Monday, August 06, 2007

War In Iraq Should Be Fought With More Ferocity

Written from Redwood City, Calif.--

When an interstate highway bridge collapsed in Minneapolis last week, President Bush quickly went to the scene and pledged complete federal reibursement of the costs of a fast repair -- perhaps $350 million. That's equivalent to a little more than one day of Iraq war costs to the United States.

It's clear that the war is sapping money from what would be worthwhile projects at home. that the federal government is not funding. For instance, it's been estimated that a highly useful high-speed rail line linking major California cities, linking Los Angeles and San Diego with San Francisco and Sacramento, would cost $40 billion. That is less than five months of Iraq war costs. Completing the subway in Los Angeles from Western Ave. to Santa Monica would cost $5 billion, far less than a month of such costs.

I do think success in the Iraq war is vital to the U.S., because of the consequences in the Middle East and elsewhere, if we were to lose it. But the war has dragged on now for four and a half years, and there is no end in sight. The war is about to be lost politically in the U.S. Where have we gone wrong there?

Possibly in not fighting the war with sufficient ferocity to discourage our enemies in a short time from waging it.

I've recently been reading the book, "Why The Allies Won," an analysis of how World War II was waged by both sides, and the author, Richard Overly, a professor at King's College, London, puts particular emphasis on four campaigns: the submarine-merchant ship clashes in the Atlantic, the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk in the Soviet Union, the bombing campaign against Axis powers by the U.S. and Britain, and the invasion of France and subsequent breakout by the Allies.

One thing was common in all these battles: They were conducted with sufficient ferocity to assure that the Allies would prevail.

More than 50,000 merchantmen and military personnel lost their lives to Nazi submarine attacks. In Russia, Stalin refused to even discuss what Soviet casualties were until after the war was over, but they were in the millions. In the bombing campaign, on one night in 1943, attacks by allied air forces killed 40,000 residents of Hamburg, just one German city, and by war's end virtually every city in Germany had suffered vast losses. In the D-Day landing in Normany, about 3,000 allied troops -- U.S., British, Canadian and Free French -- were killed on the first day. Through four and a half years in Iraq, a little more than 3,600 Americans troops have died.

Yet, I dare say, the stakes in the present war may be just as high, as they were in World War II. I say, perhaps higher, because the present conflict could result in a nuclear attack on the U.S. It is to prevent this, in the wake of 9-11, that, in essence, we are at war.

For nearly three decades, there have been assorted attacks against American and Western interests by fundamentalist Muslims in the Middle East, but at the present level of hostilities, our enemies have not been discouraged from further attacks. The Germans and the Japanese were crushed by us in less than four years of war, and sufficiently discouraged so that our occupation of the new countries was conducted without appreciable fatalities. Both enemy peoples knew they had been defeated. They quit, and despite the ferocity with which we waged war against them, relations between our peoples are quite good today.

But, we are told, in Iraq, as in Vietnam, we must not unduly punish the local population. We lost Vietnam with such an approach, opting to try to win "their hearts and minds" when that set an impossibly high bar for us.

The war in Iraq, I believe, would have ended long ago, had we sent in our Air Force, as we did in World War II, to attack all areas where our enemies reposed. This is a hard and brutal judgment, but war is that kind of business, and it is not worth waging unless it is waged with a will to win. As Gen. MacArthur said, "There is no substitute for victory." In any event, a decisive U.S. bombing campaign would have killed fewer people than the terrorists have killed in Iraq through years of sectarian warfare.

It is particularly striking to note that President Bill Clinton, in waging the war in Kosovo, prevailed with air power. As the bombings of Belgrade and the Danube bridges did more and more damage, the Yugoslavs reconsidered their position and finally gave up on NATO terms. It was a matter only of weeks, not the years Bush has taken fighting fruitlessly in Iraq.

In the Overly book, he repeatedly emphasizes that without the bombing campaign, the Germans and Japanese would not have had their war production capacity diminished in time to afford an Allied victory, nor would their people have been demoralized enough to at last compel a complete popular surrender.

The same thing is true today. We have been fighting with hands tied behind our backs, and we cannot afford to do so.

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