Nov 20, 2006

Make way for the neo-culpas

Former Iraq war supporters like Richard Perle, David Frum and Ralph Peters have gone wobbly.
We must not simply blow off the Neo-Culpas as disgruntled former insiders whose views were rejected for whatever reason, because, like many previous wars, we cannot walk away from this one. And we certainly cannot lose, nor will we. Instead, it is imperative that we place Iraq into historical perspective, and realize that the ever-present Vietnam template is utterly wrong.

The difficult reality of history is that every conflict, and almost every theater within each conflict, is full of missteps, 20/20 hindsight, and perfect after-the-fact understanding of "what went wrong." Understanding Iraq, and likely most of the conflicts we will find ourselves in for the next 20 years, requires that we employ the right model: the Philippine Insurrection and Moro wars of 1898 to 1913.

There, America committed, as a total share of its military ground forces, about the same percentage as we now have collectively in Iraq and Afghanistan, that is, between 12% and 17%, depending on how today one counts Air Force ground personnel and non-Marine Navy support personnel. Despite even more ruthless tactics by our military than those employed in Iraq — the kind Mr. Peters wants to apply and the kind Mr. Kerry thinks we already have applied — the conflict still took 12 years and 4,234 dead to win.

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