Our new envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, suddenly discovers what all the rest of us with any knowledge of military tactics and history have known since 2002. Let me suggest MY reason Bush chose to invade Iraq:
Imagine this: A guy goes crazy, invades and shoots up his neighbor’s house. The police come and chase him back into his own home, blocks off the neighborhood and calls him on the phone. He says, “come and get me!” Say you’re the police, do you jump into his bedroom window or do you try to talk him out, even to the point of daring him to come out and chase the police away.
You know you will do anything you can to avoid jumping into that window, jumping into a dark room known only to the shooter!
Effectively, what Bush and his generals did, whether via strategy or luck, was to draw the Al Qaeda terrorists out into the open, onto a battlefield we thought was ideal: accessible by sea, with allies on 3 sides, mostly desert, well known and analyzed due to a decade of war planning done since the Gulf War a decade earlier, with a government condemned by the United Nations, actively shooting at us, and known to greatly weakened. And it worked! We easily took over the country and fairly quickly the terrorists poured in over the porous borders where they presented themselves in front of our troops and died in large numbers.
What we failed to realize was that Iraq was in far more internal disarray than we imagined. Then we screwed up by disbanding the army and allowing looting. Iraq became a ‘tar baby’… We couldn’t put it down until we fixed it, as best we could. We thought that the people of Iraq were capable, willing and disposed to quickly setup a democratic government and take over security responsibilities. Instead we found a population that had largely been raised as slaves of Saddam, fearful of each other and expecting us to solve all their problems for them. It was much harder than expected.
Afghanistan IS much harder than that: no resources, no education, no history of democracy, no logistical access (for either war or commerce), unforgiving terrain, dependence upon a massive drug trade, surrounded by politically unstable regimes or ungoverned territory. Once Bin Laden escaped over the border into safe havens in the mountains, chasing him there would be like “jumping into the bedroom window”.
When candidate Obama visited Afghanistan and made his promises about Afghanistan, he apparently didn’t appreciate the problem. I doubt General Petraeus can easily have the impact he had on Iraq given the limited resources of Afghanistan. We are very much reduced to encouraging Pakistan to drive the terrorists out of their territory. The real hope is that Iraq will become the “shining example” of a secular democracy in the heart of the middle east that Bush dreamed for, but was not able to achieve quickly.
The real problem is not just with Bin Laden, terrorism or Islam. The problem are tribalism, dictatorship, ignorance and poverty throughout this part of the world. May they quickly find their way to peace, prosperity and that all our common God offers to those who turn away from violence and intolerance. May Iraq teach them that it pays for people to work together toward peace. May President Obama recognize this and achieve a miracle in Afghanistan.