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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On dehumanizing the enemy in war and the nature of victory 


A couple of days ago Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club linked to a bunch of old news reel clips that reported on the brutal means by which the "greatest generation" fought and won World War II. One quickly realizes that our fathers and grandfathers were tough men who did what was necessary to win. More tellingly, the military chose to release these reels to the public. The mothers and children and Democrats back home must have been quite different than they are today. We should not forget that when we ask ourselves whether we really support the troops.

The change really has been dramatic. Fernandez:

While people may not want to return to the methods of World War 2, it is dishonest to pretend, as it is now fashionable to do, that Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill conducted war according to some high moral standard that the Bush administration has somehow betrayed. The current rules of engagement of Bush-Hitler would be unrecognizable compared to that waged by the Greatest Generation, and more to point, compared to warfare conducted by any other country in the world today. World War 2 was the era of unrestricted submarine warfare, unlimited attacks on enemy cities, the development of weapons of mass destruction to counter threats which turned out were nonexistent and the internment of thousands of Japanese-American civilians. One may or may not like the facts, but they are the facts.

Of course, our parents and grandparents were not heartless, amoral people. The government -- with the loyal support of the media -- conditioned them quite consciously to accept that brutal tactics were necessary because our enemies were far more brutal. This is why even in countries that were neutral during the war, fascism is now thought to be orders of magnitude worse than Communism. (See, for example, this article about the historical ignorance of young Swedes.) We had to dehumanize fascists in order to justify the violence necessary to beat them, and the effects still show.

In the years following World War II the West renounced dehumanization in war. We did this unilaterally and alone. Notwithstanding a theoretical commitment to the post-war amendments to the Geneva Conventions (which in the hands of hostile NGOs and media bedeviled Israel in last summer's war) non-western countries and stateless armies still dehumanize their enemies as a matter of policy, but Western countries do not. The press supports them in this, by holding Western governments to entirely different standards than non-Western governments. If that was not already painfully obvious in the coverage of Afghanistan and Iraq, it became so in the Israel -Hezbollah war.

Apart from some tussles in the 1950s while the old soldiers were still adjusting to the new rules, the West has not really won a war since we decided that our enemies were people too (especially if you believe, as I do, that the Gulf War of 1991 was a victory in a battle in a war that ended before the defeat of the enemy). Is this a historical accident, or has the West decided to adhere to rules in war -- and peace, for that matter -- that have fatally handicapped our ability to win wars? Is it possible to win a real war without dehumanizing the enemy?

Excluding wars that are purposefully genocidal (in which one combatant has the objective of exterminating the other), victory in war amounts to forcing your enemy to do what you want, or to stop doing something you oppose. What does it take to achieve that victory? Well, since your enemy has already given up everything that is good in life to take up arms, live in wretched conditions, see his own friends and family die, and sacrifice his life, if necessary, it is very difficult to persuade him to do what you want. At that point, reason has departed the premises, so he will only stop fighting if he has no choice.

There are only a few ways to deprive your enemy of the choice to continue fighting. Of course, you can kill or cripple him. Unfortunately, unless your enemy has no population on which to draw, he will recruit more soldiers. In theory, you can disarm him. In practice, that is virtually impossible to do. The Germans occupied Norway with more than 600,000 soldiers -- one German for every five Norwegians, and not a one hamstrung by "rules of engagement" -- and still the resistance was able to manufacture Sten guns in makeshift factories in the woods.

You can also win by outlasting the enemy. Soldiers grow old, and if they make no progress they will not be able to inspire replacements. Most insurgencies do not "lose" so much as fade away. But it can take decades. To win this way one side needs more will to fight than the other side. The United States certainly has the capacity, both in soldiers and money, to keep doing what we are doing in Iraq indefinitely, and certainly longer than our enemy. However, there is considerable evidence that at least in the case of Iraq we are unable to sustain our will, and are therefore unlikely to outlast the enemy. This is the principle basis for the argument that negative press coverage hurts the American war effort. Of course, an unbelievably inarticulate president and an opposition that does not support the objectives of the war also sap our will (Lincoln faced the latter, but he was not the former, and that made all the difference).

If we do not want to kill an entire population, and if it is essentially impossible to disarm the enemy, and if we know we do not have the national stamina of a genuinely imperial power (our weak stomach for foreign occupation is perhaps the greatest proof that the United States is not motivated by imperial ambition), then we can only win by accelerating the collapse of the enemy's will to conform to our schedule.

There are only two ways to do this, and one of them won't work.

The preferred method -- which unfortunately is the one that history tells us will not work in Iraq -- is to make life so good for the population that it will no longer supply the enemy with materiel and replacement soldiers. The "good life" strategy will not work because the main source of enemy soldiers -- Iraqi and foreign Sunni Arabs -- cannot fathom a "good life" under the majority Shiites. They will not give up, and there are too many of them to exterminate.

The unpopular method -- which might work -- is drive the enemy population to the point of despair. During World War II, we did this with strategic bombing against civilian populations, blockades to starve civilian populations, and nuclear weapons against civilian populations. We also sent millions of young and then older German and Japanese soldiers home in body bags. We were able to do this because we decided that the fascists and the people who permitted them to come to power did not deserve to live. When we occupied their countries they did not resist because we had crushed their will.

Ralph Peters thinks that these tactics can work in Iraq.
The strategic errors of the administration, the pernicious effect of the media and factional hatred within Iraq all played their part. Corruption and al Qaeda's remorseless bloodlust made everything worse. Poor leadership plagued Iraqis and Americans alike.

But the subject presidents, pundits and professors all avoid is what it would take to win militarily. Because the answer's ugly. We prefer to sidestep reality in favor of comfy fantasies that negotiations will persuade blood-drunk murderers to all just get along....

Our best shot is to keep them on the run, to keep them off balance. But crippling their freedom of action requires that our troops seem to be everywhere at unexpected times. That takes raw numbers.

If, on the other hand, you let the terrorists and insurgents set the tempo, you lose both the support of the population and the war.

Executing such a policy also demands far better intelligence than we've produced in the past - our tactical intelligence has improved notably under the stress of war, but we still have a long way to go.

Above all, we have to maintain a strength of will equal to that of our opponents. War demands consistency, and we're the most fickle great power in history. We must focus on defeating our enemies, brushing aside all other considerations.

At present, we let those other considerations rule our behavior: We overreact to media sensationalism (which our enemies exploit brilliantly); we torment ourselves over the least mistakes our troops make; we delude ourselves that mass murderers have rights; we take prisoners knowing they'll be freed to kill more Americans - and the politicians and Green Zone generals alike pretend that "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."

That's the biggest lie ever told by a human being who wasn't a member of Congress.

Winning is everything. Fighting ruthlessly may not please the safe-at-home moralists, but it's losing that's immoral.

More of the same here.

Whether or not Peters is specifically right that unrestrained brutality can bring victory in Iraq -- I, for one, am increasingly unsure which enemy we should brutalize first -- the core point that he makes relentlessly is true: we can be patient, or we can be brutal, but if we are neither than we will surely lose every war we fight.

So what are the implications of all of this? If winning non-genocidal wars is primarily a contest of will, what does this mean for warfighting in the post-modern West? I have several propositions that I believe flow from this argument, and offer them in numbered paragraphs below. If you are inclined to comment you can refer to the paragraphs by their numbers.

1. If war requires our soldiers to do brutal things in our name, and if we must support them in that, perhaps we need to reconsider our modern reluctance to dehumanize our enemy. This does not have to amount to racism, but it will require forging a national contempt for the enemy. We need to be comfortable taking joy in the deaths of these miserable bastards. In this regard, precision-guided slurs might actually be weapons of war.

2. If virtually all wars are contests of will, and if it requires an extraordinary national commitment to sustain the national will, is it wrong to expect that "allies" will fight effectively along side when they share a different perception of the threat and therefore a less intense will to fight? If that is true, is it counterproductive to expect or require the military participation of less-interested allies in our wars (whether or not we have international approval or passive assistance, which is a different matter)? Should we expect to fight our most important wars alone, or with only those allies that are similarly in peril? Should we build our military accordingly?

