Thursday, June 23, 2005

Long War: Operation Homefront

At the onset of World War II there were still questions about the United States giving aid to England. Roosevelt had a difficult time getting the Neutrality Act repealed and convincing congress and the people that this war was important to American interests.

Once Pearl Harbor occured, the fact that war had come to the United States was unavoidable. That didn't mean that the populace wasn't nervous or that their original fervor for vengence and war was quickly replaced by the realities of war. Men died. Commodities became scarce. Victories were far and few between.

In the first two years of the war, McArthur was driven off of the Philipines. We lost Java, Wake Island, Timor, the Dutch East Indies, Corregidor. The battles of the Corral Sea and Midway were touch and go. That was just on the Pacific front. In North Africa, the US forces are handed a hard loss at the Kasserine Pass and in Southern Europe, allied forces made advances that cost thousands of lives.

In those years, it must have seemed the war was unwinnable and the losses unsustainable. Yet the stakes of the war had to be known. Still, it didn't stop the worry and the pain. Everyone participated and everyone sacrificed.

Roosevelt said, in his 1942 address to the nation,

"One front, one battle where everyone in the United States - every man, woman and child - is in action that front is right here at home, in our daily lives."


Today's war on terror barely matches the scale and scope of that global war, yet it has just as much importance for securing the United States, protecting it's interests abroad and reshaping the world where freedom can reign supreme.

Some would argue that this war is nothing like World War II. Certainly, the forces arrayed against us cannot match the production or scale of armies as the axis powers once did. The new enemy's tactics seem different, yet they are only so in terms of scale and method of attack. Their aims are hardly different nor the outcomes of attacks. They mean to kill Americans and any of their allies, damage our interests where ever and however they can and force our withdrawl from the field, allowing them control of a vital region that would not only effect the United States, but every nation in the world.

Which ever war is the preference for comparison, there is one fact that remains clear: without the support of the nation, without the participation and support of the American citizens, war cannot be won.

In Iraq, we don't see near the devastation and death that came to us in any past wars, discounting the little wars in Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm or Serbia/Kosovo where we barely committed war. There was no need for long term committment from the citizens. Battles were engaged and quickly completed. Massive forces were not required to take and hold land. It was easy to accomplish in comparison and easy to celebrate. The speed at which these were conducted gave Americans the false hope that all wars would and could be completed thusly.

Even Afghanistan saw major warfare completed within three weeks. Unfortunately, even there, the enemy is tenacious and small battles continue. Yet, in this war, unlike those other small wars, unlike Desert Storm, our job is to take territory from the enemy, hold it and deny him sanctuary. And, unlike these small wars, there is a true struggle of ideologies.

Afghanistan and Iraq are both fronts of the war on terror. There are those that think otherwise. This has been the failure of the administration to keep the focus on that subject and keep that idea in the front of Americans' minds. When there was no WMD, or at least, very little compared to expectations, suddenly the argument that this front, along with Afghanistan, was part of the greater war, lost some of it's strength and caused support to slowly swing away. Particularly in the face of few victories that would be recognized by the American populace. Unlike WWII where the battles were specific and were won or lost in straight forward decisions, this war, a long guerilla war, cannot be measured the same, but that is the expectation of the people.

The problem of keeping the focus on this war as part of the war on terror, is not really hard at all except that we have not done so in a concerted effort. The war in Iraq has been separated by the media and the opposition from the war on terror and labeled an "insurgency". While it is true there are anti-democracy Iraqi forces fighting in Iraq, it is also true that a wide swath of the fighters involved in killing people are non-Iraqis, affiliated with different jihadist terrorists groups and coming to Iraq specifically to kill Americans, kill our interests and take the land of Iraq as their base.

It is as straightforward as that.

After September 11, the president told people what they could do to help in this war on terror was to go home, to shop, to live their lives as they always have and help save the US economy, providing more tax money so the government could rebuild and conduct a war. He did ask the populace for patience and support and told them it would be a long war.

An excellent thought, but the wrong one in the long run. It was at this moment that the President could have and should have built on his support base and created a mechanism by which he could continue to engage the American population with information on the war, created a fighting force on the home front; one that would engage the public in the fight.

