Many of you have read my post on the bridge incident. And many of you have drawn a wrong conclusion.
I’m not excusing the battalion commander, or the four soldiers who actually committed the crime. At the very least, they’ve acted in a very cold-blooded manner, and certainly in a very cruel manner. At worst, they’re guilty of killing a fellow man, for no real reason other than their victims were acting in a suspicious manner.
I’m also not condoning the way that the war was conducted by them–not in the least. I’ve said, time and again, both here and in conversations with friends, that the way to conduct our counterinsurgency operations is to slowly win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by providing them with jobs and money. I’ve stated before that one of the biggest mistakes we made was disbanding the Iraqi Army, because it then placed the entire onus of securing the country and fighting the insurgents on us–that, and it also helped increase their ranks. I’d go on (and on and on and on…) but if you’re so inclined, you can read the featured posts.
But we can’t help escaping the fact that there are, fundamentally, two ways to fight the insurgents–and by and large, we’ve chosen to be rather brutal about it, at least where the Army has been involved. We’ve strung barbed wire across villages, kidnapped family members of suspected insurgent leaders, and similar tactics all across Iraq. This shouldn’t surprise anyone–anyone who’s read Max Boot’s The Savage Wars of Peace knows that we have a track record of doing this, most notably in the Philippines from 1899-1903.
The other way is the way I’ve recommended, and, for the most part, it’s the way that the Marines now deployed in Iraq have chosen to combat the insurgency. Again, we shouldn’t be surprised–the Marines wrote the original American manual on counterinsurgency, The Small Wars Manual of 1940.
At any rate, we can’t escape this basic fact: there was little or no planning done on the Pentagon side for how we would win the peace. There never was any question we’d win the war; but there was every question as to whether we’d be able to win the peace. And it didn’t help matters that at every turn, we chose to believe that the best-case scenario, particularly that scenario advocated by Ahmed Chalabi and his pals in the DOD, was what was going to definitely take place in Iraq. So when that scenario didn’t happen, different units chose to react in different ways. Some acted honorably, some didn’t, and some absolutely disgraced themselves–but you can hardly blame them for this spectacularly miserable failure of vision.
And every day that goes by that Don Rumsfeld, Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, et al, continue to hold office at the pleasure of the President and the political leadership, is another day that this same leadership, led by the President, fails the fighting men and women of this nation. Had they planned properly, they would deserve encomiums; but they didn’t, and if this is truly a CEO, business-inspired administration, they instead deserve the door. It is in this sense that they deserve the ultimate blame for any crimes that occur under their watch.