This is an excellent column re: Why we can’t negotiate with ISIS. It’s in a center-left magazine, Atlantic. The final sentence – should – launch a broad investigation of strategy and goals, because it is exactly correct:
“If ISIS remains true to its principles, that’s also the reason the world can accept nothing less than the group’s full defeat.” (Emphasis mine.)
With the goal thus defined and defended, the strategic question becomes, “At what cost?” And, of course, two answers exist:
- The cost of tens of thousands of educated kids from Western Liberal democratic nations who have been taught to value life, and trillions of dollars from taxpayers already overburdened by governments doing more than they can afford – lowering our current and future living standards, and the cost of losing immeasurable human capital through the loss of never-born scientists, writers, playwrights, doctors as their never-to-be-fathers lie dead on some far-off sand dune, and, with wars in Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan as a guide, millions of the residents of the nations in which we enter combat, for an end-result of having spent that blood and treasure in vain, as we have been since 1945.
- Nuking their strongholds, showing we recognize the mortal threat to our civilization and the human rights we – alone – support, erasing said strongholds, annihilating their warriors, destroying their ability to oppose us and proving who, indeed, is the “strong horse,” thereby reducing, perhaps to zero, any recruiting ability they may have. It might be romantic for easily-impressionable illiterates shunned by their brethren to see themselves hacking the head off another human being as a means of self-actualization; it is difficult to see that being atomized in a millionth of a second holds the same romantic sway…
In Vietnam we killed 2M Vietnamese. And lost. In Korea, 2M Koreans. And tied. Nuking Hanoi or Pyongyang would have killed millions fewer of our enemies – and none of our own kids.
Eisenhower got us out of Korea by back-channel threats to nuke China if they continued to refuse to come to the table. Having managed the largest military force to victory over the most modern enemy in the largest armed conflict in history, Ike new what he was about – as did the Chinese; they believed him. I had a conversation on a recent day with an instructor at the National War College who admitted Ike’s doctrine of Massive Retaliation was the “only reason Russian isn’t spoken today in Paris.”
Ike, unlike today’s GOP, fought his own Pentagon for eight years not to build a huge conventional military. He told the USSR that America would not respond in a measured fashion to any incursion into W Europe, but to “go all in.” This is why he is the only post-war president to have kept us out of armed conflict his entire time in office. This is why he fought against the Military-Industrial complex. He knew the answer to his question, “how many schools could we build for the cost of that bomber?” … and didn’t build it.
In Japan in 1945 we chose about 400K Japanese dead (including 4 years’ radiation fatalities) over the (Navy) estimate of 9M Japanese dead (Army est: 5M) and 1M Americans. And the Japanese since have been freer, wealthier, better-educated than ever before in their history, as well as economic, military and political allies. No one – ever – will be able to say that of our enemies in the wars we – chose – not to win.
We can pretend that nuking the enemy is bad, or we can understand that not nuking them is worse.
Yes, our kids ARE more important than theirs, end of discussion.
Or we can keep doing what we have done since 1945: Pretend that our big, bad military is so big & bad no one will fight us. Which, as you may have noticed, has yet to work anywhere or anytime.
In short – if we do, indeed, value human life, we will annihilate our enemy at least cost to ourselves – and to them: with appropriately placed nuclear weapons of a yield appropriate to each particular target.
If we do not value human life, we will continue killing millions for no reason, and for a cause we do not believe in enough to follow to victory.