Wars are won only by inducing inconvenience to an enemy (American Revolution, War of 1812, Vietnam, etc.) or by destroying the enemy (Civil War, WWII). Creating a cease fire every other week, worrying about disarming – rather than utterly destroying – a foe, concerning oneself with “hearts and minds,” is working the inconvenience side of the equation.
Limited war, from Korea to Vietnam (French and American experiences) to Iraq, never has worked for modern countries. A non-Western, non-civilized country cannot be inconvenienced to the levels that can a modern industrial society with smaller families, more distractions and a Western liberal outlook on life and its value.
If the enemy cannot be inconvenienced to the point of withdrawing from the battle, either that enemy must be destroyed – or we do not believe in our policy goals to the extent that we should in order to be willing to go to war, even in defense of those policies. No third option exists.
If we do not believe in our policy goals, the sacrifice of the lives of our soldiers is immoral. If we do believe in our policy goals – and I certainly do – then the enemy societies must be defeated, not just have their policy tools, their military forces, run off an inconvenient battlefield to lick their wounds and rearm.
Which brings us to war, and to weapons of war.
Precisions Guided Munitions (smart bombs) are police weapons, not weapons of war. In fact, once they have been used on selected high-value targets which can slow the execution of the enemy’s war plans and machinery, such as anti-air batteries, PGMs hamper the prosecution of war. Once those high-value targets have been destroyed, PGMs must go back into the depot and weapons of war brought out.
Civilians are killed by weapons of war. Civilian deaths are and must be seen as unavoidable for the simple fact that the goals of the enemy society can only be defeated by defeating their society – not just its armed policy tool. War is not combat, which is only a part of war. We use different words for a reason.
This means not just that civilians can die, it means they must know they will die, must understand that their deaths will not be avoided to the detriment of legitimate military operations. This knowledge must be real enough to cause them to change their policies – which is the whole point of the war in the first place.
In order to win a war, enemy civilians must occupy a lower rung of importance than the goal of the war. Otherwise we tell our soldiers – and theirs – that their civilians are more important than our soldiers. Civilian deaths, though not sought after, must be accepted if doing so means we are making our policy tool – our military forces – more effective in reaching the political goal which we are trying to reach through their use.
In fact, no great effort must be made to avoid them. If civilians are in the battlespace their loss may be unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as losing the war. More civilians died in the firebombings of Tokyo than in the nuking of Hiroshima – and no one was particularly concerned – we were at war.
As long as our enemy knows we will avoid legitimate military targets, putting our forces more at risk in order to avoid civilian casualties, war cannot be won. It really is that simple.
If we collapse their society, destroy their polity, we win. If not, we lose. Ask the Vietnamese. America never lost a single combat engagement; there is no question we lost the war.
We are not in a police action. We are in a war – or should be. The lives of the soldiers of my country are more important than the lives of enemy civilians. Targeting only the enemy tools of warfare cannot win a war. Only targeting the enemy society and polity can.
We can win this war without incurring any domestic casualties whatsoever – which is the only moral way to fight a war. Causing those brave enough and committed enough to our values to fight for them, to die in battle when we can do otherwise is immoral.
In 1945, the Navy and War Departments estimated that the invasion of Japan would cost approximately 1M American and 5-9M Japanese casualties. Truman understood that sacrificing both Americans and Japanese in these numbers to achieve the political aim of WWII was wrong when an alternative existed. Killing these millions when victory did not require doing so was an immoral and inefficient way to win a war that was projected to last at least another four years. The realization caused him to use nuclear weapons – and avoid those tremendous costs in lives lost – on both sides. The strategy worked, the Japanese society was crushed, and Japan has been a democratic polity and an economic and military partner for 60 years.
No valid reason exists not to use nuclear weapons on our enemies, particularly Riyadh and, if it gets much closer to the nuclear club, Teheran.
From a military standpoint the only thing that matters is the size of the bang that destroys the foe. From a political standpoint, winning the war against this evil will require the general destruction and collapse of the societies that breed it, much as killing NAZIsm required the destruction of the society that bred it, and killing Imperial Japan required the collapse of the society that created it.
It is unserious to speak of societies in guiltless terms – to assume that any society is a flock of lambs not responsible for their government. All societies are responsible for their government, and all societies can overthrow their governments. Colonists threw out the British Empire. Peasants overthrew the Czars. The Chinese harshness at Tianenman Square was because Chinese leaders understood this fact.
Either we begin to take this war seriously and win it or it will become too inconvenient for a modern liberal democracy and we will lose it, with disastrous consequences for democracy, liberty, freedom and the world.
Why we are willing, evidently, to wait on the detonation of an Iranian bomb before we use the weapons at our disposal is unknown and will be dealt with very harshly by future historians – if the West survives.
And there is no reason – historical, divine, or other — to assume that the West, its liberties, freedoms, science, technology, advancements across the breadth of human effort, must survive.
While endearing, it is fascinating in the extreme to listen to the anti-war left also yammer about the primacy of evolution yet fail to understand that evolution applies to human structure – civilizations, cultures, mores – as much as it does to species. Those that can compete successfully win; those that cannot – or will not – lose.
Evolution works. It is that simple.
There is no way America and the EU are going to pony up literally millions of soldiers to invade and crush this evil ideology using the tactics of WWII minus the understanding that the goal is more important than civilian casualties. WWII would not have been won under those rules.
Killing the German society and the Japanese society freed hundreds of millions of people from tyranny and subjugation. Killing such a tyrannical, evil enemy is necessary. How that enemy feels about us is immaterial.
If we believe in our youth and our future, our casualties must be minimized.
If we believe in ourselves and in our traditions, this war must be won.