The Corner

Re: Magical Thinking

Great points, Rich.

Ignatius is writing some good columns but to say that, “Three years on the U.S. military is finally becoming adept at fighting a counterinsurgency” is to assume that the art and science of counter-insurgency can be mastered in less time than is required to get a degree in dentistry.

That generals–and Pentagon officials–plan to fight the last war, rather than the next war, is hardly a new and surprising phenomenon.

Indeed, the U.S. military is exquisitely equipped to fight last century’s wars. Special Forces and even the Marines have long been regarded like cross-eyed step children. Finally, that does seem to be changing. For the first time ever, a Marine is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That is no coincidence, as our friends on the left might put it.

Also recall: We shed considerable blood teaching ourselves to overcome German tanks and Japanese kamikazes; we spent much treasure deterring Soviet nuclear missiles. Inconveniently, however, our enemies now fight with Improvised Explosive Devices, suicide bombers, butchers knives, lies and videotape.

I would argue that one of the principal–but unspoken–reasons we need to remain in Iraq now is simply to learn how to fight this kind of war, a 21st century war, a post-modern war.

If we fail to do that in Iraq, there can be only two choices: Learn on the next battlefield (Jordan? Afghanistan? Lebanon?), or don’t bother to learn at all; instead, get used to the taste of retreat and defeat.

My Scripps Howard column just happens to be on this theme.

Clifford D. May — Clifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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