Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Harry Reid vs. Harry Truman

Austin Bay at RCP summarizes the current Iraq situation and discusses Reid's "We've lost" statement. The summary matches pretty closely my own take on the war. While it's taking a long time for the economy and public life to improve, they are improving. And the ability of the Baathists, jihadists, and Sadr-ites to terrorize innocent civilians does not signify they're winning. Bay cites Denis Keohane at on Nov. 29, 2006 to underline this point:

"Thanks to the development of mass media inclined to oppose the nation's efforts to obtain military victory," Keohane wrote, "a new path to victory has opened up for America's enemies."

Though the various terrorist groups in Iraq have failed "to gain even minor real tactical victories against coalition (and now Iraqi) forces, all are targeting civilians, with death squads and bombings that intentionally kill civilians in large numbers."

The death toll, Keohane concluded, is "presented as evidence that we are not winning, and cannot win. That makes the reverse true: that if they can merely kill, even civilians, they are winning tactically and even strategically. Merely killing a lot of civilians is not a high bar to attain, and that lesson will be learned and copied, again and again."

And yet, I don't see how anyone can declare victory when hundreds of civilians are still being killed. One of the elements of victory has to be some minimum level of stability. Not the absence of terrorism, but it at least has to be suppressed.

This made me think of the closing months of World War 2. According to Wikipedia and this BBC site, Germany launched its last V-2 rockets on March 27, 1945. That was three months after the Battle of the Bulge, and three weeks after the U.S. Ninth Division crossed the Rhine at Remagen. It was also less than two months before the official end of the war. No one then believed that Germany's ability to terrorize civilians meant they had won the war. It was pure terrorism, with no strategic value whatsoever.

I think Bay is right to contrast Truman with Reid. I imagine Truman felt bad about the civilians killed and injured in all the V-2 attacks. But I doubt he ever even considered the possibility he and the other allies should surrender because of them.