The American attitude towards war generally frustrates me. As Dad said today, it's a shame that the American impatience with war actually gives the enemy a hope of defeating us - if we were Russians, the Iraqis would have no hope, because we'd never give up. As it is, Saddam has a hope (albeit a small one) of dragging this out long enough for the American public to decide the military had its chance and now it's time to give up. It reminds me of what you learn in high school about the Tet Offensive - a situation which was an overwhelming victory for our boys in uniform, turned into a defeat in the eyes of the public by the American media. God grant that my children live in an America which has confidence in its military rather than being dogged by the bogeyman of a conflict thirty years obsolete.
I don't mean to suggest that the American military should be totally divorced from the opinion of the public. My grandfather, who retired in 1988 as an Air Force major general and the highest-ranking Asian American in the Air Force, wrote to me once that one of the things he wanted me to understand about war was that it should not be undertaken without the support of the American public (which is why, I might add, I support the war). But it frustrates me that the American public gives no evidence of understanding what war is like - or perhaps I should say it frustrates me that the media is not educating them. Examples from recent reporting:
When Air Marshal Burridge gave his press conference last night, he said that he doesn't concern himself with the ground-level details of an operation. A reporter asked him in a rather nasty tone if he didn't think the British public mightn't be concerned by their overall commander saying he doesn't concern himself with "details." In case it isn't immediately obvious to you what a moronic question that is, allow me to spell it out: if the overall commander is micromanaging his campaign, that means that a). he has no faith in his subordinates to do that (details are their job), and b). nobody is taking the time to look at the big picture (because that's his job). I hope the British public is not so stupid as to be disturbed by the fact that the Air Marshal is doing his job.
On a recent CNN broadcast, a retired service officer (I can't remember if he was Army or Marine) talked about the Iraqi column headed for the 1st Marines, and said that after they'd been pounded by aircraft, helicopters, and artillery, we would "hopefully not take them head-on" and encircle them. Now, all that is true - but it makes it sound like taking them head-on would be bad for us. And that just isn't true. If we took them head-on we'd kick their @sses. But of course we want to encircle them, so that instead of beating them severely we crush them like bugs.
You may remember the reporting concerning the operation which involved that Apache setting down from mechanical failure. Reporting with that event said that most of the Apaches were hit, and had to return to base, although only the one had to set down. Now, that is all undoubtedly true. Most of the Apaches probably were hit, and they all returned to base - but anybody who knew anything about the Apache gunship would know that the Iraqis had nothing in that battle capable of doing anything more than scratching their paint. They returned to base because their mission was over.
Now, in all fairness to the American media, most of my gripes about the war coverage stem directly from the fact that the embedded reporters (not to mention the ones back here in the States) are not war correspondents per se; they're just regular old reporters. They don't understand the workings of the American military, and they certainly don't understand the capabilities of our hardware or the capabilities of the enemy's. Probably they're scared and uncertain themselves. I can understand all of that. But it leads to reporting which feeds into American uncertainty about the war, which I would say is a grave journalistic sin given that the war gives every appearance of going phenomenally well.
I don't know that there's anything to be done about the reporters' apparent lack of knowledge regarding military history. But I do think it would help them, and their viewing public, to get educated about the weapons our soldiers are using and coming up against. At least then we wouldn't get reporters talking with fear about American tanks facing Iraqi ones, or making ridiculous statements about Apache helicopters. And if the military can dredge up some charismatic spokesmen to explain what they're doing, that wouldn't hurt either. I'm sure the folks talking to the media thus far are fine soldiers and fine officers, but sometimes I think they don't understand the basic need to reassure the media - or else they don't understand how to do that.
Oh, and let's not forget the humanitarian aid situation. CNN quoted Donald Rumsfeld as saying that a cease-fire in Iraq to distribute humanitarian aid would not happen. Now, that's a shining example of making Secretary Rumsfeld sound like a sound-thinking, reasonable individual. Clearly the man cares nothing for the Iraqi people. But HELLO, when we tried to distribute aid where we could, Saddam's cutesy little secret police fired on the crowd to get them away from our soldiers handing out water and food. If we negotiate a cease-fire with Saddam, he'll say okay, and his army and Republican Guard units will get a much-needed reprieve from the unmitigated beating our boys are handing them. The Fedayeen, meanwhile, will be sabotaging our aid efforts and firing on their own people - and we'll be lucky to get a "we regret the actions of the free Iraqi people" statement out of Baghdad. No, there won't be a cease-fire. That aid will get through when we've rooted these Fedayeen vermin out of the south. But what about the American motivations here? Ask yourself the following:
1). Will the war profit America a great deal of money? Recall that Rumsfeld has asked for $75B so far, with no promises about how much more will be asked for later.
2). Will the war win America friends in the Arab world?
3). Will the war win America friends in the non-Arab world?
4). Have we demanded that Iraq become an American protectorate? Recall that the French-German plan called for Iraq to become a UN protectorate indefinitely - for Iraq to turn over the reins of government because the UN asked nicely.
The answer to all of those questions, I think you'll agree with me, is "no." So tell me: which side is out for the good of the Iraqi people?
If you read this, try to take the media's reporting with a grain of salt. And even though I know no soldiers in Iraq will read this, give 'em hell, boys.