Like many American males, I spent a spooky amount of my adolescence enamored of the military. It was the 80s, however, and since we all knew we were destined for a nuclear crematorium, we were forced to resort to politically-contorted war games in order to deploy all those cool tanks, ships, and planes. When Desert Storm finally rolled around, us Con-Sim geeks both rejoiced as armored divisions executed long-rehearsed maneuvers and groused as we had to buy revised editions of Persian Gulf-themed games.
Considering that I don’t have and never considered acquiring anything resembling professional military experience, it is dismaying that no one in authority at the Pentagon seems to have remembered the role for which the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter was designed when planning its post-Cold War deployments. Every grognard knows that the Apaches were intended as defensive weapons platforms, ambushing Soviet tank columns as they raced toward the Fulda Gap. Yet the U.S. Army, often under tactically dubious political pressure, has repeatedly assigned Apaches to forward missions for which they are ill-suited.
Similarly, while the rest of Reagan’s America swooned over Tom Cruise in his Navy F-14 Tomcat, I much preferred the unmediated power of the Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt, affectionately known as the Warthog (it didn’t hurt that when I was a kid in Tucson, the father of one of my friends was an Arizona Air National Guardsman and a ‘Hog Driver, and I once got to sit in his cockpit). Anytime wargamers set NATO on the offensive, they were sure to have the Warthogs ready for close air support, and Desert Storm bore them out. Kaplan’s suggestion is spot on, and an ominous reminder of the far-reaching consequences of the seemingly tedious offenses of pork-barrel spending and inter-service rivalry.
In a civil and spiritual sense, Iraq was broken long ago by the Tikrit mafia. In a geopolitical sense, the damage is entirely our responsibility. For those who affect to base their foreign policy on morality, we are obliged to remain in and rebuild Iraq to ensure that our actions (both courageous and dreadful) have the most just possible consequences. More pragmatically, we would do well to reinforce our pose as Iraq’s liberators by demonstrating the patience, commitment, and respect necessary to restore civil society to a country (and a region) long deprived of it. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration doesn’t have a very good track record when comes to such details. We broke it, we bought it, but we’re not too keen on paying for it.