Washington’s Cult of Narcissism and Iraq

Hubris?  We’re bigger than that! We’ve now been at war with, or in, Iraq for almost 20 years, and intermittently at war in Afghanistan for 30 years.  Think of it as nearly half a century of experience, all bad.  And what is it that Washington seems to have concluded?  In Afghanistan, where one disaster after another has occurred, that we Americans can finally do more of the same, somewhat differently calibrated, and so much better.  In Iraq, where we had, it seemed, decided that enough was enough and we should simply depart, the calls from a familiar crew for us to stay are growing louder by the week. The Iraqis, so the argument goes, need us.  After all, who would leave them alone, trusting them not to do what they’ve done best in recent years: cut one another’s throats? Modesty in Washington?  Humility?  The ability to draw new lessons from long-term […]

Three Fixes for the American Way of War

Iraq remains a mess from which the U.S. military seems increasingly uninterested in withdrawing fully and Afghanistan a disaster area, but it’s never too soon to think about the next war.  The subject is already on the minds of Pentagon planners.  The question is:  Are they focusing on how to manage future wars so that they won’t last longer than the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II combined? There’s reason to worry, especially since the lessons of both Iraq and Afghanistan are clear: it takes years after a war has been launched for the U.S. military to develop tactics that lead to stasis.  (“Victory” is a word that has gone out of fashion.) Here, then, are three modest suggestions for recalibrating the American way of war.  All are based on a simple principle — “preventive war planning” — and are focused on getting the next war right […]