Sunday, September 11, 2011


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.


Antongarou said...

One other important difference you are forgetting, and is relevant at least to Afghanistan: both Japan and Germany were modern(for the times) countries, with large non-nomadic populace and central government a lot of this populace obeyed- either out of fear or out of identification. When you asked someone their what nation are they part of their reply would be "Japanese" or "German". Afghans would answer to the same question "Tribe.."- so until every tribal leader decides to accept they lost the war, you will need troops there. Not to mention the fact that a lot of them are nomads and that country is a natural fortress(see Tora-Bora caves as a good example)

Anonymous said...

Go in full blast into Afghanistan, sure. While the Russians and the British and everyone back to Alexander the Great are ROFLTAO and taking bets on how long we'll last. "Graveyard of empires", anyone?

There is, or was, a third alternative. Some cheap crooks* stole some planes and did us a lot of damage; track them down and hang them from the nearest gallows. Which, BTW, we finally did. End of story.

*Most of the post-9/11 terrorists have been small-time losers operating on the Sister Jenny's bomb scale. "But Achmed's now in prison, Fatima's baking bread, and Muhammed's smoking hashish and he's tripping out his head, so it's Brother Rashid's turn to throw the bomb ...."

Aya Katz said...

More like brother Rashid's turn to _be_ the bomb.

Anonymous said...

The reason we didn't declare war over Korea or Vietnam was because if we had, that would have triggered their alliances with a lot of Communist countries. That was how World War One started...a declaration of war triggered more and more declarations, until if a statesman said "I declare!" his country was at war.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Anton. Indeed, Afghanistan is a tribal and backward country, so the only way to win there would be: a) bunker-buster-bomb all those caves in the historic Khyber Pass, or b) announce to everyone in Afghanistan that we'll happily go away once all the Jihadists are dead. Offer one goat or gold piece or 10-pack of Viagra for every Jihadist head. Half the Afghans would promptly kill the other half, and a lot of them would go raiding into Pakistan for more. This would have the added advantage of distracting Pakistan from plotting to attack India.

As for Iraq, the same offer would work just as well. We should also step up the current practice of marching flak-jacketed troops through every town, quietly followed by stealth helicopters, and not only shoot anybody who shoots at the troops but add blowing up every building they fired from. We could use night patrols of stealth helicopters with infra-red scopes to see who sneaks out at night to bury roadside bombs, and shoot him where he squats to dig. Since the Jihadists like to use cell-phones to trigger their roadside bombs, we could use short-range but all-cell-band transmitters to trigger the bombs prematurely -- say, in their makers' homes. There are similarly ruthless but effective tactics that we haven't used, and should.

Hi, Grrl. As for Afghanistan, see above. As for catching and hanging the individual SOBs who did 9/11, what about all the Jihadists since who have pulled off smaller atrocities? It would be better to define them as "enemy agents in time of war", which would simplify and speed up the proceedings quite a bit.

Hi, Raven. If we had declared war on N. Korea alone, or N. Vietnam alone, Russia would have held back on all-out war because of its shaky relationship with China. As it was, China did provide everything from arms to troops to Korea, and Russia did provide likewise to N. Vietnam (which had an age-old hatred of China, and wouldn't take a dime from it). Both Russia and the US knew what nukes could do, and were absolutely unwilling to use them. Russia fought only at a distance, through satellite countries, precisely because it didn't want to fight the US flat-out. Note what happened with the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was as close as Russia ever came to engaging the US directly.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Mark Horning said...

There is one other option which nobody wants to consider, after all nation building is popular among the ruling class.

Fight the war, kill the foe, then LEAVE. No nation building, no pro-consuls, no governor-generals, just leave.

Don't try to pick up the pieces, just make it very clear that if you attack us, or harbor those who do, we will smash your nation into the stone ages and let YOU pick up the pieces. Oh, and if you do it AGAIN, we'll be back, but with bigger bombs.

Let's be clear, we won the WAR in Iraq in less than 2 weeks. we've been loosing the peace ever since.

Anonymous said...

IMO, the first modern war was the French revolution. It lasted ten years and ended with the instalment of a tyrant who was supposed to be an enlightened leader.

Ori Pomerantz said...

Mark Horning: Fight the war, kill the foe, then LEAVE. No nation building, no pro-consuls, no governor-generals, just leave.

Ori: That sounds like the US strategy with Germany after WWI.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Ori. Actually, the Allies did something more to Germany after WWI; they demanded crushing reparations as well, out of a country that had been flattened and had lost almost a whole generation of its men. That was truly adding insult to injury, and it's not surprising that Germany reacted by electing a foaming lunatic who promised that he'd give the country back its pride.

Note that after WWII the US adopted a different strategy; we moved into Germany and Japan, took over, demanded a, ah, certain standard of behavior, rebuilt those countries ourselves and then walked away.

Pounding an enemy government flat, carefully killing off all its fanatics, and then going away and leaving it totally alone would be yet a different kettle of fish: no nation-building, no further grinding into the ground, and no presence. This will leave the populace too busy rebuilding their country from the ground up to waste time and effort hating an enemy -- us -- who's now far away.

