First, let’s admit that war is hell. War has always been hell. We can safely assume that it will always be hell. Unfortunately, it’s also sometimes necessary to prevent something worse. That being so, the best thing to do with a war is to win it – as quickly and thoroughly as possible. But that isn’t what we’ve been doing for the past half-century.
By now the war in Afghanistan and Iraq has dragged on for ten years, with no definite end in sight, and the American populace is growing weary of supporting it. This raises echoes of Vietnam, which likewise dragged on for over a decade, with no victory. The major difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan/Iraq is that, thanks to improved technology, the American casualties are much, much fewer.
Otherwise, the similarities are depressing. Our troops – or CIA agents – successfully booted out the local tyrant, but put in a corrupt and useless government to replace him. The US tried, but totally failed, to change the culture of the enemy country. Despite killing vast numbers of enemies and neutrals, the US did not stop nor even weaken the political direction of the country. When the US eventually gave up and withdrew, it left the political enemy stronger than before.
Obviously we’re doing something wrong here. Our modern methods – not the tactics but the grand strategies – aren’t working. Why, then, do we keep repeating them?
The answer has more to do with faith than sense.
The Great (naïve) Progressive Ideal came to ascendancy among the middle class, both Intelligentsia and Philistines, in the late 19th century – at the same time, not so coincidentally, as Behavioral Determinism (later shortened to Behaviorism). This philosophy held that all people are basically alike and therefore think alike, so whatever appeals to Us will likewise appeal to Them. Since Progressivism was basically pacifistic, and wanted to put an end to all war, it came to assume that if everybody is equally healthy, wealthy and educated, there will be no reason for war – therefore, let’s give away our money and technology so as to make every country in the world as wise and rich as we are, and then nobody will want to make war with anybody.
Naïve? Yes, but Western political policies for the next century were increasingly based on this attitude.
World War Two ended in the first (and last) use of atomic bombs in war, and left the world shocked by the idea that humans could, literally, destroy the world. Obviously, the Western governments concluded, a war as terrible as this must never-ever be fought again. To this end they formed the United Nations and invited into it any government that could mouth the proper Progressive ideals, which explains why the UN today is a largely a cluster of hypocrites. They also quietly agreed that they would never again fight an all-out war. In fact, modern Progressive culture – which I’d label Bourgeois Liberalism – grew into the conclusion that there’s nothing, nothing at all, worse than war.
For that reason, the United States has never since then formally declared war on anybody. Though it has actively fought wars, from Korea to Afghanistan, it has never formally called them wars (only “police actions”, or similar euphemisms) and has never fought them to conclusively win – to destroy the enemy’s government and military, take over the territory and rule it at least until the society is proven thereafter harmless – which is what we did in World War Two. Instead, we’ve fought our “police actions” with so many near-arbitrary restrictions as to keep ourselves from winning and to accomplish nothing. Note the differences: WW2 lasted less than four years, cost the US 440,000 lives, and ended with Germany and Japan profoundly changed and solidly our allies; the Korean, Vietnamese and Afghan wars have dragged on for years, cost fewer American lives, but ended in draws at best. The only thing such wars have accomplished is to make money for military-industrial corporations – who love them for just that reason.
This has to stop. We must make a serious change in attitude, as well as government policy, to put an end to such wasteful wishy-washy wars. If some foreign country is enough of a threat to us that we truly need to fight it, then let’s do it right: formally declare war, then go fight with everything (short of nukes, which must always be held as the ace in the hole) necessary to smash the enemy government, conquer the country, rule it and reform it with a hard enough fist to render it safe thereafter. If that means blowing up mosques that Jihadists shoot from, so be it. If that means shooting through the human shields that the evil rulers surround themselves with, so be it. If that means waging war in the fashion of Genghis Khan, so be it. (Let’s remember that Genghis Khan is the only person in history to actually conquer all of Asia, including the Middle-East.) Let’s fight to win, do the job thoroughly, and then go home. The very countries that would deserve such attention from us have cultures which would respect us for fighting in that fashion.
The only other viable alternative is a form of isolationism, up to a point. We would have to call home all our troops presently fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (and put them to work guarding our borders), which would doubtless encourage the Jihadists. We would have to close all those foreign military bases and bring those troops home. We would have to determinedly expel all the illegal immigrants presently in America, and fortify our borders to keep them from coming back. We would have to end all alliances – and trade – with countries that are not our proven allies. We should also place import tariffs on all goods and services from countries which pay their workers less than the American minimum wage, so as to raise their prices to equal those of American-made products. We would have to make it illegal for anyone but American citizens, or American corporations, to own American land. We would have to withdraw our membership in the United Nations, put an end to the Federal Reserve and base our currency on solid American goods – such as precious metals and government property. All this would make the “global” capitalists howl predictions of doom, which should be ignored.
We would also have to switch our military to the Swiss System, develop ever more precise weaponry, train our citizens to be constantly vigilant for attacks by foreign agents, and keep our own spies carefully watching those foreign countries to see when – not if – they build themselves up to the point of attacking us. At that point we would have to fight all-out war anyway, but at least we would put it off for a few decades more.
Those, alas, are the choices we have. War with those hopelessly hostile foreign cultures is sadly inevitable, and our past half-century of wishy-washy war has made it so.