The pieces on the board are starting to annoy me

Clifford May, a man who never actually served but who, nonetheless, talks a good game, says we don’t know what we are doing in Iraq:

They will report, too, that average Iraqis are frustrated – “tearing their hair out,” was how I heard it phrased on National Public Radio – because Americans have not done whatever is required to make them safe.

The problem, of course, is that Americans don’t know what is required. Iraqis may genuinely find it difficult to believe that a superpower hasn’t managed to figure that out. But we haven’t.

Everyone has heard the truism that generals fight the last war. In recent decades, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, Pentagon planners created a military machine designed to deter any Great Power that might arise — a fighting force that could not be challenged on the high seas, in the skies or on the plains of Europe.

They didn’t foresee how unlikely it was that such a war would be fought again – certainly not over the next half century or so. By contrast, it is almost inevitable that we will spend many difficult years engaged in “small wars,” hunting down unlawful combatants wherever they hide, train and plot. Preparing for this kind of war was not a Pentagon priority in the past.

You will notice that May conveniently avoids mentioning Viet Nam, possibly because the Killian memos were fake, so Viet Nam probably never happened.

Now, America’s military leaders – and the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan – must struggle to learn how to defeat a clever, ruthless and elusive enemy. They must learn the hard way: by doing, by experimenting, by making mistakes, by suffering casualties.

The shorter version of this is that the military brass, many of whom did not want to go into Iraq while pointing out that we didn’t have the manpower to do so since we were still fighting that earlier war in Afghanistan (the one that the neocons found so dreary) were overruled by the likes of Cheney, Wolfowitz, and sundry other chickenhawks who whispered in the boy king’s ear, and now here we are where we shouldn’t be, 1034 dead and for nothing.

Not that this will keep May up at night:

If they fail it will mean not merely that Iraq will be lost and that Iraqis will return to life under the jackboot of some despot. It also will mean that Osama bin Laden and other Jihadis will have developed a weapon that can defeat the Great Satan, a model they can — and will — adapt to other parts of the world.

As for the expensive and sophisticated military machine that the United States has assembled, that would be a white elephant. Why have the capability to conquer Baghdad within weeks if, a short while later, Baghdad has to be given back to the enemy, or to others equally hostile?

Certainly, no nation with a military so unsuited to its mission could be called a superpower.

But America’s fighting men and women are not likely to accept such an outcome. The military may be the only bureaucracy that transforms itself – because the price of inertia really is death.

And if a few thousand, or even ten thousand soldiers, have to die because May and the neocon fratboys thought it sounded like a good idea at the time, well, too goddam bad. They should have found a job at a think tank where war is just an afternoon game of Risk and afterwards everyone goes out for beers.

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....