Thursday, November 02, 2006

Damned Fools

[posted by Callimachus]

This, if the popular reading of it is correct, is how you not only lose a war, but rot your honor in the process.

A U.S. soldier is captured; we're pretty sure we know who did it and where they are. We make a visible show of force to tighten the noose on the district that shelters them, and then the politicians pull the wires and the military stand down.

In a showdown for control of Baghdad, the Iraqi prime minister took orders from Moqtada al-Sadr, and instructed the U.S. military to withdraw from Sadr City. The American forces were trying both to stabilize the city but also to find a missing American serviceman. He is still missing.

Who won? Just look at the picture in the N.Y.T. story. And they know it. Sully is absolutely right here. This is shameful, humiliating, and far mor disrespectful of the real people who serve in the military than any John Kerry fumble-mouth play.

Stabilize the city and find the missing man? Probably impossible to do at the same time. Probably the problem with the whole operation. Petraeus months ago described it as trying to repair an airplane while it is in flight and under fire.

So when the contradiction forces you to the fork in the road, which way do you go? We took the Fallujah option, again. The worst of all options.

Never make battlefield-level military choices for political reasons.

Rather than sit down outside that neighborhood (and cordon it off as tight as Hillary Clinton's pursed lips) and say, "hand him over, tell us where he is, or suffer the consequences" and let the non-militia residents inside decide whose side they choose to be on, we sent a clear signal that the Americans don't really mean it.

Yes, babies would have gone hungry till it was settled. Yes Al-Jazeera and the BBC would have plastered the world with the images. But if you ever really want to stop the babies from going hungry, you have to break the power of the thuggery that runs that slum. You don't break something by negotiation. This was as good a chance as any we'll get.

That's the message: Americans don't really mean it. About anything. We won't back up even our most cherished principles if we can make them miserable enough. Even our honor. You don't think that counts for anything in the world, just because we jaded civilian suburbanites have outgrown such outmoded ideas? Think again.

Why would anyone in the Mideast who sees this man's fate (he's apparently Arab-American) take a risk to take our side? Anyone from Pervez Musharraf down to the curbside tea vendor in Najaf. Why should they?

What's just as bad is the message it sends to every person who puts on a uniform here in the U.S. "We won't abandon you ... unless we decide to. And try not to get your sorry ass captured in the month or so before an election, will you? It just causes us here at home no end of difficulties."

Sullivan's dudgeon has a hair trigger, but this one deserves everything it gets.

The U.S. military does not have a tradition of abandoning its own soldiers to foreign militias, or of taking orders from foreign governments. No commander-in-chief who actually walks the walk, rather than swaggering the swagger, would acquiesce to such a thing. The soldier appears to be of Iraqi descent who is married to an Iraqi woman. Who authorized abandoning him to the enemy? Who is really giving the orders to the U.S. military in Iraq?

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