Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Strategy or tactics?

When watching to president Bush's speech tonight outlining his plans for Iraq (about which there's been an abundance of informed speculation already) one thing to listen for is whether he continues to confuse two distinct but related ideas, that of strategy

strat·e·gy (străt'ə-jē) pronunciation
n., pl. -gies.

a. The science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during peace or war.
b. The science and art of military command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of large-scale combat operations.

and that of tactics.

tac·tics (tăk'tĭks) pronunciation

a. (used with a sing. verb) The military science that deals with securing objectives set by strategy, especially the technique of deploying and directing troops, ships, and aircraft in effective maneuvers against an enemy: Tactics is a required course at all military academies. [Emphasis mine-CK]

The strategy in question, I suspect, will remain unchanged: to stay in Iraq until "victory" somehow pops out of the ground, the Cheney doctrine. Froomkin:

"In Cheney's view, withdrawal from Iraq would first and foremost make the United States look weak. And that, in turn, would have cataclysmic domino-style effects across the globe: Afghanistan could fall, and so could Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The Iranians could get nukes. And the United States itself would become dramatically more vulnerable to attack, not to mention lose its ability to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests.

"Cheney really loathes weakness. And like his fellow neoconservatives, he is consumed with the conviction that an all-powerful United States is both imperative to American security and the best thing for the world. Moral leadership, multilateralism, containment, human rights -- those are all less crucial than maintaining unquestioned power, at the point of a gun if necessary. . . .

"The problem with Cheney's philosophy, of course, is overreach. In Iraq, as in Vietnam before it, the United States may have started something we can't finish."

The corollary, of course, is that we can never leave short of achieving our objectives, even when, and this is the problem in Iraq, those objectives are beyond our reach regardless of what we do. And even when, as in Iraq, our presence actually makes the achievement of those goals impossible.

So, unless all speculation is wrong, very wrong, all that Bush will put forth tonight will amount to a shift in tactics in support of a strategy which the majority of Americans, his own generals, and everyone outside a small coterie of neoconservative think tanks, believes is doomed already.

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