When I play either a board military game or computer military game I play one of two ways to win. I either play a war of attrition or I win by overwhelming force. With few variations, this is how I play. I’m not an inspired tactician, or even a good tactician, but I also try not to be the reincarnation of General McClellan (Civil War).
My husband knows the way I play. I don’t know if you would call him inspired but if he can knock me out of the way I tend to play, he will win. Actually he almost always wins, though I have learned to throw a few surprises his way.
It has long been a military or even a business axiom to know ones enemy. But the only one who seems to have heeded that lesson was Osama Bin Laden, not our president or military leaders.
Early on Bin Laden told us he knew us. He told us we could not fight a war of attrition, but he could. Bush and all sort of laughed and said we could. Maybe we could, but Vietnam is still fresh and will be until those on both sides of the war (the protestors and those that fought) are no longer with us. Bush and company then proceeded to do many things which played into bin Laden’s hand and may prove him right. I want to highlight two.
First when facing an enemy who declares that he can withstand a war of attrition is to make sure the war never gets to that point. You don’t need to be a brilliant tactician to understand that. You are creative and you come in with overwhelming force. You move fast and you don’t forget history. Bin Laden hasn’t.
As far back as the Reagan years we have left areas when the death toll rose and we wondered why we were there. Even if one thought that after 9-11 it might be different, why risk it? If Bin Laden was right and we could not take a war of attrition, why send in a military that is far under strength for the job at hand? Why test his theory? Why prosecute this war in Iraq in a way that insures that it becomes a war of attrition?
If there was any doubt that we not only had problems remembering history or did not understand how to prosecute this war, it all should have been erased when Jessica Lynch’s supply convoy was attacked. The administration looked shocked! It acted as if an attack such as this were unheard of. But attacking supply lines, routes and convoys has been a constant military practice since long before Alexander the Great rolled through the area. Was this arrogance because we thought the enemy stupid?
We’ve done this before. Pappy Boyington (WWII) wrote about how he had been trained to think of the Japanese as bucked tooth simpletons in thick lensed glasses. But once fighting them in the AFG he realized that not only was that wrong but that stereotyped racism actually made him underestimate the enemy and under fight him as well. In sort he did not fight as well or to the best of his abilities. (After getting through the shock that the enemy was not as presented he then fought to the best of his ability)
Or were the problems in prosecuting this war correctly due to the incompetence of those planning this war? Not only was Lynch’s convoy ill protected ( lack of sufficient troops), but it didn’t even have the necessary armor.
The second failure I want to highlight here is a failure in leadership. Rumesfeld may want to rewrite history, but the fact is there is a man named Hans Blix who found no WMD. Not everyone believed that Saddam had WMD, not every intelligence report supported it. It has even come to light that the CIA massaged intelligence reports about WMD, or failed to give reports of opposing intelligence. We are can speculate as to why; a white house that is filled with “yes” men and fear of giving the president anything that does not support his already formed conclusions, retaliation for Saddam’s attempt on Bush Sr. life, oil, etc. of possible reasons for this, there is no shortage.
But the real face of all of this is that the White House did something it can never do when asking someone to serve and to die in it’s service, and that is lie to them as to why. Mothers, fathers, spouses and even a nation will begin to turn when the lie is discovered.
The lie shortens the ability for the public to support the war, no matter how long needed, or how many mistakes in it’s prosecution are made. An administration who lies to the American people to justify a war, undermines itself. And it shortens the nation's tolerance.