt the wisest form of dispute resolution/prevention we have known since the twelve tribes of Israel – federation. World federation or global obliteration. War is no longer a sane option. In today’s world of ubiquitous WMD any victory will not last and ultimately will not be worth it. It’s time to wise up.

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