LESSONS LEARNED

Victor Davis Hanson has some excellent reflections on the Iraq war. The thing that struck me most was this passage:

Rumsfeld was also slurred for remarking on the superiority of professional troops over draftees. But his point remained valid. The new American military proved lethal beyond its numbers, as near-adolescents without combat experience showed themselves to be more adept at street fighting than the so-called Saddam fedayeen. What has become clear from the war is that, from year to year, the American military has increased its lethality geometrically, not incrementally. What has also become undeniable is the moral character of our forces. Neither bloodthirsty nor triumphalist, American soldiers came across on our television screens as idealists eager to liberate the unfree and return home, content that they had defeated killers and saved innocents. One will long remember the sight of Marines in ray-ban glasses, their radios blaring rock music and their tanks emblazoned with slogans like “Anger Management”: this really was something new in history, a strange marriage between contemporary American mass culture and 19th-century concepts of heroism, patriotism, and humanitarianism.

This point can’t be repeated often enough. While there are some excellent arguments for a revival of the draft, they mainly center around the social good that would come from mandating national service, inculcating discipline, mixing the social classes, and all the rest. These are all wonderful goals and I believe a draft would be a good means of acheiving them. But a draft would also undermine the professionalism of our military. Constantly churning through young soldiers that don’t want to be there is counterproductive. As has often been noted, the purpose of a military is to fight and win wars; it is not a social program.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

LESSONS LEARNED

James Schlesinger argues that this war will alter the strategic and psychological map of the Middle East:

The war has most dramatically conveyed the following realities:

1.) The U.S. is a very powerful country.

2.) It is ill-advised to arouse this nation by attacking or repeatedly provoking it–or by providing support to terrorism; and

3.) Regularly to do so means a price will likely be paid. Far less credence will now be placed in the preachments of Osama bin Laden regarding America’s weakness, its unwillingness to accept burdens, and the ease of damaging its vulnerable economy, etc.

He also hopes that the press and European elites will learn some lessons, but is less optimistic.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.