-- Carl von Clausewitz
There ought to be a law of American journalism that says pundits who write and talk about war should have at least a passing familiarity with the work of 19th century Prussian general and philosopher Carl von Clausewitz.
Granted, Clausewitz is not easy to absorb. Reading Clausewitz is a bit like reading Proust backwards. Even the best translation of On War is taken from manuscripts written in ponderous 19th century German, much of which even Clausewitz admitted was "a rather formless mass that must be thoroughly reworked once more." Nonetheless, as the folks at
Clausewitz.com so aptly put it, "Carl von Clausewitz is widely acknowledged as the most important of the major strategic theorists. Even though he's been dead for over a century and a half, he remains the most frequently cited, the most controversial, and in many respects the most modern."
And yet, most of today's "experts" on the situation in the Middle East wouldn't know Clausewitz from their elbows. This is especially true of the neoconservative talking heads like Charles Krauthammer, who not only continue to support our Mesopotamian misadventure, but are the characters who talked us into it in the first place.
In a recent column titled "On Iraq, a State of Denial," Krauthammer shows a complete ignorance--or disregard--for what is probably Clausewitz's primary tenet of armed conflict: that all engagements in war should directly support the war's strategic purposes and political aims. But in his rush to chant hosannas over the recent "good news" about "declining violence" in Iraq, Krauthammer asserts that our stated political goals aren't even worth pursuing.
Like most of the neocons, Krauthammer shamelessly overplays the success of their pet surge strategy, describing the violence in Iraq as being "dramatically reduced" and celebrating the "revival of ordinary life in many cities." The closest thing to "ordinary life" we've seen is the woman in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood who is "thrilled and relieved" when her son and husband manage to make it home from work at night without getting themselves killed. Please don't ask me to speculate as to how Krauthammer justifies classifying that sort of scenario as a "revival" or "ordinary."
Krauthammer has ridicule galore for Democrats like Nancy Pelosi who complain that "we have not achieved political benchmarks." That's just crybaby language for left wing losers whose limp-wristed, hand-wringing positions on the war only vary "in how precipitous to make the retreat" as far as he's concerned.
Sure, there's no "top down" political solution attainable as of yet, Krauthammer admits. But, he asks, should that "invalidate our hard-won gains?" Moreover, "Why does this [lack of political progress] mean that we cannot achieve success by other means?"
Well, Doctor K., had you studied a little bit about war before you began telling everyone where and how and when to fight one, you might have run across this rather pertinent Clausewitz quote:
"If we do not learn to regard a war, and the separate campaigns of which it is composed, as a chain of linked engagements each leading to the next, but instead succumb to the idea that the capture of certain geographical points or the seizure of undefended provinces are of value in themselves, we are liable to regard them as windfall profits."
What Krauthammer and his fellow mongers want so desperately to conceal from the American public is that their grand scheme for controlling the world's energy market by invading Iraq has gone up in fumes.
A New York Times article--posted, not surprisingly, two days after Krauthammer's column appeared--announced: "U.S. Scales Back Political Goals for Iraqi Unity." According to reporters Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin, "The Bush administration has lowered its expectation of quickly achieving major steps toward unifying the country, including passage of a long-stymied plan to share oil revenues and holding regional elections." In case you hadn't already guessed, the oil revenues bill and regional elections were the two things Krauthammer identified as not making any difference to the success of our Iraq strategy. The Bush administration just said they were important goals before they realized they couldn't achieve them because, well, that’s the sort of thing the Bush administration does to keep its war going. Plus, they figure they can get away with that kind of nonsense as long as they have pals like Krauthammer to cover their tracks with bull feathers.
I wish I could make every American visit Clausewitz.com and browse the site for five minutes, or even just three minutes. Heck, if you just stare at the home page for twenty seconds, you'll know more about warfare than Charles Krauthammer and all of the distinguished "scholars and fellows" in the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institution and the rest of the neoconservative think tanks combined.
And maybe, unlike Charles Krauthammer, you'll think twice when a hundred or so of your best ideologue friends ask you to help them talk your country into undertaking a stupid war.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention…
A story in the November 25 Washington Post states that, "A White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan has concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals that the Bush administration set for 2007 have not been met, even as U.S. and NATO forces have scored significant combat successes against resurgent Taliban fighters."
Isn't that just a heck of a thing?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available April 1, 2008. Visit here to listen to Jeff's recent conversation with Karen Kwiatkowski on National Forum.