Victory Does Not Make It So
By Michael Shannon
We all know the one that says, "victory has a thousand fathers
but defeat is an orphan." Well that old saw remains true as
far as it goes but - if you will pardon the familial pun -
we seem to have forgotten that before defeat can truly become
an orphan somebody on the losing side has to cry, "Uncle."
Of all the things that have gone wrong in Iraq over these
past months, that one seemingly trivial omission is at the
root of them all.
The Iraqi army may have been thoroughly whipped on the field
of battle, the command and control structure of the Hussein
regime may have been systematically dismantled, the heirs
apparent to the throne may have been killed, and the man who
spawned and nurtured them captured and humiliated for all
the world to see, but still nobody on their side of the ledger
has ever uttered the words, "we surrender."
As history has shown countless times - that goes for, among
others, the Continental Army at Morristown and the Viet Cong
at Hue - if you are engaged in armed conflict with an enemy
that has a "refuse to lose" credo at their core, you have
a big time problem. As has been increasingly self-evident
over the course of the last year or so: the American led effort
in Iraq has such a problem.
During the week long celebration of the life of Ronald Reagan
a great deal of attention was paid to the claim that as president,
Mr. Reagan was responsible for the West winning the Cold War.
While such a claim can and will be argued in detail from now
until the end of recorded history, there is a basis in fact
to it. What was completely overlooked in the wave of adulation
which poured forth in the passing of Mr. Reagan was that,
as stated above, his victory would not have been at all possible
if his opponent had not willingly conceded defeat. While Mr
Reagan is hailed as a hero, it is with historic and tragic
irony that his primary antagonist Mikael Gorbachev is summarily
dismissed as a loser.
There is no denying the Soviet Empire had systemic and pandemic
flaws and weaknesses. The combination of state control of
all economic activity coupled with a totalitarian suppression
of free expression for decade after decade had caused a complete
ossification of Soviet society. But as fatally flawed as the
Soviet Union was, to think that they would not have made a
horribly formidable enemy even at such a late hour is revisionist
nonsense. The two human dinosaurs that immediately proceeded
Gorbachev in office, Yuri Andropov and Constantine Chernenko,
had no intention of going down without a fight. Had such a
fight been triggered by the early, and to Soviet eyes, very
ominous saber rattling by the Reagan administration, any proclamation
of a resulting American victory would have been a malevolent
impossibility as there wouldn't have been enough of either
side left standing to proclaim anything at all.
It was left to Mr. Gorbachev to grasp this realization and,
to his everlasting credit, he choose another path. Gorbachev
had been severely chastened by the deaths of several dozen
protesters in the then-Soviet Republic of Latvia a few weeks
earlier. He knew that the carnage in East Germany, or any
of the other satellite nations, would far exceed that toll
if push came to shove. When he informed the hard line Chancellor
of East Germany, Erich Honeker, that the Red Army would not
leave their barracks in the event of an uprising of the East
German people, Mr. Honecker knew he was powerless without
such support and soon thereafter Mr. Reagan got his heretofore
unimaginable wish, and the wall came tumbling down.
Unfortunately we have no one of such wisdom and vision as
exhibited by Gorbachev on the opposing side in Iraq, with
the possible exception of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
(Had this gentlemen chosen to throw his full support behind
the spring uprising led by the far more radical and aggressive
Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the situation in Iraq would have
very quickly devolved into a level of mayhem and anarchy that
would have made the current mess pleasant by comparison.)
Because of this, the United States and it allies are faced
with the daunting task of fighting an enemy that shows absolutely
no intention of accepting their fate.
Mr Bush would love nothing more than to make a big show
of the scheduled handover of "sovereignty" to the newly formed
Iraqi government on June 30. His heart would race with unabashed
joy if he could show the world how right he was in his grand
undertaking. Unfortunately for him, the last time he got all
dressed up, threw a big party and declared victory in Iraq
was about five thousand American dead and wounded ago.
contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org