Friday, September 01, 2006

Why Iraq Is Not a Quagmire

A quagmire, literally, is a swamp. Soft, marshy ground that gives when you walk on it.

Vietnam was a quagmire. Most of the country was a damn swamp. It was also an extremely difficult war situation, and it was difficult to get out of. We were stuck, literally and metaphorically, in a swamp filled with enemies, with no obvious path out.

Iraq is certainly an extremely difficult military situation, and it has no easy path out. But the literal aspects are notably absent; there's nothing wet or even damp about Iraq (well, in the north* south there were marshes but Saddam drained them to wipe out the Marsh Arabs). And exiting Iraq is not so much a difficult path to find as a situation where all exit strategies have hideous humanitarian cost.

I have an alternative to propose.

Iraq is a tar pit.

This is nicely resonant with the dusty-dry environment there, with the oil-rich nature of the area, and with the fact that the soldier slang for the deployment zone is 'the Sandbox'. A tar pit can look harmless at first: if it's covered with dust, it can resemble stable ground until too late. Also, in a tar pit everything you do, no matter what, makes you sink faster and faster. Unlike a quagmire, it's actually inescapable—unless you get outside help. Without that help, all your struggles, no matter how dramatic, are part of an inexorable process with only one possible conclusion: your unpleasant death.

Iraq isn't a quagmire. It's a tar pit. Spread the word.


Anonymous Peter Erwin said...

I think the marshes the Marsh Arabs lived in were actually in the south of Iraq. Plus, there are those rivers....

But, being from LA, I'm happy with promoting the idea of tar pits.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Xopher said...

OK, in the south then. But it's still not swampy in general.

7:08 PM  
Blogger FSJL said...

The thing about tar pits is that they preserve whatever falls in them.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Xopher said...

Only in skeletal form, FSJL. And the thing so "preserved" is dead. You can tell what it was when it was alive, but it can no longer function; any value it had as a living thing is gone.

12:06 PM  
Blogger FSJL said...

True, but then they get put together in a museum.

7:56 PM  

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