Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On welcoming defeat in Iraq

Josh Manchester, writing in TCS Daily, wonders why it is that intellectuals love defeat. I particularly liked the quote from the Iranian blogger who demolishes the notion of partitioning Iraq between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd (an idea that appeals to me on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, though I always think better of it by morning):

"Just imagine it this way [sic] partitioning Iraq will create a small Iran in the south of Iraq and a small Afghanistan in the middle of it!"


At 8:19 AM, Blogger David J. Betz said...

I can't speak for intellectuals any more than James Carroll can. However, I must admit that I hear that sort of thing a lot and it drives me crazy. My belief is that this sort of thinking stems from a mix of ignorance (of many things, notably history, culture, strategy and warfare) which leads them to ignore or downplay the consequences of defeat, arrogance (based, ironically, on a confidence in Western material superiority) which leads them to believe that they are invulnerable, and indulgence of the actions of whoever they perceive of the weak 'other'.

Edward Luttwak said it better, 'The West has become comfortably habituated to defeat. Victory is viewed with great suspicion, if not outright hostility. After all, if the right-thinking are to achieve their great aim of abolishing war they must first persuade uis that victory is futile or, better still actuallly harmful. To use STallinist language, one might say that the struggle against war requires the prior destruction of the very idea of victory. Accordingly, we are being told insistently that it is very unfoortunate for the British that they have won the Falkllands War: now they will have to garrison the islands at great cost, and sooner or later they will have to fight again--unless they give up their reconquest--thsu making victory futile.' On the Meaning of Victory, 1986, p. 289.

Which is not to say I think we should hold on in Iraq necessarily. I think it is plausible that the situation is unrecoverable. In which case it makes sense to husband one's forces for the next test. But I do not think we should be hasty in making that judgment because the consequences are very grave indeed.


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