Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Other Way of War

[posted by Callimachus]

The contractors' work in Iraq was a bid to wage war as it has never been waged before. And as, alas, now that it is failing, the attempt likely never will be made again.

It was a continuation of the war that began in April 2003 and did not end with the fall of Baghdad, only changed form.

It was a creative combat, a constructive war. It brought the best skills Americans have -- the ability to fix things, to make things, to build systematically -- into Iraq. Instead of bombing schools, we raised them up out of the dust. And bridges, and power plants, and pipelines, and sewage treatment plants, and docks. It was the tape reel of a modern war played in reverse. There is a broken building, then the U.S. comes, then there is a working factory.

Make no mistake, this was war. The contractors, my friend included, were soldiers on the front lines. The reconstruction of Iraq was a tactic for victory, and its goal was to crush and humiliate a deadly foe. As combat with bombs and bullets unleashes the darker sides of human nature, constrained by military codes, in service of a political end, so this employed the best qualities in people, including their sense of doing good, making the world better, to the same purpose.

Was it wasteful? Of course it was. Most bombs dropped miss their targets, most bullets fired fail to strike an enemy. Are these things considered wasted when the battle's won?

This was a war that ought to have rallied those who dislike militarism but haven't gone completely off their heads. It was a better way to win. It was consistent with America's values. It could have worked. It ought to have worked.

Those who deride it publicly now may be sorry, privately, when the next round comes, that it did not.

Because now we are all the more likely, after the next calamity, to fight back under Bin Laden's terms. To him, this all is a simple clash of civilizations, a total war, and a fight to the death.

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