A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Bard on Troop Strength in Baghdad


President Bush addressed the American people last night to take responsibility for the continuing bloodshed in Iraq, and to announce a new policy involving increased troop strength in Baghdad devoted to the pacification of that benighted city. This time, the President seems to be asserting, we mean business; we mean to enforce our will:

Duke: “We have strict statutes and most biting laws…
Which for this fourteen years we have let slip;
E’en like an o’ergrown lion in a cave
That goes not out to prey…”

Well, for three years in the President’s case, and not fourteen, has the U.S. military been bedeviled by insufficient troop strength and hobbled by oddly Vietnamesque rules of engagement that did not permit robust assertion of its authority, with the result that furtive groups of young men, known full well by the military to be IED-planting teams, can be spotted at night but not engaged unless seen with a bomb in their hands.

Duke: “….so our decrees,
Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead;
And Liberty plucks Justice by the nose,
The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart
Goes all decorum.”

Happily, the President also announced that the rules of engagement will be changed, allowing out troops to unsheathe their might. It seems, though, that three years was much too long a time to recognize the need for this change in strategy. Three thousand honored dead call to our political leaders for clearer leadership. Timidity over casualties in the short term will only lead to greater casualties overall, or to the collapse of will and retreat that has ever been longed for by the Democratic Party.

Here Lady Percy, Hotspur’s widow, scolds her father-in-law, Northumberland, for failing to provide requested reinforcements to his own son Hotspur (also know as Percy, and Harry – aristocrats held multiple names back then) to aid in his rebellion against the falsely installed Henry IV:

Lady Percy: “The time was, Father, when you broke your word,
When your own Percy, when my dear heart’s Harry,
Threw many a northward look to see his father
Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain.
Who then persuaded you to stay at home?”

It may seem churlish to criticize the initiator of the overthrow of Saddam and the rebuilding of Iraq for insufficient zeal, and I do appreciate the President’s muscular assertion of our military against the Islamists, and note in more than passing that the Democratic alternative – defeat, humiliation, and the bowing of American independence before the UN – remains not only worse, but unthinkable.

But in war it is not enough to take the right side; one must win. And the former hobbling of our military, even if it occurred as the result of following the advice of timid pentagon generals who were averse to urban-patrol counter-insurgency efforts, is what has placed us in the currently precarious position. Our soldiers deserve better. In that respect, Lady Percy’s hot words fall on our civilian leaders and timid generals today no less than on her father-in-law then:

“Lady Percy: “…Him did you leave,
Second to none, unseconded by you,
To look upon the hideous god of war
In disadvantage, to abide a field
Where nothing but the sound of Hotspur’s name
Did seem defensible. So you left him…”.

Of course, American patriots read this criticism of an imperfect war strategy with sorrow, while American liberals read this criticism with a glee borne of their hope for American defeat. And as for what may become of the long-suffering Iraqi people in the aftermath of such a defeat; well, nothing could be further from a liberal’s thoughts.

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