Friday, September 24, 2004

Guadalcanal Redux

An interesting discussion of why Iraq is NOT Vietnam, its Guadalcanal:

In fact, World War II is a far more accurate comparison for the global war we are waging to defeat terrorism. Both wars began for the United States with a catastrophic sneak attack from an undeclared enemy. We had many faint and not-so-faint warnings of the impending Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, not least the historical precedent of Port Arthur in 1904, when the Japanese launched a preemptive strike against Russia. We had similar ill-defined warnings and precedents about al Qaeda and Islamist terrorism (the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998; the USS Cole bombing in 2000), but in 2001 as in 1941, we lacked the "hard" intelligence requisite to convince a country at peace that it was about to pitched into war. ...
As Japan amassed victory after victory in the early days of the war, America and our allies could see that we had a long, hard slog ahead of us. Americans understood there was no recourse but to win, despite the fearful cost. This was the first and foremost lesson of World War II that applies today: Wars of national survival are not quick, not cheap, and not bloodless.
In one of our first counteroffensives against the Japanese, U.S. troops landed on the island of Guadalcanal in order to capture a key airfield. We surprised the Japanese with our speed and audacity, and with very little fighting seized the airfield. But the Japanese recovered from our initial success, and began a long, brutal campaign to force us off Guadalcanal and recapture it. The Japanese were very clever and absolutely committed to sacrificing everything for their beliefs. (Only three Japanese surrendered after six months of combat--a statistic that should put today's Islamic radicals to shame.) The United States suffered 6,000 casualties during the six-month Guadalcanal campaign; Japan, 24,000. It was a very expensive airfield.

I have been thinking about the argument that Iraq was a "distraction" in the Global War on Terror, and I think that perspective is bogus. In fact, Iraq has become the "lure" for the terrorists, and this seems to me to be a good thing. What Kerry and others who argue that we should abandon Iraq so we can concentrate on the GWOT don't realize is that by deposing Saddam Hussein, we have brought the shadowy terrorist groups to a central location where we can battle them. Iraq IS the battleground for the GWOT. And so is Afghanistan. This may have been an unintended consequence of toppling two of the world's biggest state sponsors of terrorism, but in retrospect it seems logical. They are two battles in a global war.

Kerry and others also forget that Afghanistan and the hunt for OBL has not been abandoned (in point of fact, they are terrified that Bush will capture OBL prior to November 2nd- see Teresa Heinz Kerry's remarks today). If Iraq is Guadalcanal, then Afghanistan is Midway and its elections in October will be a turning point in the favor of Freedom and Democracy.

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