The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tragic Lessons--John McCain on Iraq

Today, I'm working on a review for my paid column with the Claytong, WI Hometown Gazette.  Mostly, I do book reviews, some classic fiction with modern relevance for current events, but many on modern works of politics, war, and economics.  For this month's article I'm reviewing a documentary movie that was made in 2002, "The Fog of War," which are some raw and unguarded interviews with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and about the 11 political-military lessons he learned during the 1960s, emphasing the U.S. war in Southeast Asia.  (Look for my expanded review essay in the June 1st issue of The Cepia Club Strategy Gazette).  Ironically, I had been planning a blog entry on some statements given this week by Presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, during his campaign announcement on the "lessons of Iraq."

McCain is quoted in columnist David Broder's syndicated article on April 27th as saying:

"We all know the war in Iraq has not gone well.  We have made mistakes and we have paid grievously for them. We have changed the strategy that failed us, and we have begun to make a little progress. But in the many mistakes we have made in this war, a few lessons have become clear. America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success, and unless all relevant agencies of government are committed to that success. We did not meet this responsibility initially. And we must never repeat that mistake again."

McCain, long a supporter of Bush Administration policy in Iraq, has begun distancing himself from the President, and for political reasons to capture anti-Bush independent voters. McCain's posturing on the mistakes that he has until now endorsed the entire time may be just politics as usual. But what I hope to help people understand is that politics as usual, the usual political class that we have empowered as a nation, keeps making the same mistakes.

The lesson that McCain refers to was the same lesson the U.S. supposedly learned in Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia.

In Korea, once Red China intervened, the unification of North and South Korea was no longer a reasonable policy. Truman rightly decided not to escalate the war, but Truman fell into the trap of playing a role Mao Zhe-dung's complicated political opera to use the Korean War to solidify his own communist regime and his standing among communist movements. Instead of terminating the war by agreeing to one communist demand--the return of communist prisoners of war--the war dragged out for another two years, at great cost in American and South Korean lives. Eisenhower, when he became president in early 1953, essentially agreed to the demand but also threatened the use of atomic weapons if the war did not end soon, something Truman never threatened. Rational leaders in the Soviet Kremlin understood the consequences for themselves if the war did not end and nuclear weapons were used. Following Stalin's death in March 1953, the war was quickly terminated within three months right where it began but with a million Koreans, 500,000 Chinese, and 50,000 Americans dead. Truman had committed America to a limited war that had no political plan other than not stopping the war until the other side gave in. The result in July 1953 was the same stalemate that was obvious in May 1951.  Truman may very well have allowed the war to go on for so long because the "loss of China" to the communists in 1949 hurt the Democrats as a party. He needed to stand up for Korea if this were true.

Vietnam is another of the brutal lessons learned that Americans are doomed to relearn as long as the same military-industrial-political class is allowed to dominate that has been in power since the end of World War II.  In Vietnam, there was no reason to fight communism as an ideology in Southeast Asia. The area was unimportant in geo-politics. The North Vietnamese had never been and will never be puppets of the Chinese, communist or otherwise. The U.S. fought with massive commitments of men, their lives, and national treasure. Again, Democratic President escalated the war in Vietnam because he was most likely afraid of losing a country to communism.  The Democrats had lost China, almost loss Korea, and couldn't afford to look weak against communism.  The escalated war only furthered the breakdown of moral restraint by all sides in the conflict, killing  2 or 3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans. The greatest error in Vietnam was not having a political objective clearly pursued by all forms of hard and soft power. Johnson did not want to risk war with the Soviet Union or China but was willing to fight no matter what the cost in the end if the war could be kept small. South Vietnam under a friendly government would not be lost.  The U.S. Government spared no expense or other peoples' lives to pursue its policy. It was not, however, prepared to do anything both reasonable and moral within the strategic possibilities to win. Nuclear weapons never played a serious factor in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1973, either within Southeast Asia or with China and the Soviet Union.

To get to the end of U.S. military operations with the Paris Accords in January 1973, the U.S. had finally "taken off the gloves" (Nixon's words) in late 1972, n destroyed North Vietnam's capacity to resist through U.S. bombing and mining, and achieved, like in Korea, a negotiated stalemate. Then, however, Congress intervened and prevented the U.S. from ever using what would have been required to keep South Vietnam free and Southeast Asia safe from murder and torture by communists, decisive and limited force and aid. The U.S. gave up the one political objective it finally settled on--stalemate in place--achieved with the blood of millions.  Congress did so by choice, most likely for votes in future elections, and by choice it condemned millions of people in Southeast Asia to death, torture, and suffering.

Lebanon and Somalia, suffice it to say, also suffered from a lack of political goals and ended in U.S. humiliations. As a DIRECT cause of the humiliations, Islamist terrorists have been at war with the U.S. for 25 years as of this time. The U.S. Government and public just didn't realize it until Sep. 11, 2001.

No, the lessons are all too plain and painful.  Partisan politics as usual done by dominate political class as normal behavior, is the reason why America makes the same mistakes in war.  To fix our problem, politics in America need a new thinking and more participation by the people to demand and supply politics influenced less by the desire for ideological and special-interest power, and more for doing the right things for the right reasons. That allows the wrong things to not be done, like bombing Iran or Syria.  Doing things right is always easier and better. Having honest motives in formulating policy allows effective policy to be pursued and achieved.  There is nothing wrong with defending liberty and helping people live free elsewhere, but starting from the premise of gaining votes by it usually ends up making mistakes that kill millions and can destroy the world.

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