3. Clearly, there are military operations that have legitimate objectives short of defeat of the enemy. The Falklands War was one, and the Gulf War was another. In both cases, the West sought only the removal of a conventional military force from a specific bit of real estate. Wars that require the crushing of the enemy's will to fight require a much greater commitment, because we must either be very brutal or very patient. The commitment necessary to win would appear to demand relentless reinforcement from the government and the elites who shape public opinion. There is obviously no such commitment in the case of Iraq, which may mean that we will have to withdraw whether we ought to or not. In the case of the wider struggle against Islamic extremism, are Americans sufficiently committed? I think we are not. The center-left elites are totally divided on the extent and nature of the threat and the means by which we must combat it, and the right is unwilling to make any sacrifice that might hurt economic growth (such as a serious program to reduce our consumption of imported oil, which comes at great strategic cost).

4. Were the post-war amendments to the Geneva Conventions a mistake? Recall the arcane discussion last summer over whether Israel's response to Hezbollah's attack was "proportional". We have gone from limiting the basis for war to constraining the conduct of war to the point where no law-abiding nation can be brutal within the terms of international law. If law-abiding nations cannot be brutal, will only unlawful nations succeed in breaking the enemy's will to fight?

Release the hounds.

65 Comments:

By Blogger Angevin13, at Wed May 16, 12:10:00 PM:

Re: #1. Reconsidering our reluctance to "dehumanize" the enemy will help also in reconsidering our reluctance to accept the fact that the nature of war is brutal and sometimes necessitates killing large amounts of people to actually ensure the safety and security of a greater number of people. You cannot have a "nice war" - if you wish for one, you ought not to enter into war.

The Romans had an interesting view of the relationship between peace, war, and brutality. They often referred not to killing or defeating the enemy when they were victorious in war, but rather to "pacifying" the enemy. The outcome of a Roman military victory was peace - a concept I think is lost today. It was in this regard, and not that they were blood-thirty villains, that they were quite comfortable with massive enemy casualties. In legitimate Roman military operations (contrasted with operations purely for the glory of the commander) peace was the overaching goal and war was continued until it was secured.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Wed May 16, 12:41:00 PM:

You cannot have a "nice war" - if you wish for one, you ought not to enter into war.

Exactly! And therefore, America can never again go to war. Ever! Because in a "democracy", if even a small part of the 'free populace' dissent, so long as they long for a nice war, the rest cannot wage a profoundly un-nice war. IOW, they will not be allowed to win. And if they cannot win, they should not fight.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Or so I've been told.  

By Anonymous GreenmanTim, at Wed May 16, 12:58:00 PM:

Nitpicky of me, perhaps, but you have peaked my interest when you ask " Is it possible to win a real war without dehumanizing the enemy?" Did the Brits dehumanize their Argentine enemies in the Falkland's War? Aside from the Sun's Gotcha! headline (later changed to "Did 1,200 Argies Drown?", I am unsure on this, but it seems that despite Jingoism and the boost it gave to Thatcher, this 3 month conflict did not demonize the enemy from a British perspective and British war aims were met.  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Wed May 16, 01:04:00 PM:

This was a long and thought provoking post. I have a few comments:

relative to (1) I recall the furor over that stupid music video "Hadji girl". A Marine writes a song that dehumanizes the enemy and the anti victory crowd gets all in a snit (yet again). We must dehumanize this enemy. We must hold the blood thirsty bastards in utter contempt. Of course the anti victory whiners will say "but then we're just like our enemy" To which I reply "poppy cock". We HATED THE KRAUTS AND THE JAPS. We hated them long and hard and killed them relentlessly and then we taxed ourselves to rebuild their country. so don't even bother with that one whiners.

(2) If we were to look at the situation today in comparison to oh say, the late 1930's I think we'd see Spain as an analog. The various governments couldn't bring themselves to fight there yet the citizens themselves saw the stakes and went to fight as individuals. Here in America the sense of threat is variable and in Europe we see almost complete denial. The anti victory crowd understands this dynamic. They demanded "allies" not because they thought we needed the help but precisely because they believed that the denial the Euro's dwelt in was the proper perspective. Short answer: we'd best be prepared to go it alone. Allies are fickle and too few countries today spend anything like what they need to on defense.

(3) In this I believe we have made a grave error. We have tried a middle route, hoping that we could confront and vanquish this enemy while still engaging in business as usual. We actually could still do that were we united in purpose. but since we are not this middle route is longer and tougher and more prone to failure. One example: the press in America could be saying things like: Yo, achmed, how is it that America is fighting your absolute best while our economy is growing and we're exploring space? don't you see how miniscule you are? But nooooooo, instead we get body counts, manufactured atrocity and a general support for the enemy.

(4) Absolutely the rules of war have become a foolish excersize in proportionality. After the Nasrallah escapade the Israelis did the right thing. They just didn't do enough of it. The Lebanese tolerated hezbullah because the threat from them was, in their minds, less than the threat from Israel. Putting the pain to the lebanese is one clear way to help them focus. they have two choices: Confront hezbullah knowing that some lebanese will be killed in that conflict, or don't confront hezbullah knowing that far more lebanese will be killed in the next war hezbullah starts. that calculation is critical to the future of the lebanese people. Instead they relied on a massive propaganda campaign based on that whole stupid proportionality idea. It might have worked too, if we hadn't seen how we were being manipulated.

skipsailing  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Wed May 16, 01:19:00 PM:

You really want nitpicking?

The word is piqued, not peaked.

Tim I think you missed the point. The falklands conflict was simple and quick. And yet I'll bet my bottom dollar (something us divorcees always have close by) that the men fighting the war had dehumanizing names for their opponents. That's what military people do.

Further we are in a long war not a brief campaign to end an act of armed robbery writ large. The mooj are the enemy and we need to get closer to that if we hope to win.  

By Anonymous Phrizz11, at Wed May 16, 01:45:00 PM:

I thought the Soviets tried that kind of approach in Afghanistan from 1979-89. They were nothing if not brutal. What makes you think we'll be more successful using the same strategy?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 16, 01:46:00 PM:

Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant/They made a desert and called it peace.

"These words of Tacitus came from the mouth of Calgacus, the Caledonian tribal leader, just before he and his minions were vanquished by the Agricola-led Roman armies in Mons Grapius (83 A.D./C.E.). Nearly two millennia later, they remain perhaps the best summation of the essence of war and its outcomes."

Shelby Steele has said that western armies no longer win wars due to white guilt. The western armies are mostly white soldiers led by white politicians. The non-western combatants are typically non-white, and former colonies of western powers. So the western army constantly restrains itself in order to avoid the appearance of being a racist colonial oppressor.

Our enemies are under no such constraints. I used to think the analogy of the defeat of Germany and Japan, with the subsequent construction of democracies was something that we could achieve in Iraq. What a fool I was. We were able to impose our form of government on those states because we crushed them to dust before starting the nation-building. There was little or no organized opposition to our reconstruction of those societies.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Wed May 16, 02:02:00 PM:

I think, perhaps, a certain controlled callousness is necessary in war. It is similar to what surgeons and doctors need to be able to do what they do. You can't flinch when you excise a cancer - -you have to get it all out or it grows.

It doesn't mean you lose your humanity completely, Tim. But if you fight a half-assed war, you end up with what we have: an insurgency which continues to bloody innocent Iraqis worse than anything we would ever have done to them.

Is that better? Did all the handwringing of the press "save" them from the horrible, horrible Marine Corps and the brutal Army? Yeah. We're monsters. We stuff explosives into the intestines of small dead kids - it's so bad they chase us everywhere begging for candy and sunglasses and toys. They're obviously terrified of us.

Oh, but the NY Times doesn't print that stuff, does it? They don't like you to know about the daily atrocities committed by the other side, because then you might just support what we're trying to do over there.

These are not nice people. I don't believe we even had to crush Iraq - not by a long shot. But we did need to be able to go in and clear out the insurgents without the press damning us if we did clear them out and damning us if we failed to clear them out, which is exactly what happened. They tied both hands behind our backs and then dubbed the whole exercise a miserable failure that 'proved' the war was misguided. It wasn't. We just were never allowed to fight it properly.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Wed May 16, 02:06:00 PM:

And skipsailing, you bloody fascist, by now it should be completely obvious to any thinking human being that any Marine who would pen a satirical song called Hadji girl is obviously the type who goes in for long bouts of naked pyramiding and pulling the Frilly Panties of Oppression over the heads of unsuspecting Iraqis.

