Viewed in this context, the American "defeat" in Iraq projected by the press must be understood as being something wholly different from anything that has gone before. The 800 odd US military deaths suffered since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom a year ago are less than the number who died in the Slapton Sands D-Day training exercise in 1944. The campaign in Iraq has hardly scratched American strength, which has in fact grown more potent in operational terms over the intervening period. Nor has it materially affected the US manpower pool or slowed the American economy, which is actually growing several times faster than France, which is not militarily engaged. The defeat being advertised by the press is a wholly new phenomenon: one which leaves the vanquished army untouched and the victor devastated; the economy of the vanquished burgeoning and that of the victor in destitution; the territory of the loser unoccupied and that of the winner garrisoned. It is an inversion of all the traditional metrics of victory and defeat. That the assertion is not instantly ludicrous is an indication of the arrival of a new and potentially revolutionary form of political warfare.

An excerpt from

U.S. military fears new loss of public trust      

For the last 15 years, the military has consistently been the most trusted institution in the U.S., far ahead of the courts, universities, the White House and such traditional laggards as business, organized labor and the media.

    But defense experts and former officers fear that the shock of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the unexpected difficulties facing U.S. soldiers in Iraq could reverse that trend.

    Since Vietnam, the U.S. military -- and the Army in particular -- has pursued a determined and highly effective campaign to regain the public confidence that was shattered both by the defeat and by the relentless images of the brutality of war, including atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers.

    In 1966, when the Vietnam war was still escalating, 61 per cent of Americans said they had a great deal of confidence in the country's military leaders, according to The Harris Poll. By 1971, in the face of growing U.S. casualties and the revelation of the U.S. massacre of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai, only 27 per cent still professed great confidence in the military. It would take a generation, until the end of the first Gulf war in 1991, before a majority of Americans would have their faith restored in U.S. military leaders.

    The abuses at Abu Ghraib, however, threaten to puncture public confidence that reached an apogee of 71 per cent in 2002 following the ousting of the Taliban from Afghanistan.

    "Abu Ghraib raises the spectre of a view of the military that had largely been put to rest," said Peter Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University who has written extensively on public opinion and war.

    The public's esteem is not something the military takes lightly. "After Vietnam, the Army was more shattered by what they perceived as the loss of public trust than they were by losing the war," said Bob Killebrew, a retired colonel and Vietnam veteran.

    In the wake of Vietnam, the military undertook what would prove to be a dramatic transformation.

    David King, a Harvard University professor who has charted the rise in public confidence in the military, says several changes were critical to the success of the campaign.

    The military abolished the draft despite strong internal opposition from some Army officers, and set out to recruit a professional, all-volunteer force. It tackled a range of social problems, virtually stamping out drug use among soldiers and dealing with racial integration more effectively than any other big institution. And it launched a recruiting and advertising campaign -- including subsidies for movies portraying the military favorably -- that helped to reshape public attitudes.

    It also rewrote past military doctrines. The Powell doctrine, named after Colin Powell, the current secretary of state, distilled the lessons of Vietnam into an axiom: use overwhelming force to achieve clearly defined objectives.

    But the war in Iraq has exposed a series of problems the military thought it had left behind. Much as in Vietnam, the Pentagon's civilian leaders overrode the advice of the professional military in designing the war plan. Gen. Tommy Franks, who commanded U.S. troops during the war, was directed by Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, to design a plan using a fraction of the troops the general had originally envisaged.

    Gen. Eric Shinseki, the army chief of staff, was disparaged for saying it would take several hundred thousand soldiers to secure Iraq after the victory.

    Similarly, the professionalism of the military has been severely challenged. The shortage of manpower has put comparatively ill-prepared National Guard and reserve troops alongside the permanent soldiers; all of the seven soldiers directly involved in the abuses at Abu Ghraib, for example, were members of the Guard or the reserves.

    Experts such as King say it may still be possible for the military to emerge from this crisis with public confidence unscathed. In the 1991 Tailhook scandal, when female officers and civilians were groped and sexually harassed by drunken Navy pilots, the Navy responded by punishing not only those directly involved, but also many others whose only crime was to look the other way. The incident did not permanently tarnish the Navy, and left little doubt about the military's determination to deal harshly with breakdowns in discipline.

    "What matters is swift and public denunciations of the behavior and punishment of anyone in the chain of command associated with it," said King.

    But it is far from clear that the current military or civilian leadership in the Pentagon is prepared to take that sort of sweeping action to respond to the far more serious abuses in Iraq.

    At a House hearing this month, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Navy pilot ace in Vietnam, pleaded with Rumsfeld not to repeat Tailhook by punishing soldiers who did not actually participate in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. "Penalize the guilty ones, but by God protect those fine kids," he said.

    "You can count on it," Rumsfeld assured him.



  "Modern opinion resists this truth, but great battles, won or lost, change the entire course of events, create new standards of values, new moods, new atmospheres, in arms and in nations."   --- Winston Churchill