View Full Version : Hard Work Will Forestall a Morass in Iraq

10-19-03, 10:59 AM

Hard Work Will Forestall a Morass in Iraq

By Raymond Perry

The United States once faced a morass of its own making. Vietnam was an attempt to face down a guerilla foe with conventional military formations. Since the “real thing” would be fought on the North German Plain, U.S. military leaders viewed Vietnam as a side show. It cost us a generation.

Yet the horror of feeding our youth into that morass remains even today. Far too many people instantly label every military venture as another Vietnam. That, and with every allegation of wrongdoing by our Fourth Estate and solons, our foes gain a little heart.

But will we really make the same mistakes in Iraq? Real peacemaking requires a long-term commitment coupled with downright dirty work.

To a 24-hour news cycle public, measurable success day by day is the only marker.

There is clear precedent for winning guerilla wars. The Philippine Insurrection from 1902 through about 1917, the Banana Wars of the U.S. Marines from 1914 through 1934, and the British Malaya Campaign of the 1950s, were all won. Yet each of these were tough, drawn out efforts that spanned at least a decade. Each really ended with a whimper years before the end was even clearly apparent.

We can only depart Iraq having set the stage for a free and courageous democratic nation in the heart of Islam. The United States faced Islamic fighters with centuries of warfare under their belt, the Moros of the southern Philippines, and won.

But it was not by strength of arms that we prevailed.

Our fighting capability and technological superiority provided the means. But our commitment to establishing a true freedom of religion coupled with the basics of a free society turned the tide.

Rather, as Vic Hurley stated in his book: “The Swish of the Kris” covering the entirety of the Philippine Insurrection: “The Moros were assured from the first day of occupation that there would be no interference in their religion. When the… Americans had proven themselves worthy … peace became assured. Bullets … did not conquer the Moros.”

We must recognize that the Philippine Insurrection lasted from the cessation of hostilities with Spain to the beginning of World War I. For all practical purposes, when troops were pulled out of the Philippines to fight in Europe the insurrection had become petty banditry in remote areas.

But while we were fighting, it was neither easy nor quick.

The voracious appetite of the Fourth Estate today dampens the spirits of those who must demonstrate every day that we are in Iraq to assist in establishing democracy. We really will depart when we have established civil control, the rule of law, the secret ballot, and true freedom of religion for all.

The U.S. Marine Corps had the duty of establishing these elements in various Central American and Caribbean countries through the 1930s. They did so with varying degrees of success. But many countries stand out as free and successful democracies today. Not all were successful: the Garde du Haiti with the Marines operating it worked hard at establishing democracy but the Ton-Tons Macoute ruled twenty years later.

The British faced a terrorist enemy in Malaya in the 1950s. There were several keys to military success, all studied extensively. The true key was a dedication to establishing a free state. The terrorists lost.

In a country that has known little but bloody repression for thirty years, such work will not be easy. As a people the Iraqis know how to cope with a repressive regime. Despite the horror of Saddam Hussein’s regime there was a certain comfort in knowing how to cope with the rules of the game and not having to make decisions oneself.

William L. Shirer in his memoir, Berlin Diary, noted how the German people of the 1930s, when faced with the “extreme liberal democracy” of the Weimar Republic, “turned to the extremes of tyranny because democracy and liberalism forced them to live as individuals, to think and make decisions as free men …. [Tyranny released] them from the strain of individual decisions and choice and thought .… ” He noted how the evolving politics of that era offered to make the decisions and take the risks of life in exchange for a kind of security.

The Iraqi people know how to handle a repressive regime and may seek to cast us in that mold because then they can deal with us. We must persevere in setting forth the elements of our freedom with the promise that we will leave when the work is done.

This will just take time. The Fourth Estate cannot clearly report what is happening in Iraq unless they see the day-to-day successes – and failures - of our servicemen and women. They should face the terrorists on the back streets – the daily life and death decisions of our soldiers. If they cannot – or will not – then they are merely reporting politics.

As Tom Friedman noted several weeks ago in The New York Times: Our young soldiers in Iraq get it, why cannot our leaders and the Fourth Estate do the same?

If it is worth doing – if our freedom is worth emulating – then our leaders, all of them, must show determination.

Lt. Raymond Perry USN (Ret.) is a DefenseWatch Contributing Editor. He can be reached at cos1stlt@yahoo.com.