Recently I sent a cartoonish video to a friend. The video showed some, well, shall we say, ‘less than intelligent’? behavior on the part of those living in what one assumes is South Asia. In reply, my friend asked, “Why is it that we can’t defeat these idiots???”
We CAN defeat them any time we CHOOSE to do so.
The US has chosen NOT to go to war in pursuit of national goals since 1945. Nothing we have done on the field of combat since 1945 has been “war.” Armies are tools of policy; destroying an army – national or otherwise – is only the destruction of a tool of policy, it is NOT the destruction of those making or enabling those policies.
“War” is the use of all national military, economic and political means to change objectionable behavior on the part of an opponent, behavior objectionable enough that we are willing to kill and to die to change it. Historically this has meant the pursuit of complete destruction of the enemy polity, from Rome’s sacking and razing of Carthage – and sowing salt in their fields after killing every man, woman and child, to Shermans’ march through Georgia, to the firebombing of Tokyo, the day/night bombing of Berlin, the firebombing of Dresden and the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That is how one wins wars. If you aren’t doing that you are not at war; you are engaged in the folly of limited combat and showing your enemy that the lives of their people – who feed, arm, train, produce their warriors killing your youth – are MORE important than are the lives of your youth. FDR & Churchill, having seen in WW2 what happens when an enemy is not defeated, occupied, made dependent on the victor – as Germany was NOT in WW1 – understood this and made unconditional surrender their goal and total war their means.
Germany and Japan have been peaceful military and economic allies ever since.
We have decided since 1945 to embark on the ahistorical fantasy that being so big and so powerful that our enemies, having received enough pinpricks and watched enough episodes of “Future Weapons,” will realize they can’t win and so decide to quit the fight. Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq and Afgh all are examples. This is absurd. Through this policy we teach to those thoughtful enough to observe that our post-Enlightenment, post-Industrial Revolution, post-Information Revolution young men and women are no more valuable to the future of the world than a bunch of ragheads living in the 7th Century, stoning women to-death in the name of irrational superstition.
How many Mozarts, Hawkings, daVinci’s, Degas, Faulkners, Fitzgeralds, Rembrandts, Einsteins have we lost by sacrificing our youth? We will never know, but the future will be the poorer for it.
How many have our tribalist, pre-Enlightenment opponents lost by our killing them? None.
There is NOTHING in the Muslim world worth the life of a single American. Nothing. Not one damned thing.
Simply, the limited combat in which our leaders have chosen to engage since 1945 has been at unknowable, but extreme, costs to our future. And it is not, has not been, cannot be and never will be worth it.
If we oppose an enemy’s behavior enough to kill and die, and if we have the means to destroy him and the polity that provides him the ability to organize, train and equip forces against us, and destroy him at no loss to post-Enlightenment, post-Reformation, post-Restoration life, NOT using those means is ahistorical, absurd, and only can mean we are not serious. To ask our youth to die when we are not serious about the goal is the most immoral thing I can conceive.
To pretend that “innocent civilians” exist is to deny the fact of war. Any people willing to aid and abet those killing Americans, to send their 3-year-olds out to blow themselves up, who arm and hide terrorists cannot be considered by any mature human being, “innocent” by any stretch of the imagination. ONLY the infrastructure of a neighborhood, city, nation can house, arm and feed our enemy; therefore that infrastructure – human and brick-and-mortar – is part of the scope of war. Did we worry about “innocent civilians” in WW2? The “Germans Street”? Of course not – we were serious about the goal and understood that the lives of our warriors and our way of life were superior to our enemy’s civilians and THEIR way of life.
So we destroyed their polity, and won the war.
If we have an opponent whose behavior we find repulsive enough to go to war, the goal MUST BE unconditional surrender, the making of that country completely dependent on us, their conquerors (as were the Germans and Japanese post-1945), and the destruction of whatever of their population, infrastructure, leadership and military is necessary to achieve that end MUST BE the means.
We hear all the time about asymmetrical warfare. But the discussion is completely backwards. We have the tools for asymmetrical warfare – the ability to utterly destroy our enemy. Not using those tools, however, choosing instead to exchange bullets on the ground – but NOT target areas where our enemy meets, plans, moves, feeds, sleeps, puts the asymmetry on the side of our enemy. When they target all of those places and more while we refuse to do so, does NOT prove we somehow are the better people, as our leaders insist. It only proves that we care more about the lives of our enemies than about our own youth – and the future that youth will NEVER HAVE, nor the children they will NEVER bear and raise.
To bring this back to today, we have a perfect excuse right now to get out of Afghanistan. We have accomplished what we set-out to do: Kill bin Laden, overthrow the Taliban, destroy the sanctuary of Afghanistan used to attack America. Time to go. I’d frankly agree with Cain in the debate last night – we had accomplished all of this that matters by mid-2002 and have been nation-building ever since. The Right likes to pretend that until Afghanistan is a Western Liberal Democracy our job is not done. The Left has no idea what it wants to pretend today after their peaceful rule-of-law leader just invaded a foreign sovereign nation and assassinated an unarmed man (their view – I’m all for assassination; I just hate the hypocrisy of the Left; how much would it cost to put a bullet in Khaddafi’s head from 1,000 yards right now, for example? Less than the cost of one air interdiction mission. Is our goal to get rid of him… or not? And, if not, why are we spending money and risking lives to do whatever it is we are doing in Libya this week?).
An adult nation never would have spent so much lives and treasure in South Asia after having sustained the 9/11 attacks. We would have told the Taliban government of Afghanistan, once we had the same info we had to launch our 2001 attack there – ‘you’ve got 24 hours to give us bin Laden and then we’ll destroy you.’ And when the 24 hours elapsed? Nuke them. Right now we can leave and let them know: “You attack us again, we WILL destroy you; there is NOTHING in your country we value, NOTHING worth the life of a single American; keep that in mind, because we will.”
Then if they attack us again, completely and utterly destroy them with nuclear weapons.
The world is at-peace when Great Powers pretty-much set the limits and enforce those limits. Since 1945, America has been the only power really capable of doing so. We have forgotten, however, or pretended the irrelevancy of, enforcement.
The world will be a far safer place when everyone knows what lines cannot be crossed – and that the violation of those lines is total destruction.
As it should be.