Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Yesterday's Strategy

Please be advised that Michael Gerson -- scourge of tyrants, dreamer of dreams, and vicarious Emperor of Iraq -- takes a dim view of Joe Biden:

[Biden] voted against the first Gulf War, arguing "What vital interests of the United States justify sending young Americans to their deaths in the sands of Saudi Arabia?" And he displayed consistently poor judgment during the Cold War, opposing missile defenses and undermining resistance to communism in Central America. Biden must view himself as a combination of Kissinger and Clausewitz. But there is little basis for this self-regard.
Especially since that position's already been filled by an eminently qualified chap named Gerson.

Apparently, Gerson envies our nation's torturers so much that he's using the tools of his own gruesome trade to inflict similar anguish on evildoers like yours truly. God knows, neither stupidity nor delusion is a plausible explanation for his claim that opposing extralegal "anti-communist" bloodbaths during the Reagan years makes Biden a would-be Kissinger. The only motivation that makes sense is sheer malice: The pleasure of tormenting his political adversaries with statements that are the rhetorical equivalent of waterboarding clearly outweighs the embarrassment of sounding like a fucking idiot.

Like so many other conservative commentators, Gerson's memory of the last eight years has been decimated by a timely case of amnesia. It wasn't long ago that public debates over strategery were all the rage. But now it's Year 1 of the Obama Regime, and the former things are passed away: 1/20 changed everything!
[T]here are also risks when arguments about military strategy are too public for too long. An enemy can try to influence the outcome of a debate with attacks and propaganda. Al-Qaeda's most recent video warns Europeans that they are about to be abandoned: "It won't be long until the dust of war clears in Afghanistan, at which point you won't find a trace of any American, because they will have gone away far beyond the Atlantic."
Which just goes to show you that Obama is in over his head. A really clever president would be careful not to say anything that Al-Qaeda could spin as a victory for Islamofascism.

Remember all that outrageously demoralizing stuff John Kerry said about being "the last man to die for a mistake"? Well, it's somewhat less outrageous than it used to be.
No one wants to be the last to die for the sake of yesterday's strategy.
I see Gerson's point, of course. But the thing is, claiming that some trumped-up existential threat obliges us to invade a relatively poor and weak country is nothing if not "yesterday's strategy." Before striking up the latest disastrous variation on this theme, Gerson should probably have paid more attention to Clausewitz, who said that "no one starts a war -- or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so -- without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it."

One nice thing about writing op-ed columns on war is that no matter what's going on, you can always announce portentously that "we" stand at a crossroads. Like a compulsive gambler standing in front of the slot machine that's just swallowed this month's mortgage payment, our nation faces a stark moment of decision: do we slink away in defeat and shame, or do we pawn our watch, cross our fingers, and win every penny back, plus a little extra for our trouble?
If McChrystal is to be believed, America is not merely failing to win in Afghanistan; it is losing. It may require a jolt of resources to revive the patient and convince a skeptical American public that progress is possible.
Medical analogies for warfare are always a classy touch, too, as long as you don't think too much about the Hippocratic Oath. (Aren't armed drones a bit like T cells, when you think about it?)

Anyway, all we have to do is kill as many people and spend as much money as it takes to "revive the patient," while giving the public an impression of progress. If that impression wears off, as narcotics will, it's easy enough to announce that we stand at another crossroads, and insist yet again that the only people who understand the right course of action are the shameless moral lepers who forced the wrong one on us.

Which raises an interesting question: Who wants to be the last to die for the sake of yesterday's strategy?


Phila said...

Say, Phila, there's a contest to find a new pundit at the Post...

I think they should get someone thoughtful and cultured, like John Derbyshire. He's read Kipling, so he'd elevate the tone considerably.

Jazzbumpa said...

I started reading Gerson's article, but got fixated on the right panel ad for the Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Carrie Prejean, etc. 2010 calendar.

Talk about shock and awe . . .

JzB the awful trombonist