News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Is It Cut and Run or Stand and Fight? The Case for Tactical Retreat

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Is It Cut and Run or Stand and Fight? The Case for Tactical Retreat

One of the first victims of war and civil illusion is the inaccuracy and emptiness of words and their meanings, as Thucidydes keenly described. Recent debates about what to do in Iraq have raised the question of simply leaving the place. Unfortunately, the conservatives have been able to seize on this idea and spin it their way to make it sound like anyone who advocates such a position is "cutting and running."

John Murtha exploded much of the neo-conservative spin on withdawing from Iraq. While they tried, very few Republicans with stature were willing to brand Murtha as a coward and someone who'd run away from a fight if he thought it could be won. Yet, the perception still persisists among many, Republicans and Democrtas, that just leaving Iraq is not a viable option, since it would be admitting defeat or some such view.

I suggest that this confusion about what exactly a withdrawal from Iraq would mean is simply one of hype and not of substance. Within war strategy it is not unknown to make what is called a "tactical retreat." This usually occurs when one's troops are in a situation of imminent defeat OR stalemate. I think the latter is true of what's happening in Iraq right now. There's a stalemate with the insugents--most likely, as Murtha says, because the presence of US troops itself is what is feeding the insurgents.

If this is a "war" on terror--as imprecise and nebulous as that phraseology might be--then a tactical retreat must be an option. This is especially true and reuired in a situation where the commanders have obvously executed a war strategy that is wrong and detrimental to both the life of the troops and the overall strategy of the war.

Bush and Co. flubbed terribly this war; we should simply suck it up like men/women and admit the errors in military judgement (or whgatever other pejorative term term you want to call it), and get the troops into place where they can be more effective. At the same time, this space will provide the commanders and leaders time to develop a much better and more informed plan to win this "war."

Again, as Murtha notes, this would include diplomacy, the forgotten tool of war by the Bush administration. To do so, however, would a dramatic shift in rhetoric and world-view. Contrary to the Bush et al. ploy of branding all people opposed to the US presence in the mideast, I suggest that we stop painting the opposition as irrational demons. Like any other human being, they are innately inherently rational beings who often resort to terrible means. That is, we must--simply to get the conversation going--take the position that these people have reasonable (to them) demands and concerns. Understanding them and taking them seriously is the first step in negotiating a shared vision.

Call me an idealist--but I believe it is more htan realistic to assume, as Kierkegaard once wrote, "[W]hat, then, is love? Love is to presuppose love; to have love is to presuppose love in others; to be loving is to presuppose that others are loving."

It takes a big man or woman to love your enemy. Italso takes a realism uncommonly accepted in a world where we'd rather see others different from us as animals, bestial, and ill-conceived.

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