20/20 Hindsight Can Be Rather Hazy For Lazy Minds
I don’t really mean for the title to sound as insulting as it may but please stick with me…
I periodically come across conversations among coworkers, bloggers, and radio personalities where hindsight on Iraq is interpreted as so crystal clear that we should have originally gone in with 250 or 450 thousand troops or that, if President Bush had only listened to certain individuals, a surge in 2004 would have improved the situation much earlier…or similar types of arguments.
This always strikes me as oversimplified Monday morning quarterbacking of a very complex military AND geopolitical situation. Unfortunately, the 20/20 hindsight version of Iraq as commonly boiled down for easy public consumption seems to lead to rather shallow analysis by way too many people with a means of shaping public opinion.
Before going on let me be clear: I don’t claim to know all the answers…and that really leads to my point. Assuming one of these alternate strategies leads to just as many questions as answers. Handled differently, things would definitely have come out DIFFERENT in many respects…but only simpletons and Olbermans would dare to claim without a doubt that thing would have been BETTER.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON GOING IN WITH MORE TROOPS: Sure, a stronger and more sustainable presence would have probably been better militarily during the early insurgency but would a larger American (or coalition) force have rallied and even larger influx of insurgents? (Would there have been fewer?) Would the available insurgent force have carried out substantially more attacks with many more targets in country? Would the attacks that did occur have been more deadly due to increased troop density at collection points (barracks, mess halls, convoys, etc)? How would the Iraqi population have reacted to an “occupation force” up to 300% larger than was actually used? Could the footprint of 450 thousand westerners ever have led to winning the collective hearts and minds of 25 million non-homogeneous (mostly) Muslim people? (…Or at least enough of them to make a difference.)
A FEW THOUGHTS ON AN EARLIER SURGE: To me this is a little more nuanced and probably worthy of much more debate but, once the war was well underway, the concept of a troop surge was going to be as risky politically as it would be crucial militarily. Is the greater good served if you lose the good will of the public (or any chance of it) while brutally crushing a pesky terrorist element that is hiding among them…using them as human shields? Was the Iraqi population ready for this in 2004 or 2005? Was the Iraqi government strong enough and/or stable enough to handle this in 2004 or 2005? (Luckily, our system “hires” a Commander in Chief and provides him with information and advice to make these calls. While not perfect, the system has served us well for 233 or so years…Democrat talking points notwithstanding, we have been the world’s winners for quite some time and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. But, I digress.)
In short, it is very hard to say that the situation on the ground today would be much BETTER or that we would have suffered fewer casualties with more troops from the beginning or by starting the surge much earlier. Things could very well be much DIFFERENT today (and in the future) but it is and will always remain arguable whether that would have been a good thing or not.
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