Before I begin dismantling the rhetorical scatology that was Obama's speech (see next post), I would ask a question that has vexed me for many a year now;
Why does the military find it necessary to label things things, especially wartime operations, the way it does? Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and now, Operation New Dawn, are merely examples of the Madison Avenue mindset that seems to dominate military operations these days. Of course, these names are a fair bit better-sounding than the activities they're coined to misrepresent; after all, how many people would support something if you called it "Operation Kill Terrorist Douchebag Towelhead Camelfuckers"? It's certainly a far better description of what the actual mission is supposed to be, but I guess it offends the sensibilities of today's soft-headed pseudo-intellectuals who run our government machinery and media. Even the activities of War seem to be tailored to make them more media-friendly. I know this was "one of the lessons of Vietnam", but sometimes it appears as if someone has taken this concept way too far.
At best, these made-for-bumper-sticker monikers often lead to something in diametric opposition to what the War on Terror is supposed to be; a systematic destruction of terrorist groups, a degrading of their ability to conduct operations, and leaving a lot of dead jihadis in their wake. As soon as you call something "Iraqi Freedom" the focus seems to shift from killing bad guys and making would-be bad guys think three or four times before taking up arms against the United States or terror bombing a Sbarro's in Cincinnati, to building schools, roads and water treatment plants for people who don't deserve any of it, and are certainly ungracious when you give them to them, free-of-charge. Also, the word "Freedom" doesn't necessarily apply in quite the proper context; freedom from what? Saddam Hussein? There will be another Saddam along any day now, if not in Iraq, then someplace else, and if the next incarnation does appear in Baghdad, we'll probably regret having spoken of freedom and democracy and ending combat operations, because that individual will, probably, have been once protected by U.S. guns and the recipient of massive U.S. political and monetary largess. If it all doesn't all lead to some form of Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf. An even worse scenario.
All Operation Iraqi Freedom did was to eliminate Saddam Hussein in order to make room for someone potentially worse. Am I arguing it was better to leave Saddam Hussein in power? Hell no. Am I making the argument of "better the devil you know...?", certainly not. I am making the argument that American lives and treasure were expended to "give freedom to" a bunch of desert-dwelling scumbags who have no idea what that is, or what it's good for, and that an Administration which has no stomach for War (even a justified one) is basically spinning retreat as Victory. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt that a democratic-free-market-pluralistic Iraq will ever emerge. The only way it could have would have been for the United States and it's allies to engage in a war so terrible as to make the average Muslim think about the fundamental weaknesses and failures of his culture, and then expend the energy necessary to bring about reform from within. We did not do that because it would have been very messy and would have deprived the numbskulls in the Pentagon and government of a really neat slogan.
Note to democrats: do not take a Victory Lap over this"Official end to combat operations in Iraq", because I can promise you that within a generation (perhaps sooner), we'll be back because the job wasn't done properly the first two times we were there. Besides, it's not like you actually did anything to contribute to "Victory", notwithstanding "voting for it before you voted against it", opposing the Surge in Iraq before you copied it in Afghanistan, accusing American troops of War Crimes, attempting to destroy the reputations of the Generals in charge before embracing them as your saviours, your indecent glee over Abu Ghraib, and giving aid and comfort to the Enemy with your political posturing and rhetoric about the subject of War.
Note to republicans: don't you dare try to spin this as a Victory, either. Victory would have been a sweeping cultural change that would have seen Muslims evolve into human beings ready to deal with modernity without resort to violence, after a suitable period of resorting to drinking out of mud puddles and subsisting on thistles and insects, instead of what we got: a new generation of unreformed Muslims who will inhabit an even worse country than what we found, and who will, predictably, blame a decade of American occupation for it in all respects. They will see signs of that occupation everywhere, in everything from flush toilets to university libraries.
"Victory" in Iraq would have -- and should have -- entailed more bodies, more misery, more abject counter-terror, designed to send two distinct and unmistakable messages:
a) Don't fuck with the United States, and
b) Get your heads out of the mental constipation of a 7th Century death-cult of extreme superstition promulgated by a child-molesting mental case, and join the rest of us in the 21st, you assholes.
But that would have been insensitive, wouldn't it? Those who think that way have forgotten the lessons of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
In the end, the entire debacle of the War in Iraq can be summed up, thus: a Great, Big, Expensive Public Relations Campaign...with Guns.
I'm not certain that will exactly bring much comfort to all those who gave a son, daughter or a limb, or cause them to celebrate Victory.