Thursday, July 19, 2007

Revisiting Kasserine Pass

Published by Political Grind - August 23, 2007
"We can not walk off the field and give the Islamists a victory."
-- Stix blog


Of all the reasons put forth in the recent congressional debates supporting the case for immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, the least defensible is that Iraq has become "a mess". Since when do wars not create "a mess"? It is perhaps too easily forgotten that conducting a war has always been a contentious business, not just contentious between adversaries, but also contentious between allies.

On December 8, 1941, immediately following Roosevelt's stirring Declaration of War address, it's probably safe to say that virtually all Americans agreed that we had been treacherously attacked and were now in a state of war. It is also safe to say that this was fated to be the last time that all Americans would agree on almost anything at all concerning the prosecution of this war.

Beginning with the very first major strategic decision -- which war to fight first, the war in the Pacific or the war in Europe -- there was bitter disagreement. When FDR decided to allocate the major portion of our resources to the European Theater, this caused immediate anger and resentment among those Admirals of the Pacific Fleet who were advocating a Japan First strategy. Throughout the entire course of the war Churchill, de Gaulle, Stalin and FDR were in constant disagreement over almost every major strategic decision. When America finally chose to enter the European War by way of North Africa, to many, this decision was incomprehensible.

Code-named Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa began in November, 1942 and almost immediately descended into chaos. Although it was quite clear who commanded the German forces in Tunisia (the inimitable Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel), the Allies, by comparison, were in almost total disarray. In theory, Eisenhower had full control of the Allied forces in the area. He, however, was stationed 400 miles away from the front in Algiers. His appointed representative in the area was Major General Lucien Truscott, who was himself based 200 miles away from the action in Constantine.
Subsequently, the actual on-the-ground command fell to British Lieutenant General Sir Kenneth Anderson. But Anderson had some major problems of his own. A large part of his force was the 19th French Corps, who would only take orders from General Alphonse Juin who, in turn, would only take orders from General Henri Giraud who, after the British attack on the French fleet at Mers el Kebir, harbored some deep resentments against the British. To add to this internecine squabbling, the Americans quickly developed a profound dislike of Anderson, whom they found to be cold and aloof.

To put it in a nutshell, for the Allies in 1942 and 1943, things in North Africa were definitely "a mess".

In February, 1943, the Americans had their first major engagements with Rommel's battle-hardened desert troops at Kasserine Pass. For the under-trained and woefully unprepared GIs the results were, predictably, near disastrous. Of the 10,000 Allied fatalities, 6,500 were Americans.

So, what was our national response to this military fiasco?

We immediately brought our bloodied troops back home and said, To hell with this war, let somebody else fight the damn thing. Right?

Hardly. Despite these terrible losses, and major losses suffered in the Pacific throughout 1942 and into 1943, somehow we found the courage to persevere.

If, after our ignoble withdrawals from Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia, anyone truly believes that our national standing in the world would best be served by once again retreating from the field of battle and demonstrating to our enemies that we lack the will to win, that we are, indeed, a paper tiger then, by all means, bring the troops back home.

If, however, one believes that by our leaving Iraq the region would quickly descend into chaos, that Syria and Iran would immediately be strengthened and that all of our Islamofascist enemies would be emboldened, then we need a little patience -- maybe a lot of patience. And perhaps a little bit of that 1940s courage.

Comments transposted from Political Grind:
You're right; getting out of Iraq because it's a 'mess' is just silly. But there are other reasons. The Iraq government cannot make the political agreements it needs to. If the surge ends and the most basic agreements have not been made, I would support a Korea-style pullout.
Blandly Urbane's blog: DeMediacratic Nation
With things turning a bit with the tactical "surge" do you think it might be appropriate to give the pols more time or is it too late for them? I would agree that the "surge" should not be indefinite, but oof, I'm not too crazy about an Iraq like Korea.
Stix Blog
I think that we should stay until the Iraqi government can stand on it's own 2 feet. We did this in Japan and Germany after WWII. IT took them a while to get things together and we are really still in both countries, but we let them control their own governments, we are just their army.
If we had the same MSM and Congrecritters we have now, we would have bowed out of WWII very early. D-Day would have been th tipping point. So much went wrong on that day, more people died on D-day than the whole Iraqi War. Every war has its ups and downs, look at the Battle of the Bulge. the Battle of the Bulge was a totally intelligence failure, but did we run from the field, no. We hunkered down and adapted and overcame the advance.
NO matter what you think about why we got in the war, we need to see this thru or our reputation in the World will be smashed. Vietnam, Lebanon and Mogadishu brought about the Islamists eagerness to come after us. Bin Laden called us a "paper Tiger". If we fail in Iraq, this will prove him right and many more attacks on us and our allies will come.
The one thing that bothers me a lot is that people are so upset about the political advancement in Iraq. That is why we have the "Surge". Without the scutrity of getting rid of the terrorists, there will be no political gains in the Iraqi government.
As President Bush said, This is going to be a long war(War on Terror). We can not walk off the field and give the Islamists a victory.
What political advancements? There are MILITARY advancements, but I see no POLITICAL advancements.
Blandly Urbane's blog: DeMediacratic Nation
Military is political...As I commented earlier, I don't want to us in Iraq forever, but I'm not sure what we're expecting overnight; in the scheme of things all that has happened in Iraq has been overnight.

The pols in Iraq have to be given time and with "military advancements" they will begin to see the light (hopefully) and not mess around too much like our pols, that think they have endless amounts of time for everything and that their actions/inactions have consequences as well.

I sure don't want us to be having this argument on the homefront 10, 20 years from now, but if we have to have a contingent there for that long so be it. Let's not jump all over boogeying out and leaving a contingent now either, otherwise the contingent may as well leave at the same time everyone else does.

We have too much to lose to be overly pessimistic as so many have been.
Snooper's blog: Take Our Country Back
I find it "komically" sad that the idgits that say we should get out of Iraq due to the "failures" of the Iraqi government to comply with some mystical miracle.

I wonder if the idgits even know how old/young the government is that Maliki was elected to lead. Just in case they don't know, Maliki has been the leader of Iraq for ONE YEAR.

Our own pathetic CONgress Critters cannot gret it right and we are 230 years old/young.

Leftinistra. BAH!
Blandly Urbane's blog: DeMediacratic Nation
We're putting our blood on the line so we can't be realistic about how long this could all take. It's pretty much been 'gee it's not done yet?' like this is some kind of two hour action flick.

Like you said Snoop, our congress complains and they don't do a damn think except ignore the obvious all the time because they're too busy listening to themselves.
Snooper's blog: Take Our Country Back
It is the microwave mentality that will do us all in.

I remember many missions that took MONTHS to organize and execute.

If we had the same thought waves on many Americans, the missions would NEVER have been accomplished.
Blandly Urbane's blog: DeMediacratic Nation
Here, here....absolutely great post. Each side of an argument can use its logic or what it considers logic to further the discussion; unfortunately because of this much gets missed. I can see all sorts of arguments against this analogy, not logical mind you.

Our nation is at a very interesting crossroads, which I believe would be more damaging than the aftermath of Vietnam to our national psyche, the military, our international standing and ultimately about the only nation on the planet that can really get the ball rolling.

Sorry if the comments are skittish, I had to bounce all around with other things going on here.

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