How long is a Long War?

“Iraq and Afghanistan remain the central fronts in the struggle, but we cannot lose sight of the implications of fighting a long-term, episodic, multi-front, and multi-dimensional conflict more complex and diverse than the Cold War confrontation with communism.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is thinking about war, more war, and war forever; the long war [wiki].

Retired colonel Andrew Bacevich carefully tells us this is The American Military Crisis.

Valor does not offer the measure of an army’s greatness, nor does fortitude, nor durability, nor technological sophistication. A great army is one that accomplishes its assigned mission. Since George W. Bush inaugurated his global war on terror, the armed forces of the United States have failed to meet that standard.

William J. Astore, who has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, is warning us our militarists have led us toward “a warrior-state that went berserk in a febrile quest for ‘full spectrum dominance’.”

It seems that too many unappetizing “peacekeeping” tasks, once handled by other departments of the government, are now in the military’s lap, which turns out not to be quite as capacious as once imagined.

The Bush/Cheney administration has taken us to primitive battle. These poor, poor men. They have enabled private armies, invigorated war as an industry and made mercenaries of us all.

And so, McCain. There’s yet to be a solid, point-by-point effort to expose John McCain…

Senator John McCain arrived late at his Senate office on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. “This is war,” he murmured to his aides. The sound of scrambling fighter planes rattled the windows, sending a tremor of panic through the room.

Within hours, Mr. McCain, the Vietnam War hero and famed straight talker of the 2000 Republican primary, had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!”

There is a system out there… making mercenaries of us all.