The Falluja Fallacy

The current Falluja campaign will be an important battle, but not a decisive encounter in the Iraq war. What Falluja has done is to expose, once again, the fallacy of the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq.

Before last April’s Falluja fiasco I cautioned that “excruciating patience, not passion” were required. After Americans capitulated to a “Falluja Brigade,” I suggested [they were] “Running for cover in Washington, as American troops are betrayed and abandoned in Iraq.” I feel sad to have been so right.

For over a year we have witnessed an Alphonse and Gaston routine concerning our military strength. “You first, no you first” has been the order of the day. The military knows there are not enough troops in Iraq, but no senior general will say so. The Bush administration, or at least SecDef Rumsfeld, may believe there are enough troops in Iraq, but always offers to send more, “if requested by the military.” Before the war a senior army general was chastised for saying it would take “hundreds of thousands of troops” to police Iraq–after the end of hostilities. He was right; the Bushies were wrong.

After marines and soldiers attacked Falluja this week there were counterattacks in Mosul and other cities. Five hundred (500) insurgents were reported to have stormed Mosul. In Ramadi, just thirty miles from Falluja, insurgents roam free. This is progress? This is success?

Defenders in Mosul were so short of troop strength they had to pull troops back from Falluja to defend that city. What is wrong with this picture? There are not enough fighting men and women to provide stability. It is an axiom of combat that when you are short of troops, casualties mount and hostilities are protracted. Call it the Powell Doctrine or call it common sense; maybe you can fool the voters but you can’t fool the enemy.

This week a U.S. general reflected delusional thinking in an op-ed piece for the New York Times. But out of his myths came a grain of truth: we are fighting an “insurgency.” But insurgencies, unlike wars, are open-ended. How long is this going to go on? I was not surprised by the command-and-control shown by the insurgents this week. It portends a long struggle.

The fallacy of the Bush administration’s policy is now laid bare: there are not enough troops, and because we lack troops conditions are worsening, not improving in Iraq.

Over a year ago, commercial airlines expected to return to Baghdad in September 2003. Now the airport has been closed. The road between the airport and city center is so dangerous only armored vehicles can provide protection. Journalists are caged in Baghdad cantonments.

I was a military critic before the war, and I was a civilian critic in Iraq after the end of “major hostilities” in April 2003. Ramadi and Falluja were relatively peaceful, if seething, cities when I visited them. We had control and lost it. I predicted a “revolutionary war.” We got it. One news network considered me as a possible expert commentator, but I was deemed “too negative” to be right before hostilities began. I guess I am still too negative, and too honest.

What is the sense of clearing “insurgents,” then redeploying and allowing the insurgents to return with impunity? Viet-Nam anyone? Americans would clear Viet-Cong/NVA infested areas, only to move on and allow the opposition forces to regroup and return. Using Viet-Nam as an analogy may be trite, but it is apposite. Does anyone doubt that insurgents will return to Falluja once they are finished disrupting Mosul and other cities in the north?

General William Westmoreland broke the back of war supporters in Congress when he told President Johnson that Viet-Nam required hundreds of thousands of additional soldiers. In short order “Westy” and LBJ were gone. Now it is obvious that at least 100,000 more troops are needed in Iraq to provide adequate security for the transition contemplated by President Bush. Will Congress provide these additional forces? Will the American people tolerate an endless colonial war? I doubt it.

My comments have nothing to do with “supporting our troops.” No one is against our troops; we all support our men and women in uniform. What critics of Bush policies oppose is delusional thinking in Washington that leads to destructive consequences on the battlefield. How many times will we make the same mistakes? Who is going to be left holding the bag in this fiasco? Iraqis? American forces?

In the presidential election Senator Kerry never achieved traction on the Iraq issue because his own policy was close to a mirror image of President Bush’s. Now Kerry is gone, the election over. Where does Bush go from here?

Falluja provides a tough question. What will the answer be?

The Falluja fallacy has been exposed; who will provide the solution?