Q&A Friday #87: Why Are We Fighting The War With Kid Gloves?

Question: “John Hawkins, perhaps I don’t read enough news, but (here’s my question) Why doesn’t Bush and our current leadership absolutely flatten places like N.Korea’s missile sites, Iran’s nuke sites, the hot spots in Iraq? Also, why haven’t we taken out thugs like Al Sadr in carpet bombing type operations? It seems like we want to fight the war on terror with kid gloves.” — John_from_texas

Answer: Let’s see, in…

North Korea: Setting aside the fact that they appear to have nukes, we haven’t exhausted all of our options there short of an airstrike. For example, we could further put the screws to them financially and blockade them if we chose. We could also make a much bigger issue of North Korea with China than we have. Moreover, it’s not out of the question that diplomacy could still provide a solution.

Even if diplomacy doesn’t turn out to be the answer, North Korea is a tricky situation to deal with because they have enough conventional artillery in range of Seoul to do major damage to that city. Could we defeat them in a conventional war? Sure, but South Korea would be bloodied in the process. Moreover, it’s worth noting that the post-Korean War generations in South Korea are probably more favorably inclined towards North Korea than us, so any sort of military strike against them would go over poorly.

Iran: Moreover, whether we need to hit Iran yet is very much up in the air. The disadvantage those of us in the general public have is that a lot of crucial intelligence info isn’t provided to us, so it’s hard to really evaluate how long Iran has until they have nuclear weapons. From the best info that has been released, we have a while to go yet and since bombing them is a last resort, we’re not at that point yet.

Of course, even if we did need to bomb them, the NIE report on Iran that came out in late 2007 basically, for good or ill, made hitting Iran a political impossibility for George Bush.

Iraq: There are times in the past, like during the original invasion and in the immediate aftermath, where we should have been much more violent and ruthless. But, at this point, we have a strategy taking us in the right direction. So, the best thing we can do is give Petraeus the time he needs to get the job done right.

Al Sadr: We definitely should have greased Al Sadr when he first started making trouble, but it’s much more complicated now. He has a large following, political juice, the Iraqis in charge don’t seem to want him wacked, and there are concerns that if Al Sadr is disposed of, the next thug that takes over his organization could be more inclined towards violence.

Long story short, despite what I’ve just written, I do agree we have been fighting this war with kid gloves in some respects. There have been times where we’ve been insufficiently ruthless and overly concerned with the treatment of our enemies. That’s a mistake. But, we also have to make sure not to make a mistake by going too far in the other direction and bombing first and asking questions later, particularly since we already have our hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan as is.

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