Selected Quote from F.A. Hayek
"The Road to Serfdom" was written in 1940. His word is still true today, and probably will be true in the future. It is true for all circumstance. In his introduction Hayek wrote of the frustration that, unlike history, one cannot predict the outcome of event.
"Contemporary events differ from history in that we do not know the results they will produce. Looking back, we can assess the significance of past occurances and trace the consequences they have brought in their train. But while history run its course, it is not history to us. It leads us into an unknown land, and but rarely can we get a glimpse of what lies ahead. It would be different if it were give to us to live a second time through the same events with all the knowledge of what we have seen before. How different things would appear to us; how important and often alarming would changes seem that we now scarely notice! It is probably fortunate that man can never have this experience and know no laws which history obey."
How true! Let take Iraq. If we know what we knew now two years ago. How much better would thing be. We would have had enough troops, not went through with De-Baathification, and not disband the Iraqi Army. But we did not know. Or did we?
"Yet, although history never quite repeats itself, and just because no developement is inevitable, we can in a measure learn from the past to avoid a repetition of the same process. One need not be a prophet to be aware of impending dangers. An accidental combination of experience and interest will often reveal events to one man under aspects which few yet see."
Certainly it was not the first time an counter-insurgency war has been fought, not by us and certainly not in history. Yet why are we going through the same painful lessons that were taught to others. Yes Iraq is distinctively different from other event in history. The comparision with Vietnam is . . . stupid. Yet there are lessons to be learned from Vietnam.
One lesson is that insurgency can be defeated. Uninformed pundits will tell you that we lost in Vietnam to ill equiped barefoot guerrila. We lost, but not to them. The Communist insurgency in South Vietnam was completely defuncted by 1971. We were successful in destroy an insurgency far more deep rooted, far more wide spread, and had much better support (politically and militarily).
South Vietnam was defeated by a force superior in arms and superior in number. Uninformed pundits must have forgotten column of tanks and armour vehicle crashing into the Presidential Palace on April 19, 1975. Hardly the barefoot pajama clad guerillas that Communist sympathizers claim. North Vietnam received 2 billion dollars worth in military assistance from the Warsaw Pact and China per year. South Vietnam at peak received 1 billion. In 1975, the military assistance was zero.
But Vietnam is not the subject of my post, it is merely an illustration. An illustration that an insurgency can be defeated. In fact history would showed that the majority of insurgencies fail, only a very small percentage succeed. But it is often the successful one that is studied and taught, reinforcing the erroneous impression that insurgency cannot be defeated.
Have faith. We can prevail in Iraq. But we need to do a better job studying history. The last two years were riddled with avoidable mistakes, mistakes that other already made, and we fail to learn. It is time we become a better students of history.