Saturday, April 17, 2004

Will the military continue to back Bush?

My ladyfriend and I had lunch today with a young soldier just back from a year-long "working vacation" in Iraq. Nice kid; positive attitude. He said that American forces are stretched dangerously thin at that this time. He also relayed scuttlebutt to the effect that another Iraqi "working vacation" should commence a year from now.

Many Americans seem to be under the impression that our military involvement will end after the "turnover of power" in June. That's a delusion. And while my young acquaintance didn't seem to mind the extension of his commitment, other soldiers may feel differently.

In World War II, the experience of serving in the British army turned many recruits into leftists, a key factor in the electoral defeat of Churchill. "I went in pink and came out red," was the common saying at the time. While we should not expect that history to repeat itself, it is possible that many members of our nation's military class will rethink their traditional pro-Republican bias. War has a way of forcing combatants into an examination of their most basic beliefs.

That process will take place both on the grunt level and within the Pentagon. Sidney Blumenthal's important new piece on Bush's Iraq policy -- a policy derived from a willful blurring of the line separating hope and belief from fact -- includes this observation:

Nor was Bush aware of similar warnings urgently being sounded by the military's top strategic analysts. One monograph, Reconstructing Iraq, by the US Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, predicted in detail "possible severe security difficulties" and conflicts among Iraqis that US forces "can barely comprehend". I have learned that it was suppressed by the Pentagon neocons, and only released to US central command after Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the foreign relations committee, directly intervened. A revolt within the military against Bush is brewing. Many in the military's strategic echelon share the same feelings of being ignored and ill-treated by the administration that senior intelligence officers voice in private. "The Pentagon began with fantasy assumptions on Iraq and worked back," one of them remarked to me.

Don't expect the Pentagonians to turn peacenik, and don't expect anyone in uniform to contemplate a Seven Days in May scenario. But don't be surprised to hear a growing number of military voices -- privates, high-ranking officers, and everything in-between -- call for a retreat from fantasyland.

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