Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Vietnamization of Iraq

Iraq is looking more and more like Vietnam. Not in actual battlefiend conditions, necessarily, but in how the powers-that-be are selling the success of the war.

Early on in the war, the president himself said that he didn't deal in body counts, that that was not an effective way of measuring success in Iraq. With the war going sour — and the president with fewer and fewer selling points — he has resorted to telling us how many insurgents the surge is killing each month since January.

There are a lot of problems with that. The first is that it's likely not all of the "killed insurgents" are insurgents. With almost everyone in Iraq (who has any common sense) packing heat, it's a sure bet that increased pressure to up a kill count is leading to more civilians killed by troops who are thinking they're taking out insurgents.

The second is that in a counterinsurgency effort, racking up piles of bloody bodies is counterproductive. Winning grassroots support is at the heart of breaking an insurgency, but that's difficult when you're blasting people away.

The third — and by no means the least or the last — problem is that body counts don't really tell us we're succeeding. We killed hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese insurgents but didn't achieve any meaningful strategic victories. And Bush has said his surge is all about strategy, giving the government time to jell.

I'd actually suggest this axiom: The more we hear about enemy body counts and the more people U.S. troops kill, the more likely we're not achieving anything meaningful in Iraq.

1 comment:

Erdos56 said...

I tend to distance myself from the Vietnam analogies of all sorts. Here's the newly Americanized Chris Hitchens in the New Zealand Herald complaining about Bush himself in making the same analogy (but for opposite deny the quagmire):