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Shedding the illusions of shock and awe

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    Shedding the illusions of shock and awe: Why are we in Iraq? Because both neocons and Dems like Kerry believed in a U.S. omnipotent military
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 14, 2004
      Shedding the illusions of shock and awe:

      Why are we in Iraq? Because both neocons and Dems like Kerry believed
      in a U.S. omnipotent military

      http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04280/390898.stmWednesday, October 06,

      By Andrew J. Bacevich

      On at least one point the John Kerry campaign and the rabidly anti-
      Kerry neoconservative wing of the Republican Party concur: The Bush
      administration has made a hash of its war in Iraq.

      Consider this assessment: a "dysfunctional" administration mired
      in "bureaucratic chaos" and leaving in its wake a trail of "goof-
      ups," "ham-handedness," and sheer "incompetence." Extracts from a
      Kerry speech? No, those are the views of Max Boot, whose weekly
      column in the Los Angeles Times serves as a platform for the
      unabashed advocacy of a global American empire. When it comes to
      lamenting the Bush team's ineptitude in Iraq, the liberal Kerry and
      the neocon Boot stand arm-in-arm.

      But this improbable consensus obscures a larger truth to which
      neither the Kerry campaign nor neoconservatives have yet to own up.
      It's not mismanagement that has us mired in Iraq. There is a more
      fundamental explanation: the misleading and dangerous conception of
      modern war to which Democrats and Republicans alike have subscribed.

      The fact is that in the aftermath of the Cold War, Americans became
      enthralled with military power.

      Central to this infatuation was the conviction, emerging out of
      Desert Storm, that the United States had unlocked the innermost
      secrets of warfare. For the world's sole superpower, gone were the
      risks and uncertainties endemic to past conflicts. Gone too was the
      prospect of massive destruction and incidental slaughter. Armed with
      its high-tech arsenal, the United States could henceforth employ its
      military might with laser-like precision and unerring effectiveness.
      Ignoring the contrary evidence of Mogadishu, American political
      elites during the 1990s came to view force as a readily available,
      economical and surefire instrument of policy.

      In the wake of 9/11, this vision of warfare lent plausibility to
      grandiose claims that armed force could enable the United States
      to "transform" the Greater Middle East. The ostensible invincibility
      of the American military juggernaut -- seemingly affirmed by the
      preliminary results of Afghanistan -- made ambitious politicians like
      Kerry hesitate to speak up in opposition when the Bush administration
      next trained its sights on Iraq.

      By all rights the actual experience of U.S. forces since ought to
      have shattered such illusions. Uncertainty, error and painful losses
      suffered by combatants and noncombatants alike: All of these form
      part of the daily reality of Iraq.

      Meanwhile, the advanced weaponry that had presumably changed warfare
      forever has proven to be of marginal relevance. The crude IED
      ("improvised explosive device") rather than the sophisticated smart-
      bomb dominates the battlefield. The videotaped beheading has become a
      more effective method of waging information warfare than anything
      that American technology has been able to devise.

      In short, the campaign launched amid claims of unveiling a military
      revolution has taken a decidedly counter-revolutionary turn: in this
      conflict as in so many past ones, unanticipated consequences are a
      fixture; surprise a constant; decision elusive; and the human and
      material costs staggering.

      Time and again, history has made a mockery of man's efforts to
      effectively harness violence for political purposes. During the
      interval between the Cold War and 9/11, Americans had indulged in the
      fantasy that history no longer constrained the United States. Our
      soldiers in Iraq must now deal with the consequences of that delusion.

      In its handling of Iraq, the Bush administration has indeed blundered
      repeatedly. Those blunders have become the grist of daily political
      discourse. For the likes of John Kerry and Max Boot -- the one unable
      to provide a coherent account of his early failure to oppose the war
      and the other eager to distance himself from the enterprise that he
      had previously promoted with such gusto -- the incompetence of others
      serves as a convenient dodge. For the rest of us, uneasy at the
      prospect of Iraq forming just one theater of a "global war" expected
      to last for decades if not generations, that dodge is intolerable.

      The truth is that unless American political leaders disabuse
      themselves of their misconceptions about war, today's Iraq may well
      be a preview of similar disasters yet to come.

      Don't count on Max Boot or any of his fellow hawks to let you in on
      that secret. But to demonstrate his fitness for the presidency, Kerry
      must summon the courage to do so. The issue of the day is not Iraq
      alone but the imperative of finding our way back to a more prudent
      and realistic understanding of the role of military power, one
      consistent with our moral traditions and actually existing U.S.
      national security requirements.

      Andrew J. Bacevich teaches international relations at Boston
      University. He is the author of "The New American Militarism,"
      forthcoming from Oxford University Press.



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