The Fog of War

Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz once wrote: "The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently — like the effect of a fog or moonshine — gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance.”

We are in the fog of war now — political, operational, strategic, tactical — and have been since Sept. 11, 2001. The war on Islamic terrorism hasn’t gone as planned, although President Bush did warn us all that this would be a long, bitter struggle. 

We were in the fog when we invaded Iraq. We thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t. Had he had those weapons, the debate today would be much different.

President Bush has failed to adequately define the endgame in Iraq, because in the fog of war, it is hard to navigate exactly the next twist and turn. And this whole administration’s credibility was irreparably damaged when the promised WMDs never showed up.

The president’s speech last night didn’t cut through the fog. He didn’t offer any powerful rationale as to why we had to stay, he didn’t connect the dots, he didn’t offer any soaring rhetoric coupled with hard data. He provides us scant comfort in the fog of war, offering only his stubborn desire to protect America from an enemy that is largely unknown, often unseen and completely alien to the sensibilities of modern Western civilization.

But if the president’s leadership sometimes falls short, the Democrats and their allies offer a plan that is downright fraudulent. Like the Sirens’ call to Ulysses, the Democrats' call to the American people is both enticing and perilous. Let’s leave now, they say. War is wrong, they claim. Spend the money on children’s and seniors’ healthcare, not on a silly war, they chant. The military has betrayed us, they advertise in the newspapers.

What the Democrats seem to offer is a simple way out of the fog of war. But what they actually offer will take us deeper into the fog. Instead of being on offense, we will be put on the defensive, with an aggressive and confident Iran filling the vacuum in Iraq, and with a more confident al Qaeda on the march in the rest of the world, having driven the hated infidel from the battlefield.

There is no absolute answer to how we win in Iraq and how we win against Islamic terrorism. While we need more than stubborn determination, we certainly don’t need a leadership of false hopes, retreat and surrender. What we need is clarity of vision that can help us see through the fog of war, and a plan that will inspire an entire nation.