Tuesday, May 02, 2006

By Jingo!

Retired Major General Robert Scales takes a swipe at the authors of Cobra II, saying we can't judge the war until its done and notes that three years into World War 2, you might also have taken a pessimistic look. I agree, to a point, with his first concern. Iraq may still be winnable, but the public seems to have given up. I think using World war 2 as an analogue is unfair as the US was clearly winning in 1944. Consider the state of the world in Dec 1941 The Axis was truly aggressive with parts of China, the Soviet Union, France, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (all French Indochina,) Greece, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands all under occupation. Not too mention puppet regimes in Hungary, Thailand, Romania and Bulgaria (and maybe Finland.) Our current war in Iraq is entirely preventative, which is completely unlike WW2.

It does bear comparison to the Spanish-American war, which ended tidily for the US. Secretary of State Hay called it a "Splendid Little War" although I've read he meant this ironically. That quick conventional victory led to the drawn out fight for the Philippines that led to over 4,000 US combat deaths. It's a little surprising that some who support a war of civilizations against Muslims think this war was just boffo, and circulate a possible urban legend about Black Jack Pershing and his treatment of the Moros. Despite the jingo tone of the book, I highly recommend Max Boot's Savage Wars of Peace for an accessible history to the period.

Now Scales is no hack, which means we should at least listen to his perspective. He is a respected scholar who has headed the Army War College. He wrote this book on how firepower is not always useful in limited war. If you don't mind 300 page PDFs you can get it for free here. I just think he could have made his argument more convincing even with an analogy to 1864 rather than 1944.

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