Rich, c’mon. I didn’t say, or suggest, that we conduct combat operations without ANY regard for local political conditions. I freely concede that local political conditions will be an important determinant of when and how we will be able to leave Iraq. I may not be where you are, but I’m not really saying “to hell with them,” either.
Still, local conditions are affected at least as much by combat operations as the other way around. The continuing vitality of the terrorists, three years in, is critically affecting the local political conditions. It is not ignoring local conditions to say that they are of less concern when the enemy hasn’t been defeated yet.
I’m not a military expert in any sense, and I don’t purport to know how many troops it would take to win this thing. (To my non-expert mind, we used around half a million in 1991 to do something far less ambitious than what we have been trying to do since 2003. But I wouldn’t dare call for more troops because, for all I know, the world of force-projection has changed so much in a dozen-plus years that my observation is ignorant. I don’t presume to second-guess the people who are experts in such matters.)
But I don’t think I need to be a West Point grad to grasp that these things are approached differently if your mindset is that you haven’t won yet versus considering yourself to have won and to be in a post-combat phase of stabilizing matters so you can go home.
I am not a student of military history, so please understand that I do not mean this as a flippant or rhetorical question. Is it common to try to strike a final political solution under circumstances where the enemy hasn’t been defeated yet, hasn’t surrendered, hasn’t sought a truce, and is still fighting to win? If the answer to that question is “no,” then aren’t we putting the cart before the horse if we are allowing the local politics to exert too much influence over combat operations?