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The Fracturing Of The National Will II

The outcome of the national elections of November 7, 2006 represents a fracturing of the American national will concerning the war in Iraq. To understand it is to see how a number of elements have converged:

• First, the insurgency in Iraq, as well as the insurgency in Afghanistan, and the worldwide insurgency of al Qaeda, are political struggles, and not military struggles. They are also otherwise known as fourth generation warfare. As such, their (the insurgents') strategic objective is to defeat the national will of the counterinsurgent (the United States).

• The national will of the United States consists of two elements: The political will of the government, and the public will as reflected in popular support. When the national will - whether the political component or the popular component - turns against the counterinsurgency effort, the insurgent wins.

• In the case of last week's elections the American public used the ballot box to demonstrate the turning of the public will against the war, i.e. the counterinsurgency, in Iraq. This election was more about the failure of American leadership and the absence of grand strategy in the war in Iraq than anything else. By taking control of the Congress and the Senate from the Republican Party and giving it to the Democratic Party, the public demonstrated as clearly as it did during the Vietnam war that it has turned against the war in Iraq.

Here are some possible implications:

• The United States has come up against insurgencies/fourth generation warfare on three previous occasions - in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. In each case the United States lost as a result of the fracturing of its national will. In Vietnam the American public turned against the war, and in Lebanon and Somalia the national political will faltered.

• To lose a war is bad. Each failure resulted in subsequent challenges to American leadership on the international scene. The negative effects of its strategic failure in Vietnam produced a lingering effect on the United States, both in its institutions and the American public, that remains today.

The durability of the potential negative effects of strategic failure in the war on terror - in the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the war against al Qaeda - can be observed in the current debate in public forums on the perceived threat to the nation. As a nation we must consider this very carefully. In the near future the independent Iraq Study Group will offer its recommendations to the Bush administration. Hopefully, as they seek an exit strategy from Iraq they will find the wisdom of Solomon in their deliberations.

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