Friday, January 26, 2007

Vietnam's Very Long Shadow

For the past few years, you haven't been able to turn on the news without hearing how many people have been killed in Iraq. The dead people are always on one side. Ours. No one ever seems to count the bad guys getting greased. If we did this on sportscasts, we'd only give the score for one team.

How would you know who was winning?

Back in the day, when McNamara was running the DoD and the war in Vietnam was raging, the DoD published enemy body counts. McNamara was a fanatic for numerical metrics of success. "We've killed this many of them and they've killed that many of us, therefore we're winning." The press were told we were winning and was given a scoreboard of bodies.

When the North Vietnamese launched their disastrous Tet offensive, the press saw a major offensive action by an enemy they had been told was losing badly. Despite Tet being a catastrophe for the North Vietnamese, the press focused on what they thought was a pack of lies from the DoD. "You told us they were losing and here they launch this huge attack!" From that day to this, the scoreboard has shown only one score. The DoD was so burned by that experience that they've refused to go back to the days of telling us how many bad guys were taken out.

The end result is a one-sided scoreboard that convinces everyone we're losing. Are we? I'm not sure that discussion is even possible as most Americans have been convinced by the one score scoreboard that we aren't. Articles like this tell a different story.

The wider Sunni insurgency — the groups beyond Al Qaeda — is being slowly, and surely, defeated. The average insurgent today feels demoralized, disillusioned, and hunted. Those who have not been captured yet are opting for a quieter life outside of Iraq. Al Qaeda continues to grow for the time being as it cannibalizes the other insurgent groups and absorbs their most radical and hardcore fringes into its fold. The Baathists, who had been critical in spurring the initial insurgency, are becoming less and less relevant, and are drifting without a clear purpose following the hanging of their idol, Saddam Hussein. Rounding out this changing landscape is that Al Qaeda itself is getting a serious beating as the Americans improve in intelligence gathering and partner with more reliable Iraqi forces.
I left off the author's name. Does it really make a difference who wrote it? Our one-sided scoreboard has so distorted reality that anyone making these claims is immediately disregarded as an administration stooge.

However, the technological, manpower and sheer firepower difference is huge. We've got it, they don't. An ancillary consequence of Vietnam is that not only do we no longer trumpet our successes, we don't even discuss our advantages. Dig this.

How would you like to be on the receiving end of that? Wouldn't that be a blow to your morale? Unfortunately, the DoD is so scared of setting themselves up to explain another Tet that they won't give the scoreboard for the bad guys. And the bad guys are getting creamed.

H/T: Our College of Cardinals.

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