Monday, January 01, 2007

Dying embers stand forgotten

If you want to cut through the unending tide of Iraq talk, I suggest you read Every War Must End by Fred Ikle, a Reagan era defense official. In concise words and pages (it's only 120 pages long) Ikle explores how leaders fail to plan how to end wars, and worse, once the war is launched leaders tend to find reasons not to end it. For Ikle, the key question is what is in the nation's interest. Would the nation be better off in the long run if it finds a way to end the war now or if it prolongs it? He condemns the English, French and Germans for wasting a chance to end WWI in 1916 and lauds Lenin for giving up much to the Germans in the Treat of Brest Litovsk in order to maintain the Bolshevist state. He also gives great acclaim to the first Bush team for ending the first Iraq war as well as they did.

Ikle has harsh words for those who label political opponents traitors for wanting to end wars early. He notes there are true traitors who seek personal gain at the expense of the nation, but that most of those trying to end wars early have the best interest of the nation in mind. He laments the lack of a like term for those who prolong wars to the deteriment of the nation. He says the best word we have is adventurer, but it fails to be adequately condemnatory.

The appropriateness to the Iraq debate is telling. We are told that we have to persevere as it would betray those who have died. How is it in the nation's or the living members of the armed services to do that. The key question is what is the best strategic position we can hope to attain in post-war Iraq. This is unclear and is dependent on the actions of others. Ikle also has a good discussion of how those seeking to prolong wars have an overestimation of their own side's stamina and an underestimation of their opponents. Here again, the yearly refrain of the insurgency with just a few more months in it comes to mind.

This book will lead to much thinking and make you despise the talking heads so much more.

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