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August 18, 2011

The Miserable Failure's War in Libya May Result In Victory

Over at Hot Air -- although we've heard this before, quite a few times -- word is Qadaffy may be ready to evacuate to Tunisia. Tripoli's surrounded, and a siege may bring the city down.

If so, this is a vindication of something I've been saying for months.

The Bush model of war -- go in heavy, attempt to win the war on the backs of American (and allied) soldiers, attempt to establish a monopoly on the use of violence, and then continue that monopoly on the use of violence by acting as the nation's law enforcement/army for five, six, ten years -- doesn't work, or at least does not work at costs the American public is willing to pay.

I see no point agitating for a Full War Model against Iran, for example -- to urge such a thing is futile. I do not believe the American public has the appetite for such an endeavor. (At least-- not unless Iran uses its soon-to-be-built nukes.)

We didn't use to take care of these countries in this fashion. We used to arm and train rebels within those countries (they've all got them), fund them, provide intelligence, spread some bribe money around, and, when necessary, bring in the sort of Word of God that our air and naval forces issue from the air or sea.

Such wars were messy and bloody and often very very dirty, with guerrilla tactics that often looked like "terrorism" being employed by both sides. This is only a problem when the forces on our side employ such tactics, because that's the only time such tactics get condemned in the press.

They are, however, effective, much of the time at least, and with a light American involvement as far as troops on the ground.

Colin Powell's ludicrous statement -- "You break it, you buy it" -- is a formula for nonstop, decades-long nation-building of exactly the same type that George W. Bush campaigned against in 2000, albeit on a much longer and much bloodier scale than we saw in, say, Haiti.

Why do we "buy" it if we break it?

Broken societies reassemble themselves. In fact, they seem to do so more quickly than people expect, even when faced with great devastation.

There is no need for American troops to hand-hold them through this process.

If a country thwarts or threatens the US enough to invite a decapitating military strike, one that takes out the ruling regime and renders the state without any force to impose order -- they broke it themselves.

And they can reassemble it themselves.

And the thing is -- they will.

It will not be a clean thing. There will be assassinations. There will be ethnic cleansing. Sometimes there will be mass killings, and sometimes there will be terrorism.

But what there won't be in the model of warfare I am endorsing is a large body of American troops in the crossfire.

Yes, our troops are the best in the world, and not just the best at destroying the enemy -- they are the best at destroying the enemy while sparing noncombatants' lives. They are the most disciplined and most precise forces the world have ever seen, in addition to being the most lethal.

So yes, the presence of our troops can in fact spare any number of noncombatants in such a bloody civil war.

But... I have to say: Who gives a shit? How many foreign citizens in an country we've gone to war with do I need to save in fair exchange for one American soldier's life?

I think that number must be more than 100. Actually, I think it must be more than 1000 before I really start to think that maybe that's a good exchange.

These basket-case, broken, violent rogue countries have their own growing up to do. They have to go through their own spasms. They have to shed their own blood, and inflict their own massacres.

Yes, we can spare them some of this; but why should we? Someone is going to die in a war. I nominate foreign nationals.

American troops' heavy engagement is better for all parties in a war, except for the American troops themselves, and while they might be selfless enough to nobly volunteer for such missions, I'm a little too selfish to want to use them for such purposes any longer.

In some cases, we may need to fight a WWII style total war. Fine. In all other cases, we should go back to the 70s/80s model of backing indigenous fighters with the 90s/2000s addition of devastating airstrikes.

This style of warfare isn't perfect. Libya will (as Allah suggests) probably descend into revenge bloodletting. Ask me how much I really care.

But the advantage of this style of warfare is that it is politically possible, which I no longer thing the Bush style is.

And The Hell With John McCain: Colin Powell's "you break it you bought it" exhortation was pernicious.

But so was John McCain's constant agitation during the Clinton years that only "boots on the ground" would suffice in any armed conflict, and doing less than inserting ground troops was somehow cowardly and dishonorable.

He was always agitating for that in Kosovo, for example. Why? I didn't give a shit about Kosovo in the first place; if we have to go to war there, then I suggest we keep it in the skies.

Not inject ground troops into a very marginal war just to demonstrate we have the guts (? -- who's guts?) to do so.

We have a strong interest in disarming Iran.

Do we have that strong an interest in rebuilding it and pacifying it? No, I don't think we do.

Let's prioritize what we actually care most about, and have the courage (to use a favorite word of McCain's) to make distinctions about what we will and won't risk our troops' lives for.

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posted by Ace at 10:03 PM

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