Monday, December 27, 2004

War is hell

Anthony Cordesman speaks the unwelcome truth.

[Last week's] attack [in Mosul] rouses the instinct to make force protection the immediate priority for United States forces in Iraq. No American wants Americans soldiers to be vulnerable.

These instincts, however, are wrong. The United States can win in Iraq only through offensive action. It cannot afford to make every American base a fortress, or to disperse scarce manpower and other military resources in force-protection missions. United States forces have to be mobile and able to redeploy where the threat is - even though such redeployments often mean moving forces to vulnerable areas. If the Pentagon concentrates on protecting troops in the short run, the war will last longer and total casualties will be greater. Worse, the United States will simply never win. . .

War is not about eliminating risks; it is about managing them. America should do everything it can to manage its risks in Iraq, and the military is constantly learning and adapting. So, however, are America's enemies - and they understand they can only win politically, not militarily. This in part explains the attacks earlier this month on Shiites in Karbala and Najaf, which killed 68 Iraqis and wounded about 175. It also helps explains last week's attack in Mosul; the insurgents knew the bombing would receive extensive news coverage in the United States, and they no doubt are aware of the results of recent polls that show rising opposition to the war among Americans. Why not try to divide Americans and Iraqis the way they are trying to divide Sunnis and Shiites?