Posted by: nhfalcon | January 3, 2009

War

Well, what a lovely topic to start the new year off with, huh?

Sorry, but this issue has been germinating in my head for a long, long time, and now that I have some spare time on my hands, trying to express my thoughts about the subject is long overdue.

It began with this post of mine. That, in turn, led to this post by Kizz. As I read Kizz’s side of things, lots of questions and answers (or, at least, opinions) ran through my head – and I even managed to jot some of them down! 🙂 Since then, events in Iraq  and the other theaters of the War on Terror have also provided fodder for rumination, along with a couple of books (like this one and this one).

Before I begin in earnest, allow me to say two things: 1) I have never been in combat. I’ve never killed anyone, shot at or otherwise tried to kill anyone. Nor have I ever been shot at or otherwise had my life put in danger by another human being. I’ve never even served in the military, though (as I believe I’ve mentioned before) I did volunteer for the Air Force immediately after high school (I was rejected due to my asthma). Why do I bring this up? Because it’s possible that someone who has served or is currently serving in the military and has seen combat may read this, and may find some of the things I have to say questionable given my lack of combat experience. I would like to clearly state that I hold current or former members of our military, especially the ones who have seen combat, in the highest regard. Nothing I say here is intended to be disrespectful to them. 2) Given the number of things I want to say here, this post may feel like it’s rambling a bit. My apologies for that. Now that I’ve finally gotten my procrastinating ass down to actually writing this, I want to get it all out asap and not potentially lose my stream of consciousness just for the sake of organizational perfection.

OK?

Here goes (deep breath…)

Is War Even Necessary (aka Can There Be Peace On Earth?)? Short answer – yes, it is (and no, there can’t). Why? Because there will always be somebody out there who is willing to resort to violence to get what he wants (sorry, but I’m going to use the male specific throughout this post. It’s just easier. Besides, usually it’s only men who are stupid enough to start wars anyway). On an individual level, that’s what law enforcement is for – to deal with those people. On an international scale, when that type of individual gets enough power to run a country it means he starts a war. Think Hitler. Think Saddam Hussein. Think G. W. Bush.

I throw in that last one only to humor the liberals out there. 🙂

Whether it be a desire for more land, more money, more natural resources, more respect for his religion, more power, some inexplicable need to eradicate a particular group of people, or whatever, these people are willing to use violence on a grand scale to get what they want. If you’re the target of that need or hatred, your choice is to respond in kind or be subjugated (if not exterminated). Appeasement does not work. Period. Done. Full stop. End of story.

Don’t believe me? Ask Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier how well it worked with Hitler. Every time little Adolf bit off another chunk of continental Europe in the mid- to late 1930s, Chamberlain and Daladier would pull him aside and slap him on the wrist and say “Bad Funny Little Mustache Man! Bad! No more invading! No! Understand?” And little Adolf would say he was sorry and promise not to do it again and go home and promptly do it again. It didn’t take long for him to realize that the British and the French had no balls and didn’t dare to oppose him with force of their own, so he gave them a Michael Jackson and said “I got your peace in our times right here!” Next thing you know it’s the summer of 1940 and the only thing that’s keeping the Nazis from ruling all of Europe is Hitler’s own idiocy as a military commander.

Appeasement doesn’t work with terrorists, either. Want examples? How often have the French been victimized by terrorists? How about the Italians? They lived with the threat of it every day during its heyday of the 80s. The Israelis? It’s been over 30 years since an Israeli airliner has been hijacked, in no small part because of the Israeli response to the Munich Massacre (as detailed in the film Munich), the rescue at Entebbe, and the fact that all El-Al flights have armed, highly-trained sky marshals onboard. During the same time period, the Soviets dealt with only one terrorist incident. Why? Well, certainly a lot had to do with the fact the they were financing most of the world’s terrorist groups as part of their effort to undermine the West. The other part of the equation is that one time (at band camp… 🙂 ) a group of terrorists kidnapped some Soviets and issued demands to secure the release of the hostages. The Soviets found out what group of terrorists were responsible for the kidnapping, found some relatives of the terrorists, killed them, cut them into pieces and mailed those pieces back to the terrorists.

The hostages were immediately released and the Soviets never dealt with terrorism again.

Barbaric? Of course – but it worked. And while I certainly wouldn’t condone that level of behavior, it brings me to one final salient point to this part of our discussion. There will always be a need for war because these types of people – the Hitlers and the Saddams and others of their ilk – only understand violence. Negotiation does not work. They’re like adult versions of the schoolyard bully. If you’re the new kid at school you don’t walk up to them and offer your lunch money before they even ask, thinking that by doing so they’ll leave you alone, because they won’t. You try to fly under their radar until they mess with you – and then you punch them right in the solar plexus, and as they’re lying there gasping for breath you whisper in their ear, “Do not fuck with me,” and then you walk away. These people use violence because violence is all they understand. It is the only thing they respect. Once they realize that you are willing to use violence in return, particularly in a quantity and/or quality that exceeds their own, they will back down. 

