I just read Jim Pinkerton’s “Coalition of the . . ?” on TechCentralStation.com and liked the jump into the future and then look back approach to thinking about this war.
Pinkerton’s back-looking comments on Fallujah:
Within hours of Bush’s victory, many leading American hawks raised the issue of Fallujah, Iraq, which had come to symbolize American frustration over with the handling of Operation Iraqi Freedom in the previous 20 months. Retired Army Colonel Ralph Peters called the American failure to destroy the city in April 2004-in the wake of the orgiastic murder of four American contractors-a “fateful mistake”; but then, with the election done with, Peters declared that the time had come for bold action:
“We must not be afraid to make an example of Fallujah . . . We need to demonstrate that the United States military cannot be deterred or defeated. If that means widespread destruction, we must accept the price . . . Even if Fallujah has to go the way of Carthage, reduced to shards, the price will be worth it. We need to demonstrate our strength of will to the world, to show that there is only one possible result when madmen take on America.”
Peters’ clarion call was summarized as “Fallujah delenda est,” a play on the phrase used by Cato the Elder, who told his fellow Romans for decades that the enemy city of Carthage had to be destroyed.
Peters was ahead of his time, but opinion soon caught up with him. The tectonic shift between the optimistic and indecisive era of “The Willing” and the realistic and but stern era of “The Just” came in the weeks that followed, as the disappointments of Operation al-Fajr (“dawn”) sank into public consciousness. That military operation against Fallujah, launched on November 8, had been planned for months; it was widely touted as the moment in which Uncle Sam would “clean out” the rebels, allegedly led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, “The Second Desert Fox.”
But while the kill ratio for al-Fajr proved to be highly favorable to American arms, the operation failed — not only to catch Zarqawi, but also to engage the bulk of insurgent forces. Indeed, even the enemy “body count” proved difficult to ascertain, since women and children had joined in the anti-American fighting. Did a dead ten-year-old count as “collateral damage” or as a “dead terrorist”? So in the battle of world public opinion, the US lost. Once “Willing” allies faded away from the Coalition; meanwhile, across the rest of Iraq, guerilla attacks intensified.
The entire article is interesting and worth absorbing — but mostly I think it is useful to think about how the future will look at us and the decisions we are collectively making.
— Steve Clemons