Posted by Steven Hayward
Eliot Cohens ruminations on the Iraq war in todays Washington Post are not to be missed. His son, an Army Ranger, is about to ship out.
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I think Professor Cohen is correct in his analysis of the reasons for the war as well as the necessity of winning it. On the other hand, I think his judgment is somewhat colored by having a son serving in Iraq (or about to), particularly his harsh criticism of Bushs and the Pentagons conduct of the war. Personally, I think whats going on in Iraq is "Operation Bugzapper." This Administration knows (I think) that terrorist organizations are actually finite networks of fanatical (but narrowly rational) people. Why have we left Iraqs borders so open? Why arent we protecting our soldiers better? Why do we engage in "happy talk" about the war? For me, it adds up to a single thing...the Administration WANTS these foreign insurgents to enter Iraq and die there. In short, our young men and women are a kind of bait, and the ultimate goal is to "attrite" these terrorist networks (and, perhaps destroy them as we capture them and their records/plans).
Bush and Rumsfelt wont admit to this because (1) admitting it would ruin the strategy, and (2) no one likes the idea of using our young men and women as "bait." Nonetheless, this strategy has been used in most of our wars (albeit on the micro-scale, generally), and the nature of the "problem" (i.e., invisible, global networks of killers) make other more aggressive strategies difficult. I think the Administration is treating these terrorists as criminals in cooperating countries and trying to draw the rest into the "quagmire" that is Iraq.