Of course, for this to work you first have to pound the country flat, kill all the fanatics and utterly destroy the government. Otherwise you get a spectacle like North Korea: a starving country with a filthy-rich ruling class, whose government still uses the US as its boogeyman -- even though Americans haven't set foot there for more than half a century.

--Leslie <;)))><


Ori Pomerantz said...

Leslie, you're right - the US wanted to leave well enough alone, but France wanted Germany to suffer. I think England did too.

But did we walk away from Germany and Japan? We let them rule themselves, but we left significant military forces in both countries. We still have them.

Of course, for this to work you first have to pound the country flat, kill all the fanatics and utterly destroy the government.

The "kill all the fanatics" requirement isn't feasible. We don't have a 100% reliable fanatic detector. You can't shoot the Muslims who refuse to eat bacon, for example, because you'll soon have to deal with a fatwa (= religious ruling) that permits the eating of pork for the sake of Jihad.

Anonymous said...

"The "kill all the fanatics" requirement isn't feasible."

Of course not, you don't have to kill them, just raise their taxes. Conscript their sons into the military where you force them to change religions. And forbid them to build or even repair their places of worship.

If only there was some example of how to make this work. If only there was some empire that practically took over the entire world and ruled for almost a thousand years that we could base our policy on.

Antongarou said...

Leslie: One thing that's worthy of note- Japan may be US ally currently, but they don't like the US much- when you see an American in Anime it's pretty safe bet they're stupid, evil or both.

Also, with the culture ingrained in that specific region dropping a bomb on every village that opposes you will get you two things: international outrage(and the balance of trade suffering for that) and every last man in that country with blood in their eyes looking for ways to kill americans.

doragoon: trying that today will get you lots of resentment, as well as underground religion and the same international outrage you would get from Leslie's option(no, the US can't live without the world. not in today's trade net)

and finally, to the both of you:What you propose would make the US a monster at least as bad as the jihadists. The day those policies come into power is the day the US loses, because you have become the enemy.

Anonymous said...

OpenID doragoon said...

"The "kill all the fanatics" requirement isn't feasible."

Of course not, you don't have to kill them, just raise their taxes. Conscript their sons into the military where you force them to change religions. And forbid them to build or even repair their places of worship.

If only there was some example of how to make this work. If only there was some empire that practically took over the entire world and ruled for almost a thousand years that we could base our policy on.

September 13, 2011 10:56 PM

Well, Doragoon, show me a Vespasian anywhere on our political scene, and I'll consider your solution. Right now, I don't even see a Tiberius.

And Leslie, if we put a price on the head of all the jihadists - and we've done something similar - what we'll get is a rabble of this informant's tribal enemies, that one's rivals, the guy who dissed a third one, or bystanders swept off the street for the bounty. The country is full of people who would sell their own grandmothers for a bounty.

A fair number of all the above ended up in Guantanamo already, and now we feel we can't release them because they've seen too much and will probably go back home, if allowed to, all ready to *join* the jihadists.

Sorry. Won't work.

Anonymous said...

Why would we worry about what people think about us while we are trying to change their behaviour? Of course they are going to hate us if we're telling them what they are doing is wrong.

Japan doesn't hate us more than any other country. Look at how Americans are portrayed on British TV, and we were on their side in WW2.

We've had 250 years of politics being governed by the enlightenment ideals. Has our genetics been changed that much in that short time that what worked before is suddenly invalid? These ideas about human behaviour must prove themselves and war is one of those tests.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Grrl. Actually, from what we've seen of Afghanistan -- not to mention the other Arab countries -- offering bounties for the heads of Jihadis, not to mention hunting the Jihadis ourselves, would definitely kill off huge numbers of the damned fanatics. It would also set the locals to fighting each other for the next half-century at least, rather than uniting against the Great Satan. As for the Gitmo question, we won't have a problem with prisoners if we don't take any. Send the current inhabitants of Gitmo back home, and they'll soon be killed for the bounties. World Opinion (actually, the opinion of assorted govts. and their tame media flaks) couldn't howl about the pernicious effect of the bounties without admitting that Arabs/Afghanis are something lower than barbarians and can't be trusted not to sell their neighbors and grandmothers for a dime.

The trick is that Arab culture has been like that for nearly 3000 years: ready to turn on their neighbors and relatives at the drop of a hat. Even the Wahhabi masterminds can't keep the Jihadist movement together if everybody around them jumps at the chance to sell them out.

Hi, Dora. If Japanese kiddy-media makes a point of dissing Americans, then why do so many of their Anime heroes (and of course super-heroes) have such distinctly Caucasian features?

--Leslie <;)))><

Anonymous said...

"If Japanese kiddy-media makes a point of dissing Americans, then why do so many of their Anime heroes (and of course super-heroes) have such distinctly Caucasian features?"

I wasn't saying they did, Antongarou was. But the Japanese fashion wanting large eyes and pale skin is hundreds of years old. Their fascination with blondes, I think, is the same as the rest of the world.

What I find more amusing is that Japan views America as the land of rich people. Every time a character goes off to america for a few years, you know when they come back they will be rich and famous. If there's anything they don't like about america, it's that they don't think we deserve our wealth.

Meanwhile Americans in British dramas are always carrying guns and will shoot anyone for any reason.

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