LOSING HURTS TWICE AS BAD by Christopher J. Fettweis
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The Four Stages to Moving Beyond Iraq
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Not another screed on Iraq, but a well-considered account of what’s likely to happen once we leave.

Mixing psychology with history, Fettweis (Security Studies/Naval War Coll.) writes that both nations and individuals feel the pain of failure more intensely than the joy of success. The North celebrated victory at Appomattox and went back to work; the South seethed for a century. Losing a traditional war pales in comparison to defeat by an ostensibly weak opponent, from the 13 colonies beating Britain in 1783 to the 20th-century humiliations of the French in Algeria, the United States in Vietnam and the Soviets in Afghanistan. To explain the consequences of defeat, Fettweis adopts the language of psychology, which identifies four stages of mourning. Like individuals, nations experience (1) shock and denial, (2) anger, (3) depression, and finally (4) acceptance. America is already passing through Stage 1 as supporters frantically assert that we are winning and that only weaklings, leftists, terrorist sympathizers and the media disagree. Great nations foolishly persist fighting unwinnable wars, proclaiming that withdrawal would lead to catastrophe. Thus, our leaders assert that to “cut and run” would embolden terrorists, reduce America to an object of contempt in world eyes and lead to genocide in Iraq. Fettweis points out that identical predictions about Vietnam (substituting communism for terrorism) were not fulfilled, and he makes a persuasive case that these disasters are extremely unlikely. Defeat by a contemptible opponent traumatizes a nation. Weak systems may fail—Afghanistan pushed the Soviet Union over the edge—but most do fine. America recovered from Vietnam, France thrived after abandoning Algeria, Britain flourished without America. Ironically, North Vietnam, Algeria and the fledgling United States did not fare nearly as well.

A convincing argument that the only enduring harm to America from leaving Iraq will be a trillion-dollar debt and a few thousand dead.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-393-06761-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2008