A Response to Ed Weathers' "The Relevant Quagmire
There are a couple of problems with the column:
1. Fundamentally, the entire premise if flawed. In his article, Mr. Weathers contends that the same scenarios and circumstances that doomed the Soviets in Afghanistan will doom the United States in Iraq. The fundamental problem with his argument is that if that is true, why didn't it work out that way when the United States invaded Afghanistan? The U.S. invaded the same place against the same fundamentalist group and took the place down in less than two months with less than 50 combat casualties. If Mr. Weather's theory were true, it wouldn't have happened that way. Some other thoughts:
2. Not only was the US and Britain just "involved" in the mujahadeen resistance, it provided tons of money, technology, weapons, and "advisors." Without that support from major superpowers, the mujahadeen could not have fought the war for so long. This is exactly the same thing that happened in Viet Nam, except it was the Soviets that were underwriting the Viet Cong and NVA. There are no superpowers bankrolling this "resistance." In fact, it's not even a grass-roots Iraqi movement that is causing the problems. Thirty percent of the captured enemy combatants are mercenary Muslims from other parts of the world coming in to cause trouble. The remainder are former Baathists and Sadaamites. Furthermore, 70 percent of Iraq (northern and southern parts) of Iraq are stable functioning. It's only 30% in the Sunni Triangle that is causing problems.
3. Russia was in Afghanistan for trumped up reasons. It hadn't had a 9-11 a precursor going in. As long as the administration (any administration) can rationally tie in what they are doing to the elimination of state sponsored terrorism, it is going to have public support.
4. Both the Russian and American (in Vietnam) military was conscripted, which means that moms and dads were sending 18-19 year olds out of high school to fight a war they knew nothing about. Here, the entire military is made of 100% volunteers and those who are doing most of the actual fighting are actually two and three time volunteers (1. to join, 2. to be in a combat role (eg. infantry), 3. to be in an elite unit (eg. SEALs, Spec. Forces, Recon. etc.) Not only is this military volunteer, but they aren't coming home and protesting the US involvement in the war. The people I have personally spoken with in the military, some of whom have recently returned from Iraq, indicate that everyone they served with understands the reasons they are there, and more importantly, agrees with it. The reason is that everyone experienced September 11, and they understand what it is we're doing.
5. What's with the quagmire talk? Is Weathers complaining that after all of seven months since the start of hostilities that weve only captured or killed 45 of the 52 Iraqi figures on the deck of "Wanted" playing cards, secured more than 13,000 forces from 19 nations to provide peacekeeping, trained and armed more than 50,000 Iraqis for new police and civil-defense forces and began shifting security roles to them in 58 of Iraq's 89 cities, set up an interim parliament, established a timeline for Iraq to come up with a constitution and establish a budget, set up more than 6,000 Iraqi civil affairs units-- local governments --, introduced a new currency, reopened hospitals, set up a court system, and obtained recognition of the interim government from the Arab League (which the UN has yet to do). Gosh (he says sarcastically) what the HECK is taking so long?
In context, although declaring independence in 1776, the present-day constitution wasnt drafted until 1787, and although WWII "major combat operations" ended in 1945, West Germany did not have federal elections until 1949 and the peace treaty with Japan was not signed until 1951. This doesnt include the still unresolved quagmires of the Korean conflict (50 years), Lyndon Johnsons "war on poverty" (40 years), or affirmative action (25 years).
6. All we hear about is how much of a mess it is because we are averaging 1 U.S. combat a day. That's 365 per year in a WAR ZONE. While every soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice is a hero, the fact remains that there were more casualties in a week in Viet Nam then there have been in two years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. That's close to the average number of casualties per day in World War II. Similarly, the Soviets suffered 10 times more casualties per day in Afghanistan than we currently are in Iraq. Also, here's the number of law enforcement officers that have been killed in the United States in the past 5 years: 2003: 117, 2002: 153, 2001: 237, 2000: 161, 1999: 151, 1998: 175. I don't recall newspaper articles or columnist hacks writing about the "quagmire" we're in right at home.
Rex Randall Erickson
San Diego, California