Monday, March 24, 2008

Heroes in the armchair

There's an event going on the American Enterprise Institute with the key intellectual backers of the invasion of Iraq and then the surge discussing the future of the US occupation. Not surprisingly, they've all zeroed in on the concept of the "second election" (which doesn't come for another 18 months) being more important than the first in a new democracy -- and thus the need for troops to stay at least that long -- notwithstanding all the cheering about purple fingers that went on after the first one.

Anyway the panel is Fred Kagan, Michael O'Hanlon, and Ken Pollack. Kagan went through a list of benchmarks and declared most of them "done". O'Hanlon declared that the group of war architects like the panel and David Petraeus deserved a group name -- not Vulcans, but Lombardis, after the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers. That's quite an honour to bestow on themselves. Vince Lombardi had won three NFL titles in a shorter time than the war in Iraq.

O'Hanlon seems surprised that things got worse in Mosul during the surge. He never mentioned that troops were reallocated from Mosul to Baghdad for the surge -- and dastardly al-Qaeda moved in the opposite direction. Meanwhile Ken Pollack is complaining that the success of the surge is creating a demand for more troops in the south. "Overstretch through success" or something. He's also claiming that the surge turned Iraq around much more quickly than British military operations in Northern Ireland.

Vince Lombardi had many quotes. O'Hanlon clearly likes the ones about persistence and attention to fundamentals. But Vince also said --

We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time.

Someone is going to have blow the final whistle on the war, even at the risk of the "Lombardis" thinking that they could have won it.

UPDATE: Things are getting wackier. Fred Kagan is demonstrating that if you can use even slightly technical terminology, everyone thinks you're genius. He was talking about the reduction in brigades in terms of a "delta". He said that each reduction in brigade strength from 20 has exponential effects on military capabilities, so that by the time you're thinking about going from 15 to 14 brigades, the loss is 106. 1 million times less effective? Nobody asked.

FINAL UPDATE: Think Progress has the clip of O'Hanlon's Lombardi discussion.

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