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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Killing Me Softly

“Crush your enemy, see him driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.”
--Conan the Barbarian

From the War for Independence through WWII, the United States (or the British Colonies in America) achieved unmitigated victory in every major conflict in which it was a contestant. Granted, some of those wars, while won, are viewed by historians and others as having a negative impact on the country as a whole. They remain military victories; the enemy was defeated, and the war was won on America's terms. Since the second world war, the U.S. (along with most other western nations) has failed to achieve a victory by military means in any single campaign.

What happened? Why can't we win? Korea, Vietnam, The Balkans, Iraq I, Iraq II, Somalia, and Afghanistan have all either ended with no military resolution (us just leaving or agreeing to quit fighting for a while), or are ongoing with no real end in sight—seemingly with no vision of victory. Some say it's due to the evolving nature of our enemy; that it's not the same as it had been in wars of old. While that statement is true to some extent, and is a tactical factor in our current engagements, it doesn't explain the rest of our failures over the last 50 years. The answer is really pretty simple, at least in my mind: We forgot how to win. I don't mean we forgot the tactics. Our military is without a doubt capable of carrying out any objective with which it is charged. We forgot the underlying tenets of victory.

What follows is Little Ray's short list of shit America forgot about winning wars. These are not my ideas. They are old, sometimes ancient truths about the art of war. And they are history-proven.
  1. In it to win it
    If your goal is anything short of an undeniable victory, you shouldn't be involved in the first place. There is no such thing as 'containment'. You can't surgically remove elements of a population/country you deem unsavory. If you're not prepared to delivery a resounding defeat to your enemy, you have no business getting involved at all.
  2. Your enemy is your enemy
    You cannot hold the government of a country as your enemy, but the people of that country as your friend. A government and a people are one and the same. You are either willing to fight your enemy as it is, in its entirety, or you are not. If you are not, you will never win. This notion is hard to swallow, but it is a fact.
  3. Overwhelming force of violence
    You must be willing to bring to your enemy everything you have to win. Bring victory quickly and decisively in such a manner that your enemy was barely able to understand what just happened. Protracted campaigns deplete resources and your population's stomach for war.
  4. Military targets are excellent
  5. Industrial targets are just as good
  6. Collateral damage is a bonus
  7. Civilian targets are the same as military targets
    It sounds cruel, it is cruel, but war is cruel. You must be willing to destroy and diminish any asset your enemy possesses. The destruction of its population, its farms, bridges, government institutions, even universities, and other civilian targets reduce your enemy's ability to make war against you. When no one can eat, there's no power, drinking water, or police in the streets, your enemy is crippled.
  8. Hearts and minds are not relevant
    If you thought you were going to be able to make war on a nation's government, and somehow the people will like you when it's over, you are smoking some really really good shit. Puff puff pass please.
  9. Make sure your allies are of the same mind as yours
    If your friends are only in it with half a heart, they're not doing you any good.

We currently live under the collective delusion that war can be softened—that it can be humane. In fact, that delusion is probably what got us into many conflicts in which we had no business. Would we have fought the wars in Vietnam, or Korea if our goal from the outset was to completely and definitely defeat our enemy? If President Bush had said, “We're going to level Iraq like we did Germany.”, would we have even bothered? We started down the right road in Afghanistan, but backed off before we had completely eradicated anything and everything that was Al Qaeda, and look where we are eight years later. We made ultimatums to Pakistan that they help us or we'd chase the enemy into their lands. They didn't do much, and we didn't really push it.

The undeniable fact is that war is the most sublime example of people at their finest and humanity at its worst. It's ugly—pure and simple, but sometimes it's necessary, and when it is, those who intend to conduct it, need to understand that the benefit had better outweigh the costs. The costs are enumerated above.

If everyone understood and was prepared to execute war in its true manifestation, perhaps we wouldn't have as many.
--Just sayin.

©Raymond Smith- 2009

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