Friday, November 11, 2005

Great news, but long overdue

The marines are cleaning up Husaybah, a stronghold for terrorists in Iraq. This is good news. All praise and glory to our troops.

But why did it take so long? I'm not talking about our men and women in uniform. I have no doubt they've done an awe-inspiring job and deserve endless praise on this Veteran's Day. Why did it take the Bush administration so long to close this gaping wound that borders Syria? We cannot say what went on behind closed doors. Administration supporters would no doubt have us believe that Syria was never off their radar; that this clean-sweep of the border town Husaybah was months, if not years, in the making; and that circumstances prevented taking a hard-line against Syria in the early months of the war.

Not to be an arm-chair defense analyst, but I think that's hogwash. The failure to close the Syrian border in the beginning, and the barely-noticable (until recently) public condemnation of the Syrian regime's machinations in both Iraq and Lebanon tell a different story.

I expect to hear the following justifications for this military strategy:

1) We didn't have enough troops to close the Syrian border.

Well, then we didn't have enough troops to do the job properly. Besides, given that so many of our young men and women died at the hands of insurgents whose last known address was in Syria, it makes no sense to say troop levels were inadequate because the insurgency was so robust. Limited troops makes the case for closing the Syrian border.

2) We needed Syria in the war on terror.

I've actually heard this one. It is so ridiculous, one knows not where to begin in refuting this drivel. Needless to say, regarding the Syrian regime as even a possible, inadequate, fair-weather friend of the war on terror is to forget who allows and supports such terror.

3) Having committed the overwhelming majority of our forces to securing and maintaining the vital centers of the country, we could not abandon this essential mission in favor of securing the border with Syria.

See my response to #1.

4) The increasing unpopularity of the war makes it untennable to do anything that might bring Syria into the conflict.

I've heard this one as well. First, the Syrian border needed to be closed long before Americans entered "intervention fatigue." Second, there is more to neutralizing Syria than simply taking the border towns with military force. Syria was calling our bluff. Our bluff was that no one would cross us now that we made good on our threat of invasion. Syria doubted that we would invade her, now that we were fighting in two countries. This was a safe bet. But we failed to promise, both in public and in private, that failure by Syria to stem the tide of terrorist infiltration of Iraq would result in the regime being put in the preverbial cross-hairs (as in: when we can, we'll take you out). We don't just bomb Sudanese aspirin factories, you know.

5) You're just a stupid librarian blogger. You don't know anything about the complexities of war.

Could be. On the other hand, I cannot be expected to have the same level of foresight and intelligence as those who a) nominated Harriet Miers to the SCOTUS, b) signed McCain-Feingold, c) left our borders bleeding after 9-11, d) folded on drilling in ANWAR during an energy crisis, and e) completely overlooked the possibility of a prolonged surgency in Iraq after initial combat operations were over.

So cut me some slack.

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