The Glair - Victory As a Code Word
Today, at lunch, I watched the press conference given by the Iraq Study Group to a gaggle of reporters gathered for this momentous event. The only trouble was, nothing momentous occurred.
Yes, some interesting political and military recommendations were made, most of which have been made previously by others, and frankly in far better overall form and format. Yes, the group presented some really interesting psychological ideas and concepts regarding the important benefits of national unity during a time of war. But is this not a rather self-obvious conclusion, if any reasonable person reflects upon the idea for about three milliseconds?
The group also deftly and brilliantly grasped the fundamental conclusion that if the Iraqis fail to act then eventually we can't win their liberty for them. That in the end the Iraqis must decide that their liberties will outweigh their oppression and fear and so decide decisively to fight the good fight by their own measure and on their own turf. But is this a conclusion that either we, or the Iraqis, needed to wait for this group to sanction before understanding the basic theme for ourselves? Then the Justice promoted the idea that she hoped the media would do their part to correctly and fairly present the President's goals and aspirations for success in Iraq to the American Public. Is this a recommendation of the pragmatic assurance of the triumph of Realism in domestic affairs, and if so, can one say with any certainty that Realism is a more, or less, likely method of conducting successful foreign policy than what we now currently enjoy?
I was also extremely gratified to see that the group steered clear of "code-words" like Victory. You want to stick to what you know and since so many of the panel members seem to have reached the conclusion that Victory is a perniciously difficult code word, no sense in attempting to Break the Code. Codes are not meant to be broken anymore, with parturient work and cunning cleverness, as was the case when our forefathers broke the codes for victory in the Revolution, or the Civil War, or World War II. Just admit that the very idea of code breaking in this case sounds a lot like much ado about nothing and it's best to just say, "we'll skip the term for now and return to that if events leading to a Victory ever overrun our recommendations." Victory is no longer an achievable goal, it is a force beyond our ability to control which eventually, if we are lucky, over-runs us like a mysterious demonic force or some unknown pathogenic agent. In short we have redefined victory as the Ghost of a Machine we cannot control, of which we are but one lonely cog, which will never understand anything other than our own liabilities and the ping of the gears as they work around us. The modern mind at work, the modern man as self-defined: he is pinged by his circumstances, but never master thereof.
America has given birth to a whole class of people, most highly urbanized and intellectually highly Europeonized, who have simply expelled and expunged certain terminology forever from both their personal and public vocabularies. Words, once very ordinary and basic words, like Victory, Adaptability, Overcoming, Strength, Sacrifice, Heroism, Principles, and Ideals have been replaced with more sophisticated sounding and no doubt sophistical terms like Success, Prudence, Consensus, Footprint, Structure, Reduction, Redeployment, and Realism.
Nobody likes this war, wars aren't supposed to be liked. Why that is so hard for the modern American mind to grasp is probably due to the fact of wide-scale public school education in matters of history and culture, but be that as it may wars are not supposed to be liked by either those fighting the wars, or the general public at large, they are supposed to be won. Not realigned, redeployed, re-regulated or regurgitated as tidy policy summations. You adapt in war, you do not accommodate. In any war anyone undertakes in life, whether it is national or local or even personal you are presented with a number of choices and options in the manner by which you conduct and execute that war. But eventually every single choice and option narrows to two inevitable conclusions. Win, or Lose. Self-Surrender is a loss in kind as surely as having your ass handed to you by the enemy because he has simply fought harder and longer and more successfully, and thereby overwhelmed you. That's not sophistry of the modern kind, or even the ancient Greek kind, that's Realism of the Universal Kind. It's the way it has always been and always will be.
I've got absolutely nothing against the Iraq Study Group or most of their recommendations. But to leave out the very idea of Victory is to leave out the meat from the chili, the engine from the automobile, the feathers from the eagle. Might as well eat air, drive a Pinto, or fly on the back of a turkey for all of the good those methods will do you. A concession on the idea of Victory is to practically and pragmatically admit by exclusion that Victory was never your intent and that you currently have no fundamental understanding of the term, and therefore probably never did. You fight to the very end, the end of what it takes to win, or you lose. Recast that in any light you wish, even ultraviolet or infrared, and a spade is still a spade and a flush still beats a pair of clever redefinitions.
Men, organizations, institutions, and nations are ultimately known by two things; what they say and what they do. In the case of Action - Work must follow Word. In the case of Words, the Employment must dictate the Exploit. Is there an honest and thinking man or woman among us, who, being willing to strip away the meaningless babble of misdefined terminology can find either Exploit or Victory in the code words of this report? Indeed, what does this report actually report and what does this study studiously suggest?
Commitment by Committee? Victory by Verisimilitude? Success by Superficiality? Realism by Recommendation?
If that's all your recommending esteemed ladies and gentlemen then please return and speak to us again when you actually have something worth suggesting in language that actually sports a real and achievable objective. Otherwise, and let me put this in terms you can understand, "your code is flawed."
© JWG, Jr. 2006
Excerpts of Iraq Study Group report