Friday, June 25, 2010

A Time To Fight

I just finished reading Senator Jim Webb's book "A Time To Fight".  Jim Webb is a Vietnam Vet (Marine) who climbed the military ranks to become Secretary of the Navy.  He's also a successful author.  I enjoyed his book (with the exception of typical political self-promotion and opponent bashing).  A couple of the key take-aways:

Japanese Prison System
Senator Webb had the unique opportunity to visit a Japanese prison.  Compared to the U.S., Japan has highly trained prison guards, about 1/10th the prisoners per capita, of which they keep in prison for a shorter period.  They have the of re-integrating the prisoner into society (they teach work skills, respect, etc.)  When asked how they started this they replied that they have been doing this for over a century.  How did they develop this system?  They learned it from the U.S. and Germany.  Where did we go wrong and how do we fix it?

War Strategy
Senator Webb was very critical of the war in Iraq.  His description helped me to better frame my opinion about the war. I believe in being supportive of our troops while at the same I generally oppose having gone there in the first place.  I believe that we justly carried out the war and have done good there.

The issue is long term strategy vs. short term tactics.  In the game of chess (for example), you have to consider the value of all your pieces.  You might make a sacrifice, but only for a greater advantage. 

  • Global Relations - Before the Iraq war, the U.S. had basically universal support in the war on terror.  Our motives are now in question and support has fallen.
  • Financial Costs - The $1 trillion and counting cost of the war was an unfortunate expenditure considering our current crisis.  The additional cost was that it resulted in turning over Congress to the Democrats with basically an open line of credit.  
  • Human Cost -  
    • ~4,000 U.S. Deaths [1]
    • ~30,000 U.S. wounded .
    • ~300,000 to 500,000 with mental health issues.  This was according to an article in a recent issue of the USC Alumni magazine that claims 1 in 3 will return with problems.  Another article claims 1 in 5. [2]   About 1.6 million people have served to date.
    • ~100,000 Iraqi Deaths
    • 1-3 million Iraqi refugees [3]
  • Balance of Power -  This wasn't in "A Time To Fight" but I read another article about the FBI agent, George Piro, that gained Saddam Hussein's confidence [4].  He found that "[Saddam's] prewar weapons of mass destruction deceptions were a ruse to convince Iran - whom he feared - that he had an arsenal." [5] Since we now seem to be worried about Iran, maybe a better strategy would have been to leave Saddam Hussein in power to counter-balance Iran.
I'm sure there are plenty of benefits to the war, but I'm still not convinced that overall strategy for the Iraq war makes any sense at all.



    Dalan said...

    Nice! I am still forming my opinions of the war (you'd think I'd have them by now), and you really bring out some good food for thought.

    vicki said...

    Hey Ron, did you mean "maybe a better strategy *would have been* to leave Saddam Hussein in power"? He was executed Dec 30, 2006. (Oddly enough that was my birthday, but I won't say which one):)

    Ron said...

    Thanks Vicki. I changed to "would have been".