Because singing songs is virtually indistinguishable from torture. I read that somewhere. And anyway thanks to that poll we now know that all our troops are just as unethical as the average American citizen.

Please conceal your shock.  

By Blogger Georg, at Wed May 16, 02:33:00 PM:

Tiger and company, you have done such a good job covering this topic that I have nothing to add. So I Dugg it so that others may see.  

By Anonymous GreenmanTim, at Wed May 16, 02:43:00 PM:

Thanks for the correction Skip - we English majors love our editors.

And, no, I didn't miss the point. TH posed a very broad generalization in the form of a question and I posed a very narrow exception.  

By Blogger allen, at Wed May 16, 02:46:00 PM:

Prior to America’s entry into WWII, the enemy had dehumanized himself. For instance, the news reels had shown in graphic detail the rape and slaughter in Nanking and the bombing of London. Now, consider how many Americans remain ignorant of the hundreds of jumpers on 9/11, because the media chose not to broadcast the horror of the day, caused by an inhumane attack on innocent civilians.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 16, 03:26:00 PM:

I agree with the needed for #1. We have seen how the enemy treats our military and civilian prisoners. That alone should cause us to hate them. To me they are much more brutal than the Japanese Imperial Army was in WWII. So far, it appears the premise of the multiculturalism is winning; all cultures are to be judged the same. That is for those safe and secure at home. My son is in Iraq. We had a long conversation before he deployed about how he would act there. I suggested that unless someone clearly surrendered, he should put a second bullet in them to make sure he or his buds didn’t get shot in the back. I bought him an expensive combat knife to be used as a last resort; better to die with total adrenalin pumping that to be captured and wait in a cage for your beheading. I wanted him to have contempt, no, hate, for the enemy. What become difficult for the US is that we are liberators in Iraq, regardless of what some with BDS believe, so the WWII ROE doesn’t apply across the board with the civilians. We must try to wind the hearts and minds of the people. but let a civilian one pick up a weapon or flash one when told not to and as far as I am concerned they are d-e-a-d. The strong horse gets respect. And I would institute the summary executions, while somewhat more selective for intelligence purposes, that the Greatest Generation used against those who illegally fought out of uniform. So why should we not do these things? If the media and foreigners believe the worse of us, then how are we to change their minds? So follow the rules of war to the letter and no more, period! Better to be feared than to be seeking respect in defeat.  

By Anonymous merkur, at Wed May 16, 04:59:00 PM:

I'm posting these before reading anybody else's comments, just to get my thoughts down (such as they are):

"1. If war requires our soldiers to do brutal things in our name, and if we must support them in that, perhaps we need to reconsider our modern reluctance to dehumanize our enemy."

The problem with dehumanizing the enemy (I believe) is that it also dehumanizes soldiers themselves. If you don't have a problem with that, then perhaps we do need to overcome our modern reluctance. (I would tend to have a problem with that.)

"This does not have to amount to racism, but it will require forging a national contempt for the enemy."

There's no way around the fact that the first and easiest step in dehumanizing the enemy is racism.

"We need to be comfortable taking joy in the deaths of these miserable bastards."

And likewise there's no getting around the fact that joy in the deaths of others is a frightening thing to behold.

"2. If virtually all wars are contests of will, and if it requires an extraordinary national commitment to sustain the national will, is it wrong to expect that "allies" will fight effectively along side when they share a different perception of the threat and therefore a less intense will to fight?"

Not specifically 'wrong' (since there may be other factors), but clearly unrealistic and as a result unproductive.

"Should we expect to fight our most important wars alone, or with only those allies that are similarly in peril? Should we build our military accordingly?""

The problem is, not even America can fight wars alone, and many of your allies either don't feel like they're in peril or don't want you anywhere near them.

"3... In the case of the wider struggle against Islamic extremism, are Americans sufficiently committed? I think we are not."

Isn't the real question, why aren't Americans sufficiently committed? Indeed, why isn't anybody sufficiently committed (by which I take you to mean committed enough to be very brutal), including those countries where Islamic extremism is actually a clear and present danger?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 16, 06:57:00 PM:

I think this concept of "de-humanizing" the enemy has some need of clarification, at least in my mind.
Perhaps it might be note worthy that most of the wars of the last two centuries, were between people who actually knew each other real well, and had little real need of all this fancy 'racism' and 'de-humanizing propaganda'. France and Germany. Germany and Russia (of course, the Soviets were the 'untermensch' to the Germans). Germany and Poland. China and Japan. The American Civil War. Great Britain and Germany. North and South Vietnam. North and South Korea. I could go on.
There are some serious exceptions to all this, of course, but what is needed is a clear notion of who the enemy is, and why we are fighting.

Cassandra touched on this above. If the atrocities of the 'insurgents', 'freedom fighters', 'al Qaeda', 'whatever', were more clearly explained and illustrated in their depravity and cruelty, perhaps the public might have a different notion of the purpose of this 'War in Iraq'. I recall in 2003, near the conclusion of the main combat phase, Robert Fisk had a clever photo page of Iraqis that had been grusomely killed by the US Army/Marines, either by direct fire or air strikes. The purpose of Mr. Fisk's little shop of horrors, was, of course, to undermine the 'legitimacy' of this war by showing just how horrible it was, and just how horrible we are, as a people, for waging this war. I remember commenting on this at the Command Post (remember that?), hoping that the mass graves of Saddam Hussein would be just as well shown by Mr. Fisk. Fat chance.
The mass graves at Hillah, where ~ 300,000 were/are estimated to be buried?
Remember? Anybody? Bueller?

-David  

By Blogger Viking, at Wed May 16, 07:02:00 PM:

The war that really went over the top in terms of dehumanizing the conflict was WWI. The first thing the Brits did was cut the cable and they went on to completely dehumanize the Germans with a full time propaganda staff. The "atrocities" alleged in the invasion of Belgium did a lot to establish the evil Hun as a species to be eliminated at all costs. The Brits, used to running an empire with lots of dark people in it, did not shy from genocide. The mechanized slaughter on the western front wasn't vindictive enough. They also maintained the blockade after November 11, 1918 until they forced the Germans to sign an inequitable peace, a period during which close to a million Germans died due to a lack of food and medicines. We all saw the result in 1939.

Americans as a people are also not opposed to genodcide and mass extermination. After all, it's how the West was won.

I think the larger question that goes begging here is whether "Totalen Krieg", ie. total war, remains a valid option in the face of the potential of WMD to essentially wipe the race from the planet. Most wars are at least to some extent genocidal, and have been since the beginning of time. Perhaps the OECD group of seven has not been pushed enough to revert to more basic principles. We often like to think that we have moved beyond this, but have we really?

My guess is that our grandparents had lived through tougher times and were more readily prepared to take serious measures. If we wanted to, we could turn the Middle East into a radioactive sea of glass and drill through the glass to get the oil. And I believe that if we were pushed hard enough, and that we genuinely believed it is a question of us or them, that we would not hesitate. It's just that this time around it may take more than one Pearl Harbor.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 16, 07:15:00 PM:

Bottom line Merkur victory in this war is not optional.

The "war" being fought in the streets of London and Paris, Thailand, and yes in cities across the USA is varied but the same war.

Either Islam will "dominate" as the Muslims say and the universal Caliphate installed or we will maintain our freedom.

There is no reason why IEDs (which were used to great effect in 1993's WTC bombing) cannot be used in the US in a terror campaign to get us to surrender. Strategy Page is already predicting this surrender in Iraq or stay.

It won't matter, we can't run from this war.

IMHO it is only a matter of time, either from nukes or IED campaigns that the US public gets the terrible, frightening unity seen in WWII and starts annihilating entire nations. Yes we'll make it a desert and call it peace.

For now leftists and elites are in denial about the matter of survival. See a couple of more buildings brought down, sports arenas bombed, subways and airliners destroyed, and yes we'll get the message of submit or die.

And offer: you first.  

