Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Stronger and Losing?

There has been much comment on whether or not the enemy in Iraq is losing or winning and whether the enemy in Iraq is weaker or stronger. In truth, these questions are separate although they are often treated as equivalent questions.

Take World War II as an example. The Germany of 1944 was stronger than the Germany of 1940. The Germans went from light and obsolete tanks in 1940 to modern heavy tanks in 1944. Armored infantry actually had halftracks instead of trucks. By 1944, jets were coming on line as were missiles. And the U-boat fleet was much larger with better technology. Certainly, far more Germans were under arms and German war production was much higher.

But Germany was winning in 1940 and losing by 1944. How was this possible?

Simple, because objective strength and winning are not necessarily linked. In any war, national efforts will increase as time goes on. Each side will put more resources into the fight and the level of fighting will escalate. So by the end, each side is much stronger than at the beginning of the war yet only one side has won. American, British, and Russian strength increased much more than Germany's strength in World War II. German strength, while absolutely greater in 1944 than in 1940, was relatively weaker compared to their enemies.

Thus it is in Iraq. By looking at attacks per day the enemy is as strong as it has been over the last year. By casualties inflicted--especially civilian casualties--they may be more powerful.

But nonetheless the enemy is losing. Our strength is growing faster. We learn and adapt and our troops become more effective with better tactics and gain better weapons. And most importantly, the Iraqis are coming on the line in growing numbers and in increased effectiveness with better training and better equipment. They are backed by a growing government that draws strength from the people who voted for it and who back it in the fight against the enemy.

So is the enemy absolutely stronger now than a year ago? I don't know. Maybe. Then again I've never thought body counts were any measure of winning or losing. We lose troops but our troops strength in Iraq is a function of our will to fight--not losses. For the enemy it is the same--they lose but replace as long as they can recruit. Kill ratios are only important as a measure of our tactical prowess. Important as that is, it is not the measure of winning. Remember, pretty crappy Iraqi troops suppressed Shia revolts in the 1990s.

But I can say with no doubt that the enemy is relatively weaker than our side. And so they are losing. In time, the disparity in strength that our side is building will reduce the enemy's strength. In 1945 at some point, German strength was sapped and broken to levels less than 1940. In Iraq, at some point, the growing Iraqi/Coalition strength will break the enemy and they will fade away. Perhaps over years gradually or perhaps suddenly. But they will break if the current path is followed.

We must not throw away the victory our troops are giving us through their sweat and blood. Have we learned nothing from our recent history?