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January 31, 2015

Fundamental Concepts - Winning at War [Weirddave]

Can the US ever win another war? It's a question that everyone should face up to, and facing up to it isn't easy. It isn't easy because the answer is hard and brutal, and we as a culture don't like to face hard and brutal truths if we can help it. I pray that if the time ever comes (and if history is any indication it will, sooner or later) we in the West are able to gaze into the abyss with unflinching eyes and do what needs to be done.


There are two ways to win a war, through devastation and through occupation, although I'm not sure that a Democratic Republic will ever be able to pull off the second one ever again.

Occupation

This is what we tried in Afghanistan and Iraq. You defeat the enemy's armies in the field, and then you occupy his territory and change his culture to one that is friendly to your culture and country. Many people will tell you that this is impossible. It's not, as the British Empire can attest, but I do believe that it's impossible today. It's a generational commitment, and it has to be done by a culture that believes absolutely that it is superior to its enemies culture. The West has neither of those attributes anymore, which means that it's doomed to failure.

It almost worked in Iraq. I encourage everyone to read (fellow Moron) Mike Banzet's excellent book A Flowershop in Baghdad for an first hand account of the massive efforts we undertook in Iraq along these lines, efforts that were succeeding, albeit slowly. You can't change a entire culture's lifetime's experiences in a couple of weeks, it takes relentless, ongoing pressure and a commitment to see it through. An administration in 2008 dedicated to keeping our presence in Iraq and building on our progress, one that exploited the Green Revolution in Iran with an eye on it overthrowing the Mullahs(think Poland in 1989)...It could have worked. It would have worked, except for....

Look, I won't say that we don't deserve the service of the men and women in the military, people whose character and competence shine like a beacon to the world. They are us, the best part of us, and they wouldn't exist without this shining city on a hill. I will say that lately I have come to doubt weather or not any modern Republic can use such magnificent tools to effect positive change in the world anymore without wasting them. In 2003, on the eve of the invasion, I told my wife "If we do this, it's a generational commitment. At least 1 generation, and probably 2 or more", for reasons that I stated above. I have no confidence that the American people, and especially American politicians, are capable of carrying through on such a commitment anymore. We are victims of our own success, too pampered and cosseted to follow through. You have to be tempered in lean times, forged by the awareness that the wolf is always out there, waiting to resume his post at the door, to make such a commitment and keep it. Far too many of our number aren't, and even worse, believe that our national prosperity and comfort are not the result of hard work and sacrifice but are somehow the dispensation of some benign god, a fact of nature that will never end. History, for those few of us who bother to study it and not twist it, says otherwise.

Devastation

This one is a sure thing, but it's surely a godawful bloody thing. First of all, you have to realize that in any population of humans, the majority of the people just want to get along and live their lives. This means a small, dedicated group of committed people can drive the entire population in whatever direction they want. We're like schools of fish, swimming along, when suddenly a couple of fish turn and dart in a different direction and immediately everyone else does the same. If the people leading the population are bent on war, these people will be the firebrands and the warriors. Look at Germany leading up to WWII. The Nazis never numbered more than 10% of the population, and look at the whirlwind they reaped (Most estimates of the percentage of "radical" Muslims put them at 20-25% of the worldwide Muslim population. Chow on the implications of THAT for a while). The war faction in Imperial Japan was similarly composed of only a small percentage of all Japanese, and the same thing happened there.

So how do you defeat an enemy thusly comprised? You kill them. You kill them, and kill them, and kill them some more, and you keep on killing them, not just the armies in the field but also the civilians back home, until the entire population cries out "enough!". You have to kill the firebrands, utterly defeat the warriors, and get the civilian population to the point where anything, literally anything, even surrender to an enemy that they've been told will annihilate them, is better than one more day of war. It's bloody and brutal and closer to hell on earth than anything mankind has yet devised, but it's the only way. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not bloodthirsty, I'm not being flippant, I am not cavalierly calling for war. I am horrified beyond belief at the reality of the words that I'm typing, but my horror doesn't make them any less true.

And then.....

And then you help them up. They'll have been told that they have no future after losing the war, so you give them one. You rush in men and money and machines and you rebuild. You give them a future of peace and prosperity and joy. WWII ended in 1945. Within 20 years Western Germany and Japan were peaceful and rich. Eastern Europe (where the Soviets acted as conquerors) was not. It's not perfect, and hatreds will linger, but man is mortal and generations born to wealth and comfort tend to be less and less susceptible to them.

The big lie is that you can't change a culture from without. You can, but you either have to make and keep a long term commitment, or you have to have the will to destroy the enemy utterly. Right now, the West has neither of those things, so as we face off against an insurgent Islam that's determined to make us surrender to them, we're going to have to accept that the status quo isn't going to change. They're playing the other long game, one employed by a culture that's militarily inferior but culturally confident. Their strategy is to make life unpleasant for us until we voluntarily surrender our culture and adopt theirs.

So far I'd say it's working pretty well for them.

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posted by Open Blogger at 10:15 AM

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