posted on September 05, 2006 16:32
It took us four years to defeat Hitler, two years to defeat the Kaiser and it took the North four years to defeat General Lee. In a few days we will have been fighting the terrorists for five years.
I know this is a new kind of war and people say we shouldn’t judge it by other wars. But is defeating Al Qaeda really tougher than defeating Hitler?
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says one of the problems is we are fighting this war with the Rumsfeld Doctrine – and not the Powell Doctrine (News and Observer, 8/17/06). He describes the difference this way: the Rumsfeld Doctrine is to use just enough troops to lose – while the Powell Doctrine is to use overwhelming force. He doesn’t put it this way but one is a bean-counter’s approach to war, while the other is a general’s approach.
The other problem might be called ‘The Sherman Doctrine’ versus the ‘Limited War Doctrine.’
The Sherman Doctrine is brutal. General Sherman said, War is hell, and he meant it and burned a good part of Georgia and South Carolina as a result. It takes real guts for a politician to stand up and defend the Sherman Doctrine because he’s got to defend things like, well, burning Atlanta.
‘The Limited War Doctrine’ is a much happier doctrine politically. First, we go in and surgically remove the enemy’s infrastructure and communications with laser guided bombs. Then we declare anyone in a uniform with a gun in his hands is an enemy – but, beyond that, we try to limit the brutality of war. The Limited War Doctrine is a noble theory. But, unfortunately, it has faltered where terrorists hide in the suburbs and store weapons in people’s homes and then say – for instance when Israel bombs the suburbs where they are hiding – Look how terrible that is, look at what Israel has done to these innocent people. Then someone – like the French Ambassador – falls over in a swoon.
Every day the war in Iraq is sounding more like another Vietnam and one reason is the Rumsfeld Doctrine. Fighting ‘limited’ wars may be good ‘politics’ – but it didn’t work in Vietnam or Korea and it doesn’t seem to be working today. Maybe General Sherman was right and there’s just no avoiding the brutality of war.Politically, the Democrats in Congress don’t like either the Rumsfeld Doctrine or the Powell Doctrine. Their doctrine is: ‘Get out of Iraq.’ But as Friedman says, “Unless Democrats persuade voters – in the gut – that they understand this larger challenge [of winning the broader war on terrorism] it’s going to be hard for them to win the Presidency.”
And what about Republicans? We are in almost total denial about the failure of the Rumsfeld Doctrine. We don’t want to talk about it. Or debate it. But we should. We need a strategy to win the war on terrorism and the Democrats sure aren’t offering one. And that strategy should include addressing the big unspoken problem: oil.
“Here we are,” Friedman writes, “in the biggest struggle of our lives and we are funding both sides – the US military with our tax dollars and the radical Islamists and the governments and charities that support them with our gasoline purchases…”
If we want to have a moral argument about war how about this one: Does it make sense for us to send our soldiers to fight in Iraq – and then let our oil dollars be used to fund the people who are fighting against them?
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