Sunday, November 11, 2007

1918 in Iraq: It's Over Over There

Note-This post is third and final in a series I began in January titled 1918 in Iraq, the 2nd here, where I compared America's attempts to bring a victorious conclusion to our 4-year struggle in Iraq, to the Western democracies containment and eventual defeat of Germany and her allies in World War 1. I never realized when I began the article early this year how far the Surge would carry us as we now approach years end, but it brings great relief and immense pride that our troops are showing us light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

After enduring the German’s last attempts to win the war in the spring and early summer of 1918, the allied British and French, along with fresh and growing support from American Forces, initiated their own offensive plans. This culminated in astonishing successes for the war weary but determined democracies, such as at the Second Battle of the Marne, and the Battle of Amiens, the latter struggle remembered as the “black day of the German Army” by its commander General Eric Ludendorff. Amiens also saw the dawn of modern warfare in the use of combined arms of planes, tanks, infantry, and artillery, plus one of history’s last great cavalry charges.

By September, French General Foch, the newly appointed allied Supreme Commander, planned the final thrust to drive the shattered Huns out of the West. The determined Foch would use the recently formed American First (and later Second) Army under General Pershing as part of his broad front strategy. Though not as battle proven as the veteran British and French, at least the doughboys had been spared the years of grueling and morale breaking trench warfare forced on the allies by modern weapons after 1914. Backed by the French Fourth Army, the Americans slugged into the brutal Argonne Forest, finally punching through the last German defenses by the end of October.

Meanwhile, British General Haig’s Anglo/Belgian Forces bludgeoned against the vaunted Hindenburg Line. On the 17th, Haig had foiled the German’s last attempt to hold their border through the winter. By November, the Americans and French were out in the open in the Meuse Valley, racing toward Sedan, which they soon captured. Besieged all along the Front, the Huns, who had entered the year with such high hopes for victory, began to crack. Revolts and revolution were breaking out at home, along with mutinies in the once proud High Seas Fleet.

On November 10, Kaiser Wilhelm fled into exile in Holland, with Germany surrendering the next day, on the basis of President Wilson’s 14 Points. November 11, 1918 is recalled today in France as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day in Australia, Britain, and Canada, and in America as Veteran’s Day.

Exactly 89 years later, another enemy of democracy is being forced out of its occupied territory, demoralized and defeated. Thanks to President Bush’s bold stand to hold the line against terrorism in Iraq, to keep Americans safe here at home, Al Qaeda has likely suffered a deathblow to its plans for a renewed Arab caliphate, based on the dark doctrine of Radical Islam. Considering the surprise victory of antiwar Democrats in the 2006 Congressional elections, Bush might have been excused for declaring victory and bringing the troops home early. Instead, he defied expectations by staying the course, and even upped the ante by Surging 30,000 additional troops, and appointing a new commander with a new strategy, General David Petraeus.

Like General Foch on the Western Front in 1918, Petraeus has gone on the offensive on all fronts. In a tape issued to the masses, Bin Laden now laments the fallen state of the once invincible Al Qaeda in Iraq. Reports now abound of the terrorists being driven out of the country, y a populace disgusted with the slaughter, rape, and mayhem instigated by the jihadists.

In the near future, when we bring this war in Iraq to a close, we must avoid the mistakes of the 1918 Armistice which afterwards saw the failure of German democracy and the rise of brutal dictators like Adolph Hitler. Likewise should we counter any new threats to world peace, by standing idly by when madmen such as the now deceased Saddam Hussein grasp for power. The stated intention of President Bush and even the top Democrat presidential contenders is to see a US military presence in the region for years to come. With such an attitude of responsibility, perhaps we will get it right this time.