Saturday, January 20, 2007
A Failure of American Competency ... by Alan Caruba
A Failure of American Competency
By Alan Caruba
There’s a reason why political power was taken from the Republicans and given to the Democrat Party. Voters in the political center had concluded that the Iraq invasion has been a failure. They may be wrong, but the Middle East has a long history of befuddling the best efforts to reform it.
At the heart of the election was the conclusion that, given America’s famed managerial and military skills, what had occurred in Iraq was a failure of competency at the highest levels of government. The blame cannot be placed on our soldiers, airmen, and Marines. It was not a failure of the valor of our fighting forces.
It is now widely understood that the White House and Pentagon failed to provide either sufficient manpower or planning for the postwar period.
Following 9/11, having rapidly rid Afghanistan of the Taliban by employing the forces of local warlords, combined with U.S. air power, the White House became fixated on ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein without the necessary planning for the aftermath of that goal. Books such as “Fiasco” by Thomas Ricks and “State of Denial” by Bob Woodward reveal a lack of competency at the highest levels of government that is appalling.
It’s a remake of John F. Kennedy’s “best and the brightest” advisors who never understood the enemy they took on in Vietnam and repeated by Bush’s neocons who probably had even less insight to those in the Middle East. They blithely expected other nations to unite in “a war on terror.” Like the 1930s, however, appeasement was and is the order of the day.
The failure was made even more manifest in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when nothing could hide the astonishing incompetence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with state and local authorities to respond effectively. The citizens of New Orleans who played their own role in the disaster recently re-elected William Jefferson, a Congressman under investigation for bribery. Their failure to maintain and improve the levees played a significant role in the disaster.
It did not go unnoticed that FEMA had been one of many federal agencies folded into the newly created Department of Homeland Security. The Immigration and Naturalization agency, too, had been added to the DHS organizational chart. Neither before nor since 9-11, have they received sufficient funding to stop America’s potential enemies at the borders. Plans to strengthen our borders remain in limbo.
At issue is competency in a government Americans have been taught to believe was ready to take care of every problem and every need they had. Since the days of Barry Goldwater, conservatives have striven to advance their fundamental belief in a smaller federal government, more reliance on the role of the States, and fiscal responsibility.
After George W. Bush took the reins of government, the very opposite of the success initiated during the Reagan years of the 1980’s and the subsequent 1994 transfer of power to a Republican Congress, occurred. Conservatives looked on in dismay and slowly began to raise their voices in protest. Centrist voters heard them and Bush is now a very lame duck President.
Billions of U.S. dollars have been expended on the Iraq war and its aftermath. We are closing in on more than 3,000 casualties, in addition to thousands of wounded and maimed service men and women.
Unheeded in the initial and subsequent calculations was the ancient and endemic corruption that has existed for centuries throughout the Middle East. It has proven as powerful as bombs and bullets.
A retreat from Iraq, however, will further embolden the forces of radical Islam that have been on the march since the late 1970s. They want to control the whole of the Middle East and then the world beyond. This would be their goal whether the U.S. had invaded Iraq or not.
Congress must decide whether America needs a larger military and on that decision hinges much of the future at home and abroad. It is an obligation that America must assume because few other nations can or will.
The military we have is a superb fighting machine, but as Gen. John Abizaid recently told an audience at Harvard, “This is not an Army that was built to sustain a long war.”
If the neocons knew that, they ignored it.
Our population of 300 million people has 60 million between the ages of 18 and 35, more than enough to expand the current force if Congress would authorize the expansion to 70 brigades from our current 52. Constantly drawing down on Guard and Reserve units is a bad idea.
War is always a serious enterprise. Americans need to take it more seriously.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, “Warning Signs”, posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, http://www.anxietycenter.com/. His new book, “Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy” has been published by Merril Press.
© Alan Caruba, December 2006