The Gee What?

War is one of the most serious things mankind endeavors to accomplish. The process of killing people and breaking things can get so complicated, which is precisely why we should be careful when we use simple names to label them.

Take the “Civil War,” there was nothing civil about the entire event. Americans killed each other in record numbers, half the country was laid to waste, and it created an embitterment that is sometimes felt in our debates over 146 years after it ended. For it did end.

What if we had chosen to call it the War in South Carolina? After all, that is where the fighting at Fort Sumter is supposed to have started the war back in 1861. Since federal troops are still stationed in South Carolina, would there be anyone demanding we end the war and bring the troops home? I’d like to think not, but maybe the only reason is because they were smart enough not to call it the War in South Carolina.

So what is this War in Iraq? Does that refer to what is sometimes called the First Persian Gulf War? No, that was a different war in Iraq from the early 90’s, which continued via Operations Southern and Northern Watch until 2003, when the new war in Iraq began. That sounds a little confusing, even though some smart people started off calling it Operation Iraq Freedom (OIF). What was OIF all about?

Regime change. Remember?

According to Clausewitzian theory, OIF was a total war against Iraq. The only thing more serious than a total war is a war of annihilation, where the goal is to kill the entire population of the target country. A total war is a war where the objective is to completely remove the existing government of the target country, which happens to be what was done—regime change. Saddam’s military was defeated and scattered; he and his government went into panic hiding; he was found, arrested, tried, and executed; a new government process was created, and democratic elections were accomplished. If that’s not “mission accomplished” for OIF nothing can be.

Nevertheless we keep hearing about the war in Iraq, as if we were still fighting the 2003 OIF. So what is really happening there?

Iraq is a willing and increasingly able ally in the US-led Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), and those who are on the terrorists’ side are concerned about what a strong united Iraq will mean to their cause. We can only understand the terrorists’ plans for us only if we can remember 9/11.

Annihilation. Remember?

How the current administration allowed the anti-war crowd to keep using “The War in Iraq” as a rallying point defies political logic. The US-led effort is fighting the terrorists in Iraq, just as we fight them in Afghanistan, and myriad other places at home and abroad—that’s why the word “Global” is in the name. They are all part of the same war being fought in multiple theaters around the globe.

We’re calling it by the wrong name. It should be called the “Iraqi Theater of the GWOT” or the “GWOT in Iraq” because that is what it is.

It just makes sense.

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