By Blogger Chavo, at Wed May 16, 07:44:00 PM:

I believe that we could have followed the path of patience, had the media, the dems, Hollywood (with a few exceptions) and the left allowed the President to do that. They're afflicted with a deep animus towards Bush that goes all the way back to the 2000 election. And they've pretty much worked in unison to ensure that he leaves office in disgrace. They aren't interested in the National interest, they're interested in petty politics and power.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 16, 08:16:00 PM:

TH really terrific stuff! The best analysis of what war and combat is at it's core! There is very little that I can add to what has already been said by your most learned contributors. One area that I think cannot be underestimated is the press.

If you think about how many press people were inbedded in the front lines of this war and how quickly those images could be transmitted back to small town USA, they left a real and lasting impression that this is not a place we want to be for long. The impact of the media from the very beginning was enormous. Think back to the early weeks of the war when in one day we were ambushed and we lost 12 soldiers (I think Private Lynch was in this ambush?) The press was all over this as if we lost the war. They were completely unprepared for the possibilities of serious casualties despite the fact that we were fighting a million man army and the strongest military the Arab world has ever seen. With that as a back-drop, we ran through that army in six weeks! It would have been much sooner had we known that they did not have any WMD, because everytime an Iraqi unit shot bombs over we had to slap on our gas masks.

The point I am getting to is that in previous wars (even the Gulf War) the press was on a very short leash. In WWII all stories had to be passed before a very strict screening process. In this war we had Jeraldo giving away our positions and little was done to make sure no one made that mistake again. Our leaders have to understand that in war time many liberties are suspended and the freedom of the press should only relate to the water's edge.

If an ambitious reporter wants to be part of the mininions being attacked then they should be ready to suffer the consequences...  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Wed May 16, 08:19:00 PM:

I'm posting these before reading anybody else's comments, just to get my thoughts down (such as they are):

"1. If war requires our soldiers to do brutal things in our name, and if we must support them in that, perhaps we need to reconsider our modern reluctance to dehumanize our enemy."

The problem with dehumanizing the enemy (I believe) is that it also dehumanizes soldiers themselves. If you don't have a problem with that, then perhaps we do need to overcome our modern reluctance. (I would tend to have a problem with that.)

"This does not have to amount to racism, but it will require forging a national contempt for the enemy."

There's no way around the fact that the first and easiest step in dehumanizing the enemy is racism.

"We need to be comfortable taking joy in the deaths of these miserable bastards."

And likewise there's no getting around the fact that joy in the deaths of others is a frightening thing to behold.

"2. If virtually all wars are contests of will, and if it requires an extraordinary national commitment to sustain the national will, is it wrong to expect that "allies" will fight effectively along side when they share a different perception of the threat and therefore a less intense will to fight?"

Not specifically 'wrong' (since there may be other factors), but clearly unrealistic and as a result unproductive.

"Should we expect to fight our most important wars alone, or with only those allies that are similarly in peril? Should we build our military accordingly?""

The problem is, not even America can fight wars alone, and many of your allies either don't feel like they're in peril or don't want you anywhere near them.

"3... In the case of the wider struggle against Islamic extremism, are Americans sufficiently committed? I think we are not."

Isn't the real question, why aren't Americans sufficiently committed? Indeed, why isn't anybody sufficiently committed (by which I take you to mean committed enough to be very brutal), including those countries where Islamic extremism is actually a clear and present danger?



I'd like to respond to this one point by point.

First, I don't really understand the entire issue of "racism". If we hate our enemy and wish him dead is that racism? If so, so bleeping what?

My position is that we build monuments to our war heros not just to acknowledge their bravery but also to recognize the fact that they gave up some of thier humanity for us. It's really hard to have lofty thoughts about morality when one is fighting for one's life in some ramshackle building in some run down arab town. When it is kill or be killed, the guys we hate have to die. We'll deal with the "Racism" (whatever the hell that is) once we are standing on their necks.

Are the euros in denial? sho nuff. Will they remain there? well it really depends on how the muslims behave. The problem that Islam faces is that it is really just a shake down on a global scale. At some point fighting will be cheaper than paying. Once the Euro's get there woe will be untah the arabs and I suspect some of them understand that. So much for allies.

The committment level, as explained in the preceding paragraph is a subtle calculus. Which is the path of least resistance? appeasing? or fighting? Ultimately it is fighting, but some people firmly believe that we should only turn to that after exhausting (and I mean exhausting) all the other options. We are in that process now.

if the arab muslim cultures shake down demands continue to grow in magnatude and irrationality at some point the west will awaken and the slaughter will begin. Never forget, these are the people who mechanized genocide.

So the real question is this: how many infidels must the arabs brutally slay before we finally see the threat?  

By Blogger K. Pablo, at Wed May 16, 09:18:00 PM:

Okay, let's get down to brass tacks. Repeat after ne:

1. Islamists are VERMIN. They think nothing about slaughtering innocent children such as the babies of Beslan.

2. Islamists are SUB-HUMAN SCUM that need to be obliterated with extreme prejudice. They are unsalvageable mass-murderers.

3. Those who adhere to the principles of the Salafist-derived madness articulated by Sayyid Qutb, Osama bin-Laden, et. al. have declared themselves unfit to co-exist with the majority of humanity and must be ejected from the fellowship of man and womankind. In fact, they have degraded themselves as below animals in the scale of ethical worth. Below pathological bacteria, for that matter.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Wed May 16, 09:21:00 PM:

I WWII the democrats didn't (generally) believe failure was an option. Today they do.

That is the difference in a nutshell.  

By Blogger K. Pablo, at Wed May 16, 09:23:00 PM:

p.s. the word "Dhimmi" has to become a pejorative term such that even Appease-o-crats know they're being dissed.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Wed May 16, 09:49:00 PM:

I think this is being presented as a binary choice, when it is really more a series of moral choices along a spectrum.

And I am always somewhat distrustful of black-and-white characterizations, especially from people who haven't been there. You don't have to completely "dehumanize" the enemy to fight. You don't have to "lose your soul" to harden you heart enough to win a war. It's not as if there is some uncrossable line that, once traversed, can never be recrossed; unless we're talking about going *way* over the edge.

That is the language of moral equivalence; the same intellectual laziness that pretends that if you don't treat the enemy exactly the same as you treat yourself, you are guilty of war crimes.

Anyway, as you can probably tell I am going to end up writing about this now. Damn you, TH!!!!  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed May 16, 10:07:00 PM:

I never agreed with the term "de-humanizing," (much like the term, 'winning hearts and minds' http://tigerhawk.blogspot.com/2006/10/2007-in-iraq.html) as if it is only possible to bring oneself to destroy a non-human, as if 'real' humans are above and exempt from such acts. It's a modern invention. Throughout history, humans have had no issues whatever with slaughtering one another if they found reason to do so, whether they spoke the same language, worshipped the same gods, or lived in the same neighborhood. It was wholly acceptable in ancient Greece to declare war against an enemy, fight a short war against them, then make peace with them and fight another war together a third enemy, all in the same season. Feudal Europe wasn't much different, and everyone here should have heard the stories about members of the same family splitting to fight one another in the American Civil War. It wasn't necessary for these people to 'dehumanize' the enemy in order to defeat their enemies.

al-Zarqawi was a twisted, cruel bastard, completely opposed to my way of life and dedicated to its destruction, and I would have gladly ended his miserable existence immediately after extracting all available information from his brain.

But he was still human. So were the Nazis, Soviets, Japanese, Turks, Barbary Pirates, and Minutemen.

And I think that fact makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  

By Blogger Dan, at Wed May 16, 10:30:00 PM:

Patients is not a virtue in wartime. The quicker the war is brought to a close the better for all involved. Furthermore I don’t believe we can win a long war, we are using the enemies’ strength against our weakness; conversely our enemies can’t win a short intense war. We should use our strength against his weakness.

“Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and defeat.
General Sherman

On the war films: sometime in the 80’s I remember watching the marines rolling in the surf in the WWII documentary “The Marines at Tarawa” with the voice over “this is the price we must pay for w war we didn’t want.” Basically the same thing the antiwar left wants to show to erode support for the war, but this one was released during WWII by the war department to steel up the nation. Same thing but we were a different nation.