His few attempts at creating "tips" for American citizens and workers were shot down, but instead of turning it into an unregistered movement and continuing to press people to pay attention, it slipped from our sight. Instead of using American citizens to develop more home front security programs, the government developed "expert" programs where only a few would participate. Yes, he asked shipping companies to become involved, but he did not organize a port or coastal defense by the citizens. We're talking volunteer forces, of which a few went out and did it on their own. I read a recent story where retired military that had their own small planes had taken to flying their local coastline to look for problems. There were those that drive their boats around and look for the same.

Yet, we are only talking of a few intrepid folks who decided to organize and go on their own. There was no official support or recognition by the government.

The issue of border security came up. This was pointed to as a danger. There was talk of increasing money and materials to the official border patrol, but when a group of citizens calling themselves The Minutemen went to the border to help secure it, instead of the government using them as a resource and getting the CBP to use them as a resource and coordinate, the President called them vigilantes and the CBP engaged in a turf war.

At every turn, the president has rebuffed the citizens of this country from becoming involved in this war that is supposed to effect all citizens except for the military. Even then there is little in the way of asking citizens to step forward and join the fight besides the usual recruiting advertisements for the different branches. None of which talk about serving the country in a time of war. Instead we have Freedom Corps, which, while asking for citizen contributions to America, does not receive much in the way of advertisement nor verbal support by the President or any other officials. Further, there are only a few areas that would apply as being part or involved in securing the United States or assisting directly with the war effort. That's limited to emergency first responders and programs to send packages and letters to the soldiers at the front.

In short, the administration has failed miserably in engaging the public in this war. It may even be too late.

The question that has been perplexing the citizens these days is, "Are we at war or aren't we?"

They aren't talking about whether our military is abroad and fighting. From the way the President has allowed the discussion to come down to whether we should withdraw from Iraq and whether we should be there or not because the public now believes it is a civil war, not part of th war on terror.

If one wants to compare this situation to Viet Nam, there would be the comparison. Then the administration allowed the opposition to convince Americans that Viet Nam was simply a civil war and not a proxy war being fought by the Communists that were a threat. Instead, it was troop deaths and long war without a true ideological support of the populace.

Now it seems that we are to forget about the dangers, forget about the wars, pay no attention to those explosions behind the curtains, listen to the man about Social Security, Gay Marriage, Judges and Gitmo.

The most anyone heard about Iraq and Afghanistan was in the lead up to elections. And then, poof, it disappeared from the administrations dialogue.

The problem isn't just the president. Where were the senators and the representatives that voted for this war? While these folks are on recess, are any of them planning to take time to talk to the constituents and re-build their support?


Karl Rove says that the President speaks to the commanders every week. Why isn't he telling us at least once a month in a Presidential press conference the progress?

Where's the President? Where's the senators and representatives? Where's the returning soldiers and civilians that can talk about the people and the progress? About the importance?

American citizens have always been ready to step up. 9/11 proved that. The people have been rebuffed. Now the President is going to have to ask them to step up, get involved, serve in more than just the Freedom Corps, but serve in the military, help with homeland security issues.

We need an "Operation Homefront".

5 comments:

Donal said...

Exactly right Kat. This war does not require the massive amounts of resources that WW2 required but that doesnt mean that civilans cant contribute.

DaKruser said...

Kat,
THIS is why I voted against Bush, well, this time anyway. He says we are at war, but did nothing to get the populace involved. He said we needed to maintain the course, but what course are we on?? He says we need to win. I agreed, but what defines win here? He told us the "Other party" wanted to just give up. We never did, we just thought it could be handled better. I'm sick and tired of this "cover it with a rug" philosophy. If we are to win this thing, and truly win it, we must mobilize and develop a National plan. We need to define WHERE we want to go and how we will know when we get there. We need to make SURE we have the public consent and public concensus. We need our leadership to tell us what we need to know BEFORE the press breaks the story. We need the bad guys to be identified and targeted. We need to make sure the people we are trying to HELP are not the ones that are most harmed. (Many Iraqi interpreters' families are targeted by the opposition but we do little to protect them). This administration has not done a good job of any of these things. I'm not sure my party would have been any better had we won.
We need to take the propaganda out of the hands of the "Resistance/Insurgency". The Administration needs to come out clearly, and support the Oct 06 drawdown IF violence stops. The second part of that statement should be that we will not be played, and that ANY violence will be met with vigorous military activity in THE AREA THE PEACE WAS VIOLATED!!! This is a sad situation, Kat. We know we must win, but no one wants to think about what it TAKES to win besides the families that have Soldiers, will have Soldiers, or have lost their own Soldiers.
I hope things change soon. I have my fingers crossed, but I'm not holding my breath.

