Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Cakewalk at Waterloo

Josh Marshall shines a light on exactly why we're screwed in Iraq. It's been widely noted that the "architect" of the Great White Surge is Frederick Kagan, a "military historian" who has never been closer to a battlefield or, for that matter, a boot camp than a stint teaching history to bored cadets at West Point. (For a defense of Kagan's "qualifications," see this post by Steven D. at the Booman Tribune.)

Kagan's scholarly area of "military" expertise is Napoleon. His projected 4-volume history only takes him through the opening months of 1815--which pretty much sums up the problem right there. I'm imagining Kagan finally reaching Chapter 40 of his edition of Lockhart, finding out what happened to cause the "gathering tears, and tremblings of distress" that June, and making an urgent call to the hotline in the Oval Office ("Uh, George? There's something I need to tell you...").

Still, perhaps somewhere in Kagan's empirically calculated Iraqi plan there's room for a 21st-century emperor. One with clothes, even.

But I'm being too pessimistic. After all, with a stroke of his antique cavalry sword, Kagan himself has magically reduced the absolute minimum number of troops needed for the surge from 80,000 to 30,000. What's 50,000 among friends? And, who knows? Things could always turn around in 2007, as Kevin Horrigan notes hopefully in his preview of an imaginary textbook of the future:
[Bush's] famous speech in January 2007 owed a lot to Kagan, particularly where he stressed, "Hey, we're at war," and that higher U.S. casualties, albeit unfortunate, are worth it when U.S. interests are at stake. Mr. Bush's call for young Americans to sign up for the military (30,000 more combat troops were needed) was so eloquent that thousands of young people, including his own twin daughters, immediately stopped partying and signed up for extended 15-month tours on the bomb-strewn streets of Baghdad.

And even though Congress had shifted to Democratic control, billions in new reconstruction dollars were authorized because "reconstruction contracts" is just another way of saying "pork." Unlike the first $80 billion of reconstruction money, this time there was no fraud and profiteering. Insurgents stood aside in Iraq to let the reconstruction projects proceed.

It was a cakewalk.