Lots of talk this week about the strategy for dealing with Iraq. The Iraq Focus Group has supposedly concluded their meetings and is ready to present some recommendations to the President. This is, as you might imagine, a topic that is of great interest to those of us over here. First, there is always a chance that our tour could be extended. Even writing that is causing me pain. I would put the odds at not likely for our Brigade. We are Nat'l Guard and the majority of the Brigade will end up doing over 18 months of active duty, so I would think that we would be about last on the list. But it could happen as the easiest way to bring up troop levels is to extend troops that are already in theater as we are already here, trained, and experienced. We are soldiers, so if given the orders, we'll follow them, but I one for am hoping and praying that we come home when scheduled.
I have a little tool on this blog that lets me see who is visiting, and where they come from. The nice thing is that it shows where others have linked to my blog, which is always interesting. I got a hit around Thanksgiving from a message forum where the war was being debated. The poster, a gentleman named Sang, used a quote from my Thanksgiving post to bolster his argument that the troops over here see the war a little different than those of you back at home, and that morale is generally pretty good. The response was that I didn't know what I was talking about, and was just saying that to justify being here. Whatever. You know, if you want to protest the war go ahead, you have that right, and I will protect that right no matter how much I may disagree with you. But don't tell me what I think, or how you know more about what is going on here then I do because you watch the news. I don't think so. The media does on thing well reporting the war, and that is telling you how many people died yesterday. Everything else is hit or miss. Michelle Malkin has a great post up about the AP using unvalidated sources to spread enemy propaganda. They even use sources that they have been warned are not credible. Whatever they need to get their headline. Where am I going with this? I guess the point, if I have one, is that yes, we do want, even need, the war to mean something. But that doesn't mean that we are grasping at false news or making up stories. We'll let the AP handle that. Generally, I think most see that this effort is worth it, and the consequences of not succeeding are real and painful.
Now, with that being said, I personally have been struggling with how we will know that we have succeeded over here. Or to put it another way at what point can we come home and feel good about it? There are a lot of people smarter than I writing a lot on the topic. It seems to me that there are 2 camps on each side of the debate. On the pro-war camp, there are the folks that feel that the War On Terror is necessary is to prevent the spread of Islamofascism, and that military action is necessary to show our enemies that we mean business. This is the preemptive strike doctrine.
The second group on the pro-war side believes that leaving Iraq before it is stable will cause a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. You can read an example of this at the Rolling Stone of all places (credit to the Hammer for finding this gem). I'm haven't yet seen a counter argument to this yet, although I'm sure it is out there.
On the flip side, there are those that are against the war because of faulty pre war intelligence and they don't like the President. Basically there weren't any WMDs so we shouldn't be here, bring the troops home, etc, etc. What bothers me is about this line of thinking is that in order to think this way, you have to be convinced that the President is dishonest, immoral, and manipulative. I believe this be false. If anything, the President has not wavered from his belief that this war is the right thing to do, even in the face of continued, fierce opposition. If he was simply in it for personal gain/politics, wouldn't he have changed his tactics 2 years ago and left Iraq to defend itself? And, the same people that decry the President as an idiot, a moron, and too stupid to know how to do his job want you to believe that he is also a mastermind of manipulation. I don't think you can have it both ways.
Finally, there is a group that believes that fighting the War on Terror with a conventional army is a non starter, and that you can't treat terrorists like nation-states and fight them force on force. If you are against the war this seems to me to be an intelligent reason why, as you can definitely argue that we don't know how our actions here are impacting the people who would do us harm. An excellent synopsis can be found at Intel Dump (third/last story down), a blog that I've recently added to my weekly reading list. Good coverage on both sides of the issues. They have a few different writers, but the head guy is an Army Officer who spent some time over here so that usually lends to increased credibility in my book.
What do I think? First of all, part of the problem is that most of the information on this topic is opinion. There are very little facts that are offer any support, which makes it difficult to make a good decision. The key question for me is whether or not we are making America safer by "staying the course." Are we tying up Bin Laden and his cronies from making plans to attack America or are we creating more terrorists? Does our willingness to commit our troops show our enemies that attacking us is futile, and make them think twice about their next attack? Well, I think that the answer is yes, we are safer at home by fighting over here. But I sure wish I had more information to go on. I do think we need to adjust fire a little bit and mix things up some. More focus on training Iraqis and less on Americans doing the fighting. More money to rebuild infrastructure, add jobs, and increase the standard of living. More pressure on Syria and Iran to keep their terrorists at home and not over here. More int'l support which is of course a tough one due to the way this went down. I think avoiding mass genocide in and of itself is reason enough to be here. Hopefully, we are also spreadking democracy and deterring terrorism at the same time.