The 20minute film in real player here:

http://www.movieflix.com/movie_info.mfx?movie_id=1737  

By Blogger Chavo, at Wed May 16, 11:08:00 PM:

Dawnfire82, I don't know if you're responding to me, but let me make myself clear. I'm unhappy with the execution of the war precisely because it wasn't executed with the ...

brutality is the wrong word.

need to just win. I am certain that those on the ground know what to do and how to execute it. It is our narcissitic politcal leadership that is screwing things up.

If we did indeed decide to choose the "patient" path, it would require the cooperation of both parties, and the media to make it happen.

This did in fact occur during the cold war, up until our baby boomers decided that history was dead.

I am completely bewildered by the fact that Congress would put political points in front of National interest.

Well not that much, I guess, the axiom "Follow the Money" is probably apt now.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Wed May 16, 11:20:00 PM:

Several people have made the point well, but allen most clearly. We do not need to artificially dehumanise an enemy, nor should we want to. The bare facts of his actions should be sufficient to energise a populace which has been told the truth. Nanking (and Chunking) is an excellent example of this.

To put American faults - and we do have them - continually in the foreground is to mislead the people. This masquerades as a sort of nobility, but is actually based on the naive view that if we could be but good enough, the world would see and we would have victory. That is a charming, but ultimately dangerous idea. History is chockablock full of morally superior groups which were defeated and even annihilated by tribes more evil than themselves.

Just because there are not black-and-white choices does not mean that all shades of gray are the same. The American shade of gray is far lighter than that of the Islamists. Neglecting this obvious fact obscures the truth.

It is my belief that downplaying the evil of our enemies does not stem from moral fineness, but from a desire to be let off the hook and left alone. If this high-sounding excuse were not available, progressives would simply seek another.  

By Blogger Viking, at Wed May 16, 11:58:00 PM:

Just so we are clear on what is at stake here, the Islamic fundamentalists want to create what is essentially a iron age estate to be ruled under Sharia with few modern conveniences. This vision of the future is so incompatible with our own that we will have no choice but to fight it. The fundamental struggle here is not religious, it's economic. We didn't win World War II with bullets, we won it with the Marshall Plan. What we need to win the war in the Middle East long term is a Marshall Plan. Unfortunately, there are a lot of entrenched interests who are really opposed to this, including for example the Saudi Royal House, the Sheik of Oman, etc.

Until we do something about the inequalities of wealth and privilege in the Middle East, and to create equality of opportunity for the vast majority of its residents who live in grinding poverty, the fundamentalists are going to have fertile ground to keep recruiting. As long as they have less to loose than we do, and the war is in their back yard, they will keep winning.  

By Blogger Papa Ray, at Wed May 16, 11:59:00 PM:

Very important subject, good post and some excellent comments.

I would like to post later, I'm too tired now to think.

Just a few (off topic) observations. I have talked to many Iraq Vets and one thing that pisses them off (just one of many) is that we are fighting the same guys over there, over and over and over...

We capture or wound them, fix them up, feed them, give them to the Iraqis and after a while, they are released.

Those that are released of course, fight us again or join the IA or the National Police and become death squads by night and help their old friends by day.

Iraqis are not like us. If thats racist well, thats too bad that is the truth.

They are very religious, tribal and not nationalist by nature. This applies to other Arabs also. Persians, those of those left are also tribal and religious.

You can kill them, buy them off for a while or put them in a position where they give up until they can fight again. Being nice to them is ok with them but in the long run won't make one difference in their view of things.

This has been told to me over and over by many guys both home and still over there.

I know this didn't really address this post, I'll try and do that another time.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA  

By Blogger Fat Man, at Thu May 17, 12:29:00 AM:

The crucial question is what happened between WWII and now, who did it and why.

I think the answer is the Gramscian Damage that the US suffered from the Worst Generation (a/k/a the "Boomers") during the nightmare decade of the 1960s (really more like 1964-1974).

The left and its useful idiots in the MSM created the story of the "atrocities" and "war crimes" of American Soldiers in VietNam, with the intention and effect of de-moralizing American citizens and giving aid and comfort the Communist regime in Hanoi.

Who can forget John F@#$%ing Kerry's first bout with TV notoriety:

"... several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

"It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.

"They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."

===============================

Please note that Kerry did not say that he himself had witnessed any such crimes, and further that he did say that: "It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit." (i.e. I am making this up, as I go along) Why he was allowed to keep talking is beyond my comprehension.

Everything the US Military has done in Iraq has been a desperate attempt to avoid a repeat of these types of accusations. But the left and the MSM recall Vietnam and their defeat of the US Army and Richard Nixon as their moment of glory, in their otherwise wasted and useless lives, and they have used their best efforts to revive the attrocity meme.

The NYTimes ran something like 45 above the fold pA1 stories about abu grahib prison, turning it into a synecdoche for torture and barbarism, when in fact it was little more than fraternity initiation pranks.

Consider further all of the hysterical posturing about the Geneva Conventions and the "rights" of the detainees. Shouldn't we all know that the conventions are remnants of 19th century romanticism about 18th century warfare, and have never been complied with by any enemies of the US in the few generations.

And, shouldn't the idea of granting civil rights to uncivilized non-citizens fighting the US in foreign lands invite guffaws instead of debate?

Until such time as the left has been defeated, no American Army will be able to fight a war and win, and America will not be safe.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Thu May 17, 01:56:00 AM:

In a few weeks, I'll be taking my father to his 70th Reunion at Princeton. He was one of a handful of FDR Democrats in his class, and a member of the quasi-joke, psuedo-serious student organization called "Veterans of Future Wars." He joined the U.S. Navy in 1940, a several years after he graduated. He joined about a year after Poland was invaded, but a bit more than a year before Pearl Harbor. When he enlisted, there were some pacificts on the left (American Friends Service Committee and others) and many more isolationists on the right (America Firsters) that wanted no part of the conflict on Europe or Asia. Though he was at sea in the North Atlantic when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he has a pretty clear understanding that, for all intents and purposes, the country was unified from that point forward.

He remained on active duty until October 1945, and spent most of his service at sea in the Atlantic hunting U-boats. He served on a Sub Chaser, a Destroyer and as a Lt. aboard a Destroyer Escort. He saw some action and had a hand in the killing of a number of U-boats.

I remember asking him when I was 12 or 13 years old whether it ever bothered him that he was partly (or in one case directly) responsible for killing other human beings in battle.

Dad's answer: "No."

In the early 1980s, I went to the movies with him to see "Das Boot," which tells the story of the U-boat fight from the German perspective. We saw it in German with English subtitles. It's an entertaining and good movie without an overt political message, other than it shows the German submariners as human beings doing their job.

After the movie, I asked him if he felt bad about the captain and most of the crew dying at the very end in an allied air strike, after they had struggled mightily to make it back to the sub base in Germany. He said, "The only thing I felt bad about was that the Allied ships didn't sink them near Gibraltar." (One of his DE's kills came near Gilbraltar). He liked the movie, but had absolutely no sympathy for the German submariners. To paraphrase Michael Corleone, it was personal, and it was business. My father is an very open-minded person, and is not in any way racist (and in fact supported the Civil Rights movement), but he still carries with him a residue of the "dehumanization" in his mind of the Germans and Japanese. He would never buy a car manufactured in Germany or Japan, and doesn't particularly like it when I do.

There will never be another unity of purpose in this country as in 1941 because there will never be another Nazi Germany -- a Western European power fully militarized and fully nuts, that was actually perceived by U.S. citizens to be an existential threat to the country. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when the nation's blood was running hot, people such as Susan Sontag, Michael Moore and Jerry Falwell felt free to speak about the cause of the attacks being a variety of U.S. policies. It would take at least the kind of scenario Anon 7:15 PM outlines in his second to last sentence for there to be a chance at unity of purpose, but I think that in our media culture, there will always be a contrarian willing to speak out against self-preservation.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Thu May 17, 07:05:00 AM:

To those on the point of the spear, hesitation is defeat once battle has been joined.

This is why "gray" is not a useful viewpoint to them.  

By Anonymous merkur, at Thu May 17, 07:31:00 AM:

As an aside, I would urge anybody who is wondering why America doesn't have any allies left to read the last few paragraphs written by "Fat Man" above.  

By Blogger Westhawk, at Thu May 17, 09:45:00 AM:

Dear TigerHawk:

Although you don't explicitly say it, your post implies that a return to the days of World War II-type national will and national unity is needed to fight and win the Long War.

