Military Action – Limits of Moderation

I’m pretty fond of moderation, even calling myself a passionate moderate, but in that very phrase, you might get the idea that I’m even moderate about being moderate. My moderation is not centrist, in the sense of trying to find middle ground on each issue. Rather, I believe in trying to examine all the options in order to find the best. One might say it’s more of a perspective than a conclusion.

Today Taegan Goddard’s political wire gives the quote of the day from Senator Lindsey Graham:

We made mistakes in Iraq. Let’s not Rumsfeld Afghanistan. Let’s not do this thing on the cheap.

War is not something to be pursued moderately. I’m probably opening a can of worms here, but I’m going to suggest two things. First, that war should be pursued by a nation only when it is truly the only workable option, and one should be certain it is workable, else it isn’t actually an option. Second, if one chooses to pursue war, one should pursue it to success.

I would issue yet another caveat to my second point: You must be certain that success as you define it is actually possible. The greatest problem of the Iraq war, in my view, was that it was charged with a set of goals that simply were not and are not going to happen. (To those who claim victory at this point, let me point out that if Iraq becomes a base of terrorism in the future, or the government is unstable, what we set out to do was not done.)

The problem is that our response to opposition to a war is often to pursue it more gingerly, in a more limited fashion. When one goes to war, but doesn’t commit the resources to succeed, then one has simply killed lots of people for no purpose.

Is Afghanistan salvageable? I don’t really know at this point. I think one of the greatest strategic errors of the war on terror was moving into Iraq without truly completing the military goals in Afghanistan. But if we simply stay and fight with less resources than are needed, all we are doing is prolonging the agony.

War is not something to be pursued moderately. It should be pursued to success, or not at all.

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