Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 28, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

GWOT vs. GSAVE....Over at Democracy Arsenal, Lorelei Kelly has an interesting critique of the DLC that's a little more substantive than the pie throwing that's absorbed the blogosphere for the past few days. Specifically, she's not too impressed with their take on national security:

The overall problem with the DLC's ideas is that there's not much new in them. In the security sections, they still rely on the military to solve all our problems for us. Knowing this is the furthest thing from being "anti-military". Civilians need to grow up. Indeed, at the Marine's Irregular Warfare conference a few weeks back, one of the sessions inspired a lively Q and A. It was about the military's ability to foster conditions leading to stability and IPB (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield). Because Marines generally don't worry about manhood issues during policy discussions (unlike Karl Rove) it became clear that paying attention to psychological and societal aspects of a culture is vital as is institution building. The military is in a process of learning backward. One marine said "if we had done the planning for phase four (rebuilding) we would not have fought this war."

It was the smartest thing I've heard in a long, long time.

I've got much the same complaint as Lorelei. I'm sympathetic to the DLC's proposal that we need more troops after all, undermanning has obviously been our biggest problem in Iraq from the very start. At the same time, Iraq is a done deal one way or the other, and a commitment to additional troops in the future won't help us in Iraq now. At this point, the only reason to increase troop strength is if you think we're going to be fighting more conventional wars in the future, and, like Lorelei, I'm far from convinced that conventional wars have much to do with winning the Global War on Terror.

What's more, even the hawks in the Bush administration now seem to have tacitly accepted this, abandoning the GWOT metaphor entirely in favor of GSAVE: the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. As Juan Cole says:

I take it this is because they have finally realized that if they are fighting a war on terror, the enemy is four guys in a gym in Leeds. It isn't going to take very long for people to realize that a) you don't actually need to pay the Pentagon $400 billion a year if that is the problem and b) whoever is in charge of such a war isn't actually doing a very good job at stopping the bombs from going off.

....It is not a war. It is counter-insurgency. Gen. Anthony Zinni tells the story about how he had been away from the Pentagon for a while and then was (as I remember) brought back to give a backgrounder. And a young soldier saluted and said he was there to fight the G-WOT. And Zinni said, "Come again?" The soldier looked puzzled and say, "Why, the Global War on Terror, sir."

If the DLC really wants to produce some fresh thinking on national security, perhaps there are smarter ways of doing it than proposing that we need more of what we have already. If this is truly a new kind of war, surely we need a new kind of military to go along with it?

Kevin Drum 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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