Harkening back to World War II as the only viable prototype for the Long War is a findamental mistake. The sooner we forget about World War II, the better off we will be.

The Long War is basically a maintenance problem, and those doing the maintaining will largely be local tribes, clans, gangs, proxies, warlords, etc. Once the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes this, trains and organizes it forces to utilize this model, and creates a doctrine appropriate for the times, most of the problems you list will go away.

The organization, doctrine, and training of today's U.S. military is too close to the World War II model to be useful for the current situation. Once this changes, once the U.S. has a military that can effectively play the game of local 'divide and conquer,' the U.S. will have more success and less anxiety.  

By Blogger Ben, at Thu May 17, 09:47:00 AM:

"""We need to be comfortable taking joy in the deaths of these miserable bastards."

And likewise there's no getting around the fact that joy in the deaths of others is a frightening thing to behold.""

That's a feature, not a bug. America at war SHOULD BE a frightening thing to behold. That's the whole damn logic behind deterrence. It's shot to hell unless people really are scared of you. Government officials in Iran in SHOULD say things like "hey, slow down, we don't want to risk inflaming the Americans... "

You know, they kill tigers that lose there fear of people. In the long run, more fear equals less killing.

Ben  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu May 17, 10:26:00 AM:

I don't think we need to dehumanize the enemy in order to do the nasty things needed to win. After 9-11 and Belsan Islam has already dehumanized itself. We need only to have a full accounting of the situation for most people to understand what we are facing and what needs to be done. Sadly, Decisions made early in the war make such an accounting hard to have

The 9-11 “turthers”, Peloski, and Susan Sontags had their counterparts in world war II. What was different then is that that President Roosevelt made no effort to hide the damage and deaths caused by Pearl Harbor and the Japanese advance into the pacific to push the public into a full scale mobilization. Unable to stop the public the critics either threw their lots in with the war effort or learned to stay quiet for the duration. Can anyone imagine the world war two equivalent of the Peloski trip, a republican congressional delegate going to Germany in world war II?

Compare the current situation to the past. President Bush rather than issue a call to arms that would have resulted in the public being fully vested in the war effort, told people to go shopping. Rather than having to confront the truth about our enemies the media giants still censored the most appalling images of 9-11, and follow on attacks so as not to inflame the masses. Passion has abated and the hile critics are free to cherry pick the news for stories that fit their narrative.

This cherry picking and second guessing undermines our war effort. Our forces are not allowed to bring the full measure of force against the enemy for fear of being accused of war crimes. This make wining more expensive in terms of blood and treasure, which give the enemies at home and on the battle field more opportunity to cherry pick. The public mis-informed and tired of a steady stream of bad news begins to waver in its support of the war.

What to do? A good general never asks for a second levy, he take enough from the first to do the job, but this is what has to happen. Bush, or whom ever replaces him, has to fess up to the failures and mistakes and then make a passionate -Churchillian- case for the war. Realistic war aims and the approximate cost of such aims need to be on the table. The true level of Islamic depravity has to be made known to the public so that CAIR, the “turthers” and others can be seen for who and what they are.  

By Anonymous merkur, at Thu May 17, 11:07:00 AM:

Westhawk: Wow, that sounds a lot like the strategy adopted by the British in order to build their empire. You're jettisoning the C20 model for a C19 model - are you really sure you want to go down that road?  

By Anonymous Phrizz11, at Thu May 17, 11:19:00 AM:

Let's say that you were president, and that you decided that you really needed to fight a (pre-emptive or not) war, and that you had time to prepare for it. It seems natural to me that you would make sure that all of your important warfighting resources were ready to go. For example, surely, you wouldn't think of starting hostilities without making sure of the following about your military commanders:
a) They were ready for battle,
b) you had clear and open lines of communication, and
c) you had come to an understanding with the them about how the war was to be conducted.
You would need to do this regardless of your personal feelings towards any of your commanders. Surely also, if you believed that you might be entering into a long, drawn-out conflict, you would additionally insure the following about your industry:
a) They were ready to fill your production needs,
b) you could communicate with them about necessary changes, and
c) they understood the general war plan.
Likewise, you would have to do this even if some captains of industry were your political enemies in the past.
I think it's been pretty clearly shown from Vietnam and Iraq, that propaganda and the media are vitally important tools for victory in a guerrilla war. The US has some of the most powerful media organizations in the world. Why did the president, irrespective of his personal feelings for or past relations with the MSM in the US, not include a way to utilize the MSM effectively in support of his war plan? If you truly believe that we must win in Iraq, then his failure to do this must be unforgivable. Granted it would not be an easy task but the buck stops with him. If we are forced to withdraw from Iraq, don't fool yourself and say that those terrible intellectual god awful liberal elite monsters at the MSM lost it for us. The president will have lost the war because, not only did he manage the propaganda campaign in a bungling and ineffective manner, but he and his administration were actively hostile to much of the press, who are, like it or not, a necessary ally if you want to win.  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Thu May 17, 11:26:00 AM:

As an aside, I would urge anybody who is wondering why America doesn't have any allies left to read the last few paragraphs written by "Fat Man" above.

This is not an aside, this is coming at it straight on: anyone who wonders why the level of discourse in our society is so appalling simply needs to read the quote above.

Is this simply hyperbole?

Or an outright lie?  

By Anonymous merkur, at Thu May 17, 12:02:00 PM:

skipsailing: Could you expand on exactly why you feel that my words an indication of "why the level of discourse in our society so appalling"?  

By Blogger DEC, at Thu May 17, 12:06:00 PM:

"America doesn't have any allies left"

America has many allies left--Japan, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines, to name four.  

By Blogger demosophist, at Thu May 17, 12:13:00 PM:

It's difficult to imagine anything more dehumanizing than the group entitlement ideology of multiculturalism. The trouble is, the barrel's pointed at our own head.  

By Anonymous merkur, at Thu May 17, 12:16:00 PM:

Yes, I'll concede that "many" is more appropriate than "any". However the context is the original question of "Should we expect to fight our most important wars alone, or with only those allies that are similarly in peril?" and so forth.

In that context, it's worth pointing out that of those nations, only Australia currently has forces committed in Iraq; and in Australia, polling (for example, the Age, March 2006) suggests that opposition to the war is over 55%. While governments may still be supporting the effort (although I would argue that it is specific individuals such as Blair and Howard), their constituencies do not. It's also worth asking how many of those allies would support further military action in any of the arenas that the US may wish to pursue it.  

By Blogger DEC, at Thu May 17, 12:24:00 PM:

There is more to this fight than just Iraq, merkur. It is a global war. And it is fought in many different ways.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu May 17, 12:28:00 PM:

The whole "Bush told the country to go shopping" is not only a distraction, it's flat out inaccurate and misses the point. I have addressed that point many times, but did so again today.

It was important in the post 9/11 economy that ordinary Americans DID go shopping. One of the fundamental goals of bin Laden was to crush the American economy - 9/11 was a huge blow to the travel (and consequently the hotel and service) industry. The ripple effects were felt for years afterwards. My firm just now had enough Fortune 500 companies approving travel budgets to hold another users conference - corporations were holding onto capital instead of spending it and this was largely a function of uncertainty about the economy.

But enough of that. The attempt to damage our economy failed, and I give the President a lot of credit for doing what he could on this front. It is idiotic to blame our failure to win the information war on the shopping meme - this presupposes a popular willingness to support the war effort that was never there and would have evaporated faster than the post 9.11 "sympathy" we briefly enjoyed had the President tried to milk it.

Anyway, if you're interested in the counterargument, you can read my post.  

By Anonymous merkur, at Thu May 17, 12:28:00 PM:

Which leads me back to one of my original questions: why isn't anybody sufficiently committed... including those countries where Islamic extremism is actually a clear and present danger?

I think the answer might be because nobody else in the world sees current events in the way that you see them. You may believe that they are completely and utterly wrong, but if you can't persuade them of your views, how on earth do you expect to "win"?  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Thu May 17, 12:34:00 PM:

It is, by now, a familiar pattern merkur and you demonstrate it clearly.

First, you engage in either lying or hyperbole, take your pick, when you state that we have NO allies. you know that to be wrong but you write it anyway.

then you offer up some vague "poll" number and expect us to factor that into our policy discussions.

