View Full Version : War Makes Bad Politics

12-02-2006, 10:49 AM
2 December Washington Times commentary - War Makes Bad Politics (http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20061201-084844-4656r.htm) by James Jay Carafano.

The war in Iraq took center stage with many voters during the recent midterm elections. No surprise there. Democracies debate how, why and when they wage war, and they do it before, during and long after the wars are over. Of these debates, though, the ones that occur at election time are often the least satisfying. In fact, politics, war strategy and elections often make for bad strategy and bad politics.

Wars are not like other political issues. Elections are about choices. The people get to decide on all kinds of things -- what kinds of judges they want, for example, or how much they care to be taxed. If politicians get elected and do what they campaigned on, then -- for better or worse -- the republic gets what it voted for.

Wars are different. In wars, the enemy gets a vote. And often, it's the enemy's vote that counts most of all.

Wars are dynamic -- contests of action and counteraction between determined foes. Using an election debate to offer a more nuanced strategy, a change in tactics, or a new approach that promises a different course of action is either disingenuous or dumb.

If newly elected politicians veer from their agenda as soon as they're sworn in because they realize what they proposed is unrealistic, they quickly lose constituent confidence. On the other hand, if they hold to a campaign promise on how a particular war will be fought, they court disaster. That telegraphs to the enemy what will be done regardless of the conditions on the ground. It gives the enemy the option to adapt, while politicians stick to polling data -- and that is a prescription for failure.

What most politicians opt to do instead is avoid that trap by arguing that their decisions will be much smarter -- and the outcomes, therefore, more favorable. It is, of course, impossible to judge the value of such vague promises; the "trust me" strategy offers cold comfort. But it's probably the best and certainly the most realistic option a politician has...

12-02-2006, 01:21 PM
2 December Wall Street Journal commentary - Chessboard Endgame (http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009331) by Garry Kasparov.

For the past few years, the dictators and terrorists have been gaining ground, and with good reason. The deepening catastrophe in Iraq has distracted the world's sole superpower from its true goals, and weakened the U.S. politically as well as militarily. With new congressional leadership threatening to make the same mistake--failing to see Iraq as only one piece of a greater puzzle--it is time to return to the basics of strategic planning.

Thirty years as a chess player ingrained in me the importance of never losing sight of the big picture. Paying too much attention to one area of the chessboard can quickly lead to the collapse of your entire position. America and its allies are so focused on Iraq they are ceding territory all over the map. Even the vague goals of President Bush's ambiguous war on terror have been pushed aside by the crisis in Baghdad.

The U.S. must refocus and recognize the failure of its post-9/11 foreign policy. Pre-emptive strikes and deposing dictators may or may not have been a good plan, but at least it was a plan. However, if you attack Iraq, the potential to go after Iran and Syria must also be on the table. Instead, the U.S. finds itself supervising a civil war while helplessly making concessions elsewhere...