Kat said...

Dakruser...

I have to disagree on a couple of issues. The first is, making a time table to withdraw troops does not equal "doing what it takes to win".

Setting artificial time tables and hoping this motivates people to change their activity to "win" faster does not work in war. Largely because it does not take into account the enemy's ability to make their own actions and thus thwart our own.

Our guys aren't omniscient. They don't know what the enemy will do.

My comments are simply that the people need to be given a better picture so that they understand what the war is, where we've been and where we're going. Not necessarily time tables, but, as you do say, expectations for conditions, who we are really fightng and why.

One reason I did not vote for Kerry was his only plan to fight this war was to build Special forces up (whihc takes years to develop) and deploy them in the same activity they'd been doing before 9/11. He also wanted to begin draw down of the forces within 6 months of his election.

I don't agree with artificial draw downs in the face of enemy attacks. That's just bad period.

This isn't viet nam and I refused to let Kerry turn it into it by withdrawing and abandoning the iraqis to whatever asshole regime comes next while we set back and congratulate ourselves on removing Saddam.

What good would that have done?

However, voting someone into office doesn't mean that I will not give "constructive" criticism whenever I disagree with them or think that they are letting something slip.

I'm not that much of a partisan.

DaKruser said...

Thankfully, that is obvious. I appreciate your position. I guess, my problem is, that we have lost the "moral high=ground" here, and with one swift stroke of the pen, we could regain it. If this Administration were to go on TV tonite, and the President clearly state that he is ready, willing, and able to commit to a draw-down BEGINNING Oct 06, he could go on to point out that it is entirely based on a gradual lessoning of the violence committed by the "Resistance". If that does NOT happen, neither does the draw-down. The majority of the people (at least those who voted for him, and probably a few more like me) would fall in behind and support him. The problem is...that we dont' see the President taking the lead (as he should) in this battle. We see Condi, and Rumsfeld, MRS BUSH, etc. this ties directly into your post.
To get to St Louis from KC, there are a myriad of roads, depending on the route, the time factor changes. That doesn't mean you just take off on I-70 until you hit Sedalia, then go South to Springfield, then over to Memphis, then up the river to St Louis. You have a plan, you follow that road until it is either blocked, or you get where you are going.
I just don't even know which road we are ON, and I wish the Administration would tell me and the rest of the US.

Roberto said...

Hi Kat.....Thanks again for a thoughtful post and thanks for putting into words, what I believe many in the United States have been wondering for a long time.

You have outlined the problem, and being the eternal optimist that I am, believe that national public opinion, as fickle as it may seem, can be turned again, in support of winning the war in Iraq….Not just until they get the next headline on the TV, Radio or Newspaper….but a serious commitment to stay the course. The majority needs to believe in their heart that what we are doing in Iraq is necessary for the good of the country and the world, and then make a commitment to support the effort until the job is completed.

In order for a democracy to work well, you need an informed, concerned public. And today, we have, through the Internet the most powerful tool to enlighten the concerned public. I believe that “We” the people, sometimes called the “Silent Majority”, are just beginning to use this power, and we are effecting change. We just need to double or triple the numbers.

I don’t know if it is just wishful thinking on my part but it seems that the MSM is starting to take the bloggers of the world a little more serious. It is a little harder for them to editorialize on subjects where their knowledge is limited and their sources are suspect because there are hundreds ready to take issue. We just need to up that number by a factor of 10.

We have the tools, if we use them, to make our elected representatives more accountable. Since we can’t indivually monitor everything we need to have sources that we trust, people like yourself who take the time to investagate and pass the results on to the masses. We need to become responsible thinkers and search for the truth.

I do believe there is hope....the masses are not headline seekers, but are the unheard from majority who follow their consience and try to do what is right. All they need is the cause and the leaders and they will follow them to hell if necessary. At the moment they are confused...they just need the truth.

I remember an old movie...I believe it was called Network, where the TV brodcaster finished his broadcast with the words...."I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore." and the windows in New York opened and the cry was heard all over the city...I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore. I don´t remember the cauas or the movie story...only that line.

From one "Show Me" to another....keep the faith.

Roberto