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August 11, 2008
A Time For Lines?By Greyhawk
The United States must provide a "very clear timeline" to withdraw its troops from Iraq as part of an agreement allowing them to stay beyond this year, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Sunday.This should be welcome news on all sides. Iraq is in an upward spiral. While "fragile" may be an appropriate adjective for that spiral it's also less so every day. And in spite of endless claims to the contrary, the US didn't intend to remain in Iraq in force indefinitely.
Based on this and other hopeful suppositions, the command’s planners projected what the American occupation of Iraq might look like. After the main fighting was over, there was to be a two- to three-month “stabilization” phase, then an 18- to 24-month “recovery” phase.And most unusually, the "timeline" is arguably favored by John McCain (May, 2008: "Senator John McCain declared Thursday that most American troops would be home from Iraq by 2013 and that the nation would be a functioning democracy with only "spasmodic" episodes of violence") and Barack Obama, who part ways only in the rhetoric employed to describe the process.
Unfortunately for both sides in that political debate, neither wanted to acknowledge the scope of military progress achieved last year (we won the war.) After all, Democrats had invested heavily in defeat, and Republican timidity to call victory what it was can perhaps be excused by valid concerns that Democrats would ridicule them because:
1. All "reasonable" estimates indicated it would take 10 years to quell an insurgency.
2. Violence had not (and has not) vanished entirely from Iraq.
3. The knowledge that only the losers get to determine when a conflict has ended, and that al Qaeda will always have someone willing to be the last man to die for a mistake.
But consider this, from October last year:
It's likely that an increasing percentage of the "opposition" brought in (or buried) as we increase neighborhood patrols and operations will be the local trouble makers referenced in the linked report above. Barring our withdrawal, at some inevitable point they will get the majority of our combat focus in Iraq. <...> Alignment of groups and individuals throughout Iraq is ambiguous, shifting, and exceptionally difficult to determine by Iraqis, let alone US forces. So the possibility exists that that point at which local thugs with no larger alignment - ideological or otherwise - become the predominant "foe" in Iraq may pass without our immediate knowledge. But as al Qaeda crumbles, other local and regional Sunni and Shia groups join the "concerned citizens" effort, and the Sadr faction takes long overdue consideration of a political future the possibility of passing that point grows with each day.While it adapted reasonably well to dealing with an organized "insurgency" (assuming a ten-year timeline is the "standard"), the US military is the wrong agency to deal with that sort of threat. But while it would be foolish to discount the Iranian influence and continued concerns with the Sadrist movement (if not Sadr himself - the two are distinct issues) I believe that day is in our rear view mirror. (But to continue the analogy - they are, however, still moving to catch back up...)
So I'm inclined to forgive the timid for missing the win. Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle the cries for withdrawal timelines have been consistent (and oddly enough, unrealistically consistent with that original 2003 plan...)
House and Senate negotiators reached agreement yesterday on war-funding legislation that would begin bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq as early as July, setting a goal of ending U.S. combat operations by no later than March.May, 2007:
Reid told FOX News last week that he would like to keep the Oct. 1, 2007, redeployment timeline in any new bill but that the votes are not likely there for passage.September, 2007:
Senator Barack Obama yesterday presented his most extensive plan yet for winding down the war in Iraq, proposing to withdraw all combat brigades by the end of next year while leaving behind an unspecified smaller force to strike at terrorists, train Iraqi soldiers and protect American interests....and consistently nuanced, too. September, 2007:
The leading Democratic White House hopefuls conceded Wednesday night they cannot guarantee to pull all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of the next presidential term in 2013.But the basis for those withdrawal demands - the war is lost, the surge has failed, etc. - have been consistently wrong.
In fact, one might argue that those who made them have been like a stopped clock. But here's the odd thing about stopped clocks - they're on the whole useless but right twice a day. And when that time comes the argument that they are still wrong is foolish. But Republicans are in danger of making that argument by allowing themselves to be backed into a position that a drawdown in Iraq must be opposed if for no other reason than because the Democrats favor it. Lets be clear on one thing: rushing out the door in victory is as wrong now as it would have been a year ago to flee in defeat. The war in Iraq can indeed still be "lost" - but in addition to exiting too quickly we can also lose by dragging our feet - and while they are two distinct and separate things we can't count on folks who didn't recognize victory to realize when it's time to leave.
And the "new" argument - that victory can't be defined and/or could never be worth the cost - should at least be acknowledged for what it is - another signal that the war is won. While that victory will never be acknowledged the verbiage of defeat will soon vanish altogether from the narrative, the media will eagerly forget motive, wrongly describe those who called for withdrawal as "prescient", but rightly declare those who oppose it when the time comes as wrong.
Timelines. Victory. Get used to saying them. (They're really just words...)
Posted by Greyhawk / August 11, 2008 4:01 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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