What’s the Difference Between Strategic and Tactical (aka Win the Battle but Lose the War)? At one point during her post about The First Battle of Mogadishu Kizz said the following: “It was, almost from the outset, a succession of miscalculations and unanticipated catastrophes so complexly intertwined that it’s impossible for anyone to say whether, without having called off the mission before its start, a win for the American forces would have been possible.” This statement immediately made me think to myself, ‘Well, how do you define “win”?’ In military terminology, you can win on a tactical and/or strategic level. As I pointed out in my post on this battle, I believe on a tactical level the battle did result in a victory for U. S. forces. The goal of the mission was to capture a pair of high-ranking aides (known at the time as “tier one personalities”) to Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. That goal was achieved. 18 American lives were lost, and another 83 U. S. soldiers were injured during the operation. By contrast, some estimates account for over 300 Somali gunmen dead and more than three times that number wounded, a kill-ratio of almost 17-to-1. Obviously, from a humanitarian point of view it is incredibly callous to look at the death toll of a battle like some sort of sporting event score, but it is things like whether or not the objective was achieved and whether or not you killed more of your enemy than he killed of you that determines whether or not you won a battle on a tactical level.

On a strategic level, The First Battle of Mogadishu can absolutely be looked upon as a loss and a failure, because it caused President Clinton and his cabinet and most of the American people to lose all resolve in continuing the original mission of the deployment to Somalia. A mere two days after the battle American forces ceased all offensive military operations against Aidid. Less than a year-and-a-half after the battle all U.S. forces were out of Somalia.

I personally see a remarkable similarity between the American involvement in Vietnam and its actions in Somalia. On the occasions where the North Vietnamese Army and/or the Viet Cong went up against U.S. forces in a direct battle, they were invariably soundly defeated. Nevertheless, they were usually able to avoid those confrontations and wage a guerilla war that ultimately sapped the will of the American government and the American people, and so while we almost always won the battles, we wound up losing the war. 

Risk Aversion (aka Does the Public Really Need to Know Everything?): The image that almost all American people had of The First Battle of Mogadishu (prior to the release of the movie Black Hawk Down, anyway) was that of the bodies of the dead U. S. servicemen from that battle being dragged through the street by euphoric Somalis. It was that image, broadcast live by the news networks, that triggered Clinton’s decision to get out of Somalia. Today we are shown all kinds of images, virtually live as they happen via either our TVs or our internet connections, of the horrors of war from Iraq. Such reporting has been in our homes since Vietnam.

I pose this question for you to ponder: is it just coincidence that ever since the media has been allowed to show us war, uncensored, as it happens, that we as a country seem to have lost our will to fight it?

Think about it. September 11th was supposed to be this generation’s Pearl Harbor. We had suffered an unprovoked surprise attack that had cost us thousands of lives and had shocked us to our core. We were enraged, and we wanted vengeance. President Bush warned us on September 20th, 2001 that “… this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat. Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.” In the Forties our Greatest Generation held firm to their resolve, lived through strict rationing at home, suffered over 400,000 dead and almost 600,000 wounded all over the world and still defeated arguably the greatest evils in human history.

And the only thing we saw of it at home was what the government wanted us to see, when they wanted us to see it. 

What little resolve this generation had quickly crumbled. We managed to last through Operation Enduring Freedom (the war against the Taliban in Afghainstan) all right, but Iraq was the beginning of the end. The more we read about and saw American soldiers dying (oh, btw, for every 100 American servicemen that died in roughly 3.75 years in WWII, one has died in Iraq in nearly six years. Need any more proof that we don’t have the stomach for war anymore?) and being wounded, the more we cried out for it to end. Vietnam. Somalia. Iraq. If the cameras are showing us the grim reality of war live as it happens and/or a war is taking to long for our liking, we lose the will to fight it. We got through Grenada all right because it was over before we had even realized it had happened. Panama worked out, too, because it was nice and swift and decisive. The first Gulf War was also nice and quick (it was also censored by the U. S. military). Our involvement in the Balkans was almost entirely an air war, so the potential for loss of American lives was minimal. In Afghanistan we were still pissed enough to be willing to make virtually any sacrifice. Since then it’s been more like, “Oh, my, GOD! People actually, like, you know, get hurt and die and stuff in war! We can’t deal with that!” 

Do you really think that war has been that horrible only since Vietnam? That death in combat was invented only in the last fifty years or so? That chemical warfare and biological warfare and dismemberment and disfigurement and post-traumatic stress syndrome and atrocities and collateral damage are relatively new developments (in regards to collateral damage, do you realize that in WWI & WWII it was acceptable military doctrine to intentionally target the enemy’s civilian population with carpet bombing?)? Newsflash – they’re not. It’s just that they’ve found their way into our homes in that fifty years or so.

I know, I know, you’re probably screaming “Censorhip, cen-sor-ship!!!” by now (if you haven’t been already), and you’re getting ready to write a lengthy response about the First Amendment. Don’t bother. I know it already. Here, let me quote it for you: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Notice that there’s nothing in there about that favorite clarion call of the press, “The people have the right to know!”? That’s because they don’t. There is no such thing as “The People’s Right to Know.” Freedom of the press means that the press has the right to report anything they can get their hands on, and that they have the right to get their hands on those things by asking any question they want of any person they want to ask. What the press seems to forget is that freedom of speech also means that the people on the receiving end of those questions have the right to say “Mr. Journalist, I have no comment,” or “You don’t need to know that,” or “You don’t need to know that right now,” or to just plain flat-out not say anything at all.  

With politicians this lack of resolve is known as risk aversion. Some crisis arises that causes some high-ranking politicians to consider military action as a reasonable response, and then those (and god knows how many other) politicians ask, “But can we do this without anybody getting hurt?” WTF?!?!?! It’s war, you numbnuts! If you’re going to be willing to use military power to respond to a situation, then you need to accept that fact that people are going to get hurt and/or killed. If you cannot handle that, do not propose a military option. I remember reading “Delta Force” by the late Col. Charlie Beckwith (the founder of the unit) in high school and I’ll never forget the part when, during the planning phases of Operation Eagle Claw (the mission to rescue the hostages being