Friday, November 24, 2006

Good Riddance to God Save Us

God Save Us to Good Riddance

As the results of the recent election became clear, my first concern in the new political environment was for my brothers and sisters in arms, especially those still on the front lines. My concern for their welfare grew exponentially since they were now going to be subjected to the whims of many who have never expressed an understanding of the war on terror or ever saw the need to provide a plan for fighting it.

But those were my concerns. I wondered what theirs were. So, I solicited the thoughts of soldiers and Marines who have been there, are likely to go [back] to Iraq, or are on the ground there. I used an open-ended, generic question about the elections and Rumsfeld so they could tell me exactly what was on their minds.

The responses I received from this diverse group of patriotic warriors included everything from “good riddance” to “God help us all,” both ends of the spectrum sincere in their views, including the plea to the Almighty for protection.

On the one hand, there were multiple responses that the elections and removal of Rumsfeld is a victory for the insurgents. It was a repeated theme. After all, it has been the strategy of the terrorists and insurgents to defeat the will of the Americans because they can’t defeat the American military. The elections have now given them a strategic victory. As a result, they shared concerns this will give a huge boost to the aggressiveness of the terrorists who will now be more likely to attack Americans. If they attack and kill even more Americans, given the message we’ve just sent, that should serve to accelerate the “cut and run” mentality which already exists.

This will be further aggravated by the expectation the Democrats will decrease funding and troop strength, thus making our troops more vulnerable and subject to even more attacks. This sentiment is rooted in the well-known attitudes and comments of leading Democrats. Specifically noted were John Kerry’s comments on their intelligence and his continuing status in the party. How can they trust a party to do right by them with such a prominent figure who thinks so poorly of them? Nancy Pelosi’s view that Iraq is a situation to be resolved and not a war to be won won’t help the Democratic cause among those who know they are bleeding and dying in a war.

On the other hand, the “good riddance” crowd and others expressed relief Rumsfeld was gone and hope that a new SecDef will bring new ideas and connect what has been disconnected on the ground, but there was some dismay at the President’s new selection. Why do we keep recycling people? There was also a sentiment that the Republicans had their chance, blew it, and maybe it was time to give someone else a try.

About two-thirds of the respondents noted the need for more troops and had questions about Rumsfeld’s complicity in the number of troops that were allegedly needed. There are many questions and frustrations about the tactics being used in Iraq and a reliance on technology instead of troops. They shared the success stories of Iraqi and American foot patrols where enough troops existed in a given area to influence the battle space. But there was a lack of troops to repeat these successes on a consistent and thorough basis. They also relayed frustrations with vehicle-centric tactics which weren’t effective.

I can’t help but wonder where in the chain of command the “disconnect” must exist between what they need and what is provided and directed. If we still don’t have enough troops and the ones we have aren’t being led to employ the right tactics, at what point in the chain are we wrong? Although responsibility rests at the top, has it been the very top making wrong decisions or somewhere else down the chain? If we answer that, can we move quickly to victory?

All but one believed that leaving before the job was finished would be risky or a mistake. The holdout to the group wondered what victory was because no one’s ever given a clear, definable picture of victory. The others felt the commitment to finish the job was either now in jeopardy or our defeat was now a sealed fate. All but the lone holdout expressed that cutting and running would be detrimental to the safety of the troops, the U.S., or the world community.

The newly empowered Democrats should take note of that. Those who stand toe-to-toe with Islamic extremists every day, whether they agree with the new political environment or not, understand the enemy we face, how long we will have to fight them, and the consequences of surrendering the fight. Even today there are those, including some Republicans, who have been unwilling to admit, acknowledge, or comprehend this. Their attitude is that it’s only some sort of extremist “neocon” view of the world.

But those who took the time to answer my question are obviously not “neocons” and understand the consequences of this war. It all now hinges on how many politicians, Democrat and Republican alike, have the political will to accept that and whether or not they have the ability to define victory and the fortitude to fight for it.

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