Before I get too deep into this argument, it’s worth noting that we did produce a whole Vent about the need for civilian expertise and help to win the war in Iraq. That war is a full-spectrum counter-insurgency fight, and we as a nation have to bring all the resources we have to bear on it if we hope to win it. We didn’t come up with that on our own–the troops at Camp Justice were practically begging for help from the civilian sector and the non-military segments of the US government. That’s explained in this show:
Now, that said, John Edwards has released his plan for combating terrorism should he become president. It’s…not a very serious plan. Confederate Yankee and the NY Sun do a good job of unpacking it and all of its implications.
The plan Mr. Edwards presented yesterday — which he dubbed “A Strategy to Shut Down Terrorists and Stop Terrorism Before It Starts” — calls for a 10,000-person “Marshall Corps” to deal with issues ranging from worldwide poverty and economic development to clean drinking water and micro-lending. He said investing in those areas would shore up weak nations and help ensure that terrorism does not take root there. That, he said, would allow the country to stop potential terrorists before they even join the ranks.
There are “thousands committed to violence” today, he said, and America needs to use all of its tools to go after them. But he said millions more people are “sitting on the fence” about whether to join those ranks. “We have to offer them a hand to our side instead of a shove to the other side of that fence,” he said.
Mr. Edwards proposed creating a Cabinet-level position to oversee the initiative, which he said would require international allies. The president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Clifford May, said he was “skeptical” of Mr. Edwards’s proposal.
“Humanitarian aid is a good thing. I approve of that. But it doesn’t really have much to do with the causes of terrorism,” Mr. May said. ” Mohamed Atta, the lead terrorist on 9/11, was based in Germany, was well-educated. The causes of terrorism are several, but poverty is not one of them.”
Edwards seems to think, along with most leftists, that poverty is the root cause of terrorism. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the war we’re fighting. Poverty doesn’t explain Osama bin Laden or Mohammad Atta or most of the terrorists who have devoted themselves to killing us. Ideology and belief is their prime mover, not externalities like economic conditions. Edwards’ misunderstanding is the same one that led Sen. Patty Murray to extol Osama bin Laden’s highway-paving in Sudan while ignoring America’s far larger and more conspicuous humanitarian work all over the world. Put it this way: When disaster strikes in Indonesia, Pakistan or anywhere else, no one calls on al Qaeda to send in its navy to purify drinking water. That job goes to the US Navy.
Proposing that we need yet another Peace Corps/AmeriCorps/Girl Scout kind of organization to help fight the war is just typical leftist nonsense. We don’t need another bureaucracy. We need to use the ones we already have more effectively. And we need to use them in conjunction with military power where it’s needed, and it’s needed in an awful lot of places right now.
While Edwards is pushing for a new brass-plated “Marshall Corps” to do what the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps already do, he’s also pushing to keep the military out of the fight for longer periods of time.
* Force Structure: The force structure of our military should match its mission. The Administration’s mismanagement of the military has not only breached the faith at the highest levels—it has led to a very dangerous situation for our security. We are sending some troops back to Iraq with less than a year’s rest. Edwards believes we need to ensure that our force structure is well equipped for the challenges of the new century. We must have enough troops to rebuild from Iraq; to bolster deterrence; to decrease our heavy reliance on Guard and Reserve members in military operations; and to deploy in Afghanistan and any other trouble spots that could develop. As president, Edwards will also double the budget for recruiting and raise the standards for the recruiting pool so that we can reduce waivers issued for recruits with felonies, which have skyrocketed under President Bush.
Confederate Yankee responds:
Correct me if I am wrong, but as I recall history, the idea of our soldiers needing a year between deployments seems to be a modern phenomenon. Our soldiers in the Continental Army did not get year-long rest breaks in the Revolutionary War, the World Wars, or any other conflict in this nation’s history until the current war in Iraq. I seem to recall that units were sent into battle, fought, and took brief “R&R” breaks of much shorter durations during a major conflict, sometimes lasting just a few days or weeks, and other times lasting months.
By way of example, World War II’s “Band of Brothers,” Easy Company, 506th PIR, went through several weeks or months of combat, with several weeks or months of training or R&R between combat deployments.
Edwards is promoting using part of the Murtha “slow bleed” strategy to keep the military out of the war. Think about that.
For what it’s worth, I think the military needs to re-think the way it’s handling its deployments to Iraq. Currently, it’s sending units to one Area of Operation (AO) for a year, sending them to home base for a year, then sending them to an entirely different AO for their next deployment. Units end up taking up to six months just to learn who’s who in their new AOs, only to leave in another six months and then come back to be strangers in a strange land the next time. It makes very little sense to deploy a unit to Tikrit in 2004, and then to Baghdad or some other place in 2006. It’s a waste of time and lives to handle deployments the way they’re currently being handled. They ought to rotate in and out of the same AOs as much as possible, so they can build up and retain their knowledge of the battle space from year to year. But Edwards isn’t proposing any actual strategic thinking in his strategic plan. He’s proposing politics and signalling that he won’t be Bush. That’s not enough to win the war. Not that he really cares about that.
Put succinctly, Edwards’ plan isn’t serious. He wants to make the military larger while raising standards of entry. He wants to “aggressively gather intelligence” even while decrying Abu Ghraib, which had nothing to do with intelligence-gathering, and decrying the waterboarding that probably got Khalid Sheik Mohammed to betray ongoing plots that would have equalled or surpassed 9-11. He wants to close Gitmo, but doesn’t say what he’d do with KSM and the other hardened terrorists who are there. He thinks our nice treatment of captured terrorists will persuade terrorists who capture our guys to be nice to them. He wants to give more power to military commanders, when President Bush has always said that he relies on his field commanders to direct the war, and while Edwards is promising to be more hands-on in directing the war. His plan is a self-contradictory mishmash of dreams and dull-witted politics, along with one or two good ideas that he borrowed or that have already been implemented. It’s leftwing boilerplate designed to placate the nutroots. It’ll do that, but heaven help us if he actually ends up in the White House.