I have absolutely no idea what the pathology is behind this rhetorical nonsense but I see this pattern daily and it is commonly used by the anti victory crowd.

Here's a visual for you merkur. Imagine columbus at a pitch meeting with Ferdinand and Isabella. He states his belief that the world is round and the royal couple's scientific advisor produces a poll of all scientists on the Iberian penninsula which states that 89.67543% of those polled believed that the world was flat. Honestly, is that a valid basis on which to make serious choices? I hardly think so.

finally, I saw nothing at all offensive about fat man's remarks. Granting our set of civil rights to likes of the rat bastards that are currently holding (and I believe torturing) our three GI's in Iraq is an affront. I'm offended that you or anyone else would even give voice to such a suggestion. those evil men have earned their front seat in hell and the job of our military is to send them on their way toward it.

further, each day it becomes more difficult to disagree with fat man's opinion concerning America's left. The Democrat party in this country is hell bent to manufacture a humiliating defeat for my country simply so that they may accumulate political power.

That's despicable and the backlash they will feel from this will be long lasting. I will never trust them again and the deep divisions that they are creating now will last at least a generation.

It is my sincere hope that you understand the tone and tenor of my remarks. the time for patience with anti victory bloviating is over. There is now a conflict within my country and I firmly believe that we who support the war against our enemies must fight to win this conflict.  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Thu May 17, 12:39:00 PM:

Which leads me back to one of my original questions: why isn't anybody sufficiently committed... including those countries where Islamic extremism is actually a clear and present danger?

I think the answer might be because nobody else in the world sees current events in the way that you see them. You may believe that they are completely and utterly wrong, but if you can't persuade them of your views, how on earth do you expect to "win"?


I expect to win by destroying my enemy's will to fight. That's how all wars are won. As DEC points out this war takes place in many forms and in many places. In each such place we must advance toward our goals.

it seems to me that what you suggest is 1938 redux. You seem to be saying that since we can't get a poll number to reflect our assessment of the situation, we should simply capitulate now and hope that the price our children pay isn't so high that they have to close down the nursing home we're in when the shit ultimately hits the fan.

No thanks.  

By Blogger Papa Ray, at Thu May 17, 01:51:00 PM:

Well, Westhawk and Ben addressed two points I was going to make.

It's interesting that the media released a story a few weeks ago about how our Soldiers and Marines were turning into mental health risks because of a survey
taken of a few of them.
snip...
"Only a third of Marines and roughly half of the soldiers surveyed said they believed that Iraqi noncombatants should be treated with dignity. Up to 40 percent of Marines and soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a colleague."
snip...

I commented on that, if your interested, I won't repeat it here. Except that I did brutal things because at the time, it was either that or I wouldn't be here to type this. It's that simple. We had nicknames for the VC and the NVA that could be called racist or just plain rude and crude. We treated the Vietnamese we fought with, with respect (most of the time), but I saw dehumanization for most everyone else.

Who, we had trouble identifying if they were our enemy. Because by day, they are your friends and by night would try and kill you.

Is it possible for the government or our media to assist in this dehumanization if we wanted to do so? Well no, not in today’s liberal PC world. So we might as well wait for the American people to be influenced by the returning Vets where that they understand the nature of the war and of the beast.

As an important aside, when we heard of or saw a bunch of gooks getting wasted, fried, blown all to hell...yea we were very comfortable taking joy in their deaths. But I think a lot of Americans back in the world didn't like seeing it on TV. Just like now.

In the world wars, the only video you saw was government approved and it was short and sweet and the propaganda favored "our boys" and "our side".

Not like today where all the propaganda is against our boys and our side.

Now why is that? We are in a war, right? Wrong. the "we" that is in a war is just our military and their families.

I heard one of my grandsons say that he wasn't going to worry about going in the military until there was a war. I asked him if he didn't think we were in a war now, he replied that what was going on now wasn't what he thought a war was.

I won't go into the conversation we had after he said that, except to say that after I sat him down and talked to him and showed him a few things on the computer, he had changed his mind. He might now consider the military after he graduates.

But the rest of hometown America (forget the intercities, they are lost) thinks that this Iraq and Afghan thing needs just to be done away with. Either win it or get out of it. But they don't see it as a real war and don't see the threat from Islam or those who believe in it.

I have read that the Arab and Persians can't take a joke, I guess the cartoon mess verified that. I think we should in addition to dehumanization, ridicule them and their religion without mercy or conscience.

As has been said, there is no national commitment (yet) and the only positive will is coming from the right and an equal negative is coming from the left. I think that not only cancels out our efforts, but actually gives us a negative result.

Plus we have the loonies, the commies, the socialists and the "Moderate Muslims" who want to take over by using our own laws against us or getting new laws passed to do us in.

I'm going to ignore the rising tide of invasion from the south and the billions of dollars and hate being imported by our friends from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, for this comment.

Allies. We have a few, but with limited resources and even more limited militaries. We have received great assistance from them considering those two limiting factors.

We don't need a lot of allies, but a few more would be nice. But most want too many strings attached for my liking.

Someone (or many) remarked that America is someone's friend when that someone is in dire straits and that same someone's whipping boy when we get them out of their troubles.

I have had the same kind of acquaintances and so called friends.

On your number 3, Westhawk covered it pretty much. The Islamics are governed by pride, honor and greed. It is no secret that they have contributed nothing in the last several hundred years but have stolen much in that same time period, and killed untold thousands if not millions.

Islam is not compatible with the rest of the world and never will be. It can not be reformed, rewritten or modified and never will be.

We can not and can not let others compare this resumption of Islamic warfare and our fight against it with any other war or battles other than the crusades. Because what has started in the last forty years is nothing more than a resumption of the conflict of the Crusades.

Which I might remind everyone, we lost all of those crusades except the very first. The remainder we either lost or it was a deadlock or draw.

Yes, the amendments to the Geneva Conventions were a mistake, they should have been completely rewritten.

International law must be totally disregarded by the United States. End of Story.

We are a Republic in dire straits, in hostile times with numerous enemies, within and without, with few friends. That said, we can only hope and pray that we will be able to continue this long and difficult struggle to where we will be able to not only maintain our great Republic, but build upon it until it is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Papa Ray  

By Blogger DEC, at Thu May 17, 02:40:00 PM:

"Allies. We have a few"

The myth of U.S. isolation seems to have hit the political right as well as the political left.

Thirty-two countries sent troop to Iraq at one time or another since the invasion.

Thirty-five countries sent troops to Afghanistan.

And that doesn't count countries like Ethiopia and the Philippines and their battles in the worldwide war against radical Islam.

Protesters? Heck, with one credit card I can put 10,000 protesters on the streets of almost any city in the world.  

By Blogger Jason_Pappas, at Thu May 17, 04:08:00 PM:

I agree with Dawnfire82 (10:07:00pm) to a considerable degree. The word dehumanize is ambiguous; it can mean non-human or it can mean savage, which is not the same. One is a species distinction and the other is a character distinction -- the result of moral judgment. We do the same when we electrocute serial murders; they're human but evil -- and they are responsible for their crimes.

When a whole culture descends into savagery, civilized means of warfare are replaced with ruthless total war. We shouldn't shy away from the word, savage -- it is just one of two ways of being human: civilized and savage. It is a character (or cultural) statement, not a species distinction. It is also a moral judgment. Of course, multi-cultural relativism precludes such judgments.

Echoing what Angevin13 said (1st comment) the Romans saw war as a means to a lasting peace. Cicero distinguishes between two types of foes: a rival, that you fight to subdue, and enemy, that you fight to the death. The first you expect to be able to live in peace but the latter ... By the way, Cicero invented the doctrine of just war.  

By Anonymous davod, at Thu May 17, 04:26:00 PM:

The difference between WWII and now is that the Republican minority decided to support a Democratic President. Now we have the senior leaders of the Democratic party attacking at every turn. Attacking not for ideological but partisan reasons.  

By Anonymous davod, at Thu May 17, 04:33:00 PM:

I should also say that, contrary to an earlier poster, in WWII both the Brits and the US did restrict the flow of bad news.

The opposition in the US has even shamed the adminstration into limiting its own propoganda war against the ratbags.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Thu May 17, 05:07:00 PM:

why America doesn't have any allies

The whole notion of "permanent allies" is bogus.

Nations have interests. When their interests coincide with yours you have allies even if they might otherwise hate your guts.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri May 18, 01:17:00 PM:

You understand a lot of things, Jason, but you don't get some of the most important ones.

Whether or not Peters is specifically right that unrestrained brutality can bring victory in Iraq -- I, for one, am increasingly unsure which enemy we should brutalize first -- the core point that he makes relentlessly is true: we can be patient, or we can be brutal, but if we are neither than we will surely lose every war we fight.

Change the word "war" with the word "counterinsurgency", and you're right. Because we shouldn't win counterinsurgencies. Because we shouldn't be fighting counterinsurgencies. At all.

The part you're not picking up on is that the force that makes Western Democracies unable to fight dirty wars easily anymore is a positive force. The gradual and crippling increase in "social drag" that makes atrocities harder to carry out for those who would do so is not just happening in the U.S. - that's just where you pay attention to it. It's happening globally, albeit at different rates of speed. The net result is a world slowly moving globally away from mass atrocities, no matter the cause. We're the leaders. The Islamists are the lagging indicators, fighting to turn the entire global tide.

Your fixation on "winning" helps them win that larger battle. We don't need to 'win' in Iraq. We don't need to 'win' battles for control of other countries. We only need to punish acts of aggression, which we accomplished in 2003.  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Fri May 18, 04:32:00 PM:

Change the word "war" with the word "counterinsurgency", and you're right. Because we shouldn't win counterinsurgencies. Because we shouldn't be fighting counterinsurgencies. At all.

The part you're not picking up on is that the force that makes Western Democracies unable to fight dirty wars easily anymore is a positive force. The gradual and crippling increase in "social drag" that makes atrocities harder to carry out for those who would do so is not just happening in the U.S. - that's just where you pay attention to it. It's happening globally, albeit at different rates of speed. The net result is a world slowly moving globally away from mass atrocities, no matter the cause. We're the leaders. The Islamists are the lagging indicators, fighting to turn the entire global tide.

Your fixation on "winning" helps them win that larger battle. We don't need to 'win' in Iraq. We don't need to 'win' battles for control of other countries. We only need to punish acts of aggression, which we accomplished in 2003.


Well this is complete poppycock and I mean from start to finish. What we have here is unsupported opinion from an anonymous source. Gosh for a second there I thought I was reading a Sy Hersch piece and well, maybe I was.

First and most important the posture this author demands that we assume is reactive instead of pro active. We have to punish aggression this person says, which of course means that we must first suffer that aggression. Uh, no thanks on that, ok?

While the economic indicator analogy is cute, I'm sure it does little to comfort the "infidels" in places like Thailand or the PI who are being killed by these lagging indicators.

quelling insurgencies makes complete sense. Let's stay with the lagging indicator analogy: who long should we permit them to lag? How many little acts of aggression should we tolerate? so if radical Islam is oh say 500 years behind us we should just shrug it off unless they kill a large number of Americans? Is that it?

I find this entire POV offensive. The underlying assumption, it seems to me, is that any effort we make to fight against these barbarians sets us back permanently in our march to some ill defined nirvannah. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've pointed it out before, but hey, once more with feeling: we fought the Japanese and the Germans and the rebuild thier cities. We will be as nasty as we must be to stem the rising tide of muslim depravity and we'll help the vanquished when the powder smoke clears.

Enough with this SMARM already.  

By Anonymous Bird of Paridise, at Fri May 18, 05:40:00 PM:

We can always play them one of AL GORES speeches and bore them to sleep  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri May 18, 08:18:00 PM:

I find it telling that you drifted from "counterinsurgencies" to "mass atrocities" so easily.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat May 19, 07:53:00 AM:

The Anon post above forgets that the victims are people too. Let's not try to stop the bad guys cause they are people, what BS. As John Wayne said, "Some people just need killing." To let these barbarians lag behind the civilization cure condemns millions to their savagery. Please help me understand morally how I am supposed to allow that. Start with someone breaking into your neighbors how and raping their wife after killing them and how you can ignore that. Then work your way up to ignoring barbarity to millions.

What gets me is how the left can be all upset about global warming and how we are all connected, we should step in to Darfur, but let Iraq go rot. We are all connected. The rule of law only means something when force is used to back it up-for this reason the UN is a joke. Civilization is people working together for mutual safety and prosperity. Barbarism is killing anyone not of your tribe, however you want to define that. I could expand on these basic concepts, but I recommend Bill Roggio who has already covered it well. When a criminal charges the police with a knife and is shot, we blame the policeman. What rubbish. Civilized people are forced to kill, it is called self-defense. The Democrats can't even seem to work up their will for self defense. Scary.

We made a commitment when we invaded Iraq. NOTHING should keep us from fulfilling that commitment. Things haven't gone as planned because the enemy figures out what we are doing and changes what they are doing. That is how you know they are the enemy. But we are fighting a very limited fight. The North recognized during the Civil War you must destroy the economic base of an enemy to win. Fighting Civilized war with troops on troops is just a long drawn out struggle that kills a lot of men. To SkipSailing's point, would we take the economic strain of cutting off the petro-dollars that is much of our enemy's funds? What about invading Iran? Supplying weapons, money and people to aid the insurgents in Iraq is an ACT OF WAR. Iran is helping to kill our soldiers, our citizens. Why are so few people upset about it?

Little problems become big problems. If we do not squash what is going on ASAP, if we continue to fight a holding action, sooner or later these savages will get a WMD. What happens if they use it? If Iran nukes Israel, so what, it's only the Jews. If they nuke New York, we forced them to do it, our bad. I can hear the reasoning now. If Europe becomes Eurabia, what happens to the French Nukes? I'm just asking.

Harry Reid is right in that patience is wearing out, this holding action we are doing isn't accomplishing anything fast enough and our will is fading. We just do not have the patience to stay the course. Of course, this is a self-fulfilling prophesy, but true non the less.

Iraq is the front lines of the battle on terrorism. Many extremist go there to fight the great Satan, but how many get away and live to spread their barbarism? This country needs to sacrifice, whether it is going oil-less to cut off terrorist funding or whether it is a troop surge where we rival our armies of WWII, or something else. But we can not have our cake and eat it too. We face no rationing, no draft. Our economy is humming along. Our spending on defense is a lower percentage of the GDP than many times of peace in our history, and roughly half of what it was during Vietnam.

This is a complex war requiring many different actions. But it all starts with WILL.

We need to de-humanize the enemy. We need to increase the psychological distance of what we are doing to help our troops and to help ourselves. Please read the works of LTC Grossman.  

By Anonymous Bookworm, at Thu May 24, 01:54:00 PM:

"We had to dehumanize fascists in order to justify the violence necessary to beat them, and the effects still show." That's a perfect observation. Both my parents went through WWII (Mom, interned; Dad in RAF). I remember during the First Gulf War as they sat at home watching the news how shocked they were by the military's and media's constant effort to humanize the Iraqis -- as in, they're good people and we're just trying to teach them a lesson. Both my parents understood, and repeatedly said, that you can win a war only if you hate your enemy.  

By Blogger BrianFH, at Sat May 26, 09:50:00 PM:

All of this to-ing and fro-ing about brutality and limited war and restraint etc. makes me doubt that past analogies are holding in the present and accessible future. When the maximum force available is clearly too great to be used, but the opposing force is sufficient to make careful quasi-policing responses too light and ineffectual, then you are necessarily in a new no-man's land. As we are. And a certain amount--perhaps a great deal--of fumbling and lurching about is to be expected.

I share the feeling with many that "withdrawal" is not a real option. There is too much economic and informational and political interconnectedness these days to make that meaningful. Crudely put, there's nowhere to withdraw to. The VERY significant % of immigrant young Muslim males who think suicide bombing is cool and the Twin Towers were dropped by the US itself to generate a phoney causus belli is reason enough to conclude that. (Even 1% would be very serious and dangerous; ~25% is air raid and earthquake sirens going off in your ear. Hear them?)

So there is no alternative to exerting as much force and power as necessary, without egregious massacres. You can't run, you can't hide, and you can't quit the game.  

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