• TomDispatch: Lessons from Lost Wars in 2012

    January 4, 2012

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Iraq, Military

    Starting off 2012 by looking back to look forward, TomDispatch features a stinging piece titled How Two Wars in the Greater Middle East Revealed the Weakness of the Global Superpower. The question being answered is the obvious one, about winning and losing, and what those terms mean, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    With the current phase of the Iraq War now over and the US troops mostly out of Iraq, TomDispatch is pretty clear on what defines the loss:

    If you want a simple gauge of the depths of America’s debacle in the oil heartlands of the planet, consider just how the final unit of American troops left Iraq. According to Tim Arango and Michael Schmidt of the New York Times, they pulled out at 2:30 a.m. in the dead of night. No helicopters off rooftops, but 110 vehicles setting out in the dark from Contingency Operating Base Adder. The day before they left, according to the Times reporters, the unit’s interpreters were ordered to call local Iraqi officials and sheiks with whom the Americans had close relations and make future plans, as if everything would continue in the usual way in the week to come.

    In other words, the Iraqis were meant to wake up the morning after to find their foreign comrades gone, without so much as a goodbye. This is how much the last American unit trusted its closest local allies. After shock and awe, the taking of Baghdad, the mission-accomplished moment, and the capture, trial, and execution of Saddam Hussein, after Abu Ghraib and the bloodletting of the civil war, after the surge and the Sunni Awakening movement, after the purple fingers and the reconstruction funds gone awry, after all the killing and the dying, the U.S. military slipped into the night without a word.

    As for the real lesson:

    As it turned out, the power of the U.S. military was threateningly impressive, but only until George W. Bush pulled the trigger twice. In doing so, he revealed to the world that the U.S. could not win distant land wars against minimalist enemies or impose its will on two weak countries in the Greater Middle East. Another reality was exposed as well, even if it has taken time to sink in: we no longer live on a planet where it’s obvious how to leverage staggering advantages in military technology into any other kind of power. In the process, all the world could see what the United States was: the other declining power of the Cold War era.

    Be sure to read the whole piece at TomDispatch for an important perspective as we move in 2012.

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