[Marxism] NY Times: How Bush can continue occupation, get backing for draft

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Apr 11 03:15:03 MDT 2004

New York Times editorial

The Story Line in Iraq

Published: April 11, 2004

Vietnam analogies are deeply imperfect when discussing the war in Iraq.
Still, it can't be a good sign for the Bush administration that so many
people have begun talking about the Tet offensive.

The young soldiers who were risking their lives last week in places like
Falluja were not born in 1968 when the North Vietnamese and their
supporters staged a multipronged attack on the United States forces
during the Tet holiday. They were eventually routed, but the offensive
marked the beginning of a shift in the attitude of the American public.
Slowly, former supporters of the war began asking what the point was.
The South Vietnamese allies appeared to be a weak reed; the North
Vietnamese and their supporters were obviously prepared to keep fighting
forever. The civilians caught in the middle wanted nothing but to be
left alone. The United States seemed trapped in a bad story, with no way
to change the plot.

It's not necessary to argue about the vast differences between the
Mideast and Southeast Asia, between Saddam Hussein and Ho Chi Minh. The
lesson of Tet that President Bush needs to embrace is that the American
people will faithfully follow a commander in chief through a difficult
course, but only if they have faith in the mission.

The current chaos in Iraq can be traced to decisions that were made
earlier in the invasion. Gen. Eric Shinseki ran into enormous political
flak when he estimated that several hundred thousand American troops
would be needed to stabilize the country, but right now he's looking
prescient. The disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the reliance on slightly
trained Iraqi security forces with dubious loyalties are also at least
partly to blame for the current problems. So is the Bush
administration's decision to invade without the help of the United
Nations or broad international support.

But if the goal was clear, and people understood how to reach it, Mtr.
Bush could compensate. He could even bolster the desperately straitened
military with a draft if Americans understood the need to sacrifice. But
the public was given the impression that the war in Iraq would be
sacrifice-free - for everyone but the military families. And the goal
has gone from destroying weapons of mass destruction to ousting a
repulsive dictator to stopping terrorism to establishing a free and
stable democracy in the Arab world.

It is hard for the American people to envision the road to a better Iraq
when they have not been introduced to Iraqi leaders with popular backing
who are committed to tolerance, civil rights and democracy. Even the
moderate Shiite clerics were shaky on these issues and now their
standing appears to have been weakened by the current surge of
anti-Americanism. The crackdown on former Baath Party leaders has left
the coalition forces with literally no one to negotiate with when it
comes to stopping the violence in Sunni areas. The feckless Iraqi
Governing Council created by the occupation authorities has lost
credibility by its mute passivity in the current crisis.

It is hard to accept the deaths of young men and women when all the
world's other military powers, save Britain, have chosen to sit this one
out. The ill-prepared troops who form the contributions of places like
Ukraine and Bulgaria seem to need protection themselves. With less than
90 days before the symbolic transfer of authority to an Iraqi governing
body, the United States has not even seriously started working out the
arrangements for bringing the United Nations into Iraq as a real

The rationale for the American military presence in Iraq has quickly
morphed into a negative one. If the troops leave, bloody civil war would
probably follow and Iraq, which had not been a haven for terrorists,
could easily become one. But if there is no vision of a workable exit
plan with a better outcome, even that terrible prospect will lose its
power to convince the public that this is a fight worth continuing.

What we need desperately is a clear mission, a believable strategy for
success, a morally viable exit plan and international involvement.
Instead, the administration's current strategy seems to be simply urging
perseverance. Staying the course is noble when the cause is right. But
perseverance for the sake of perseverance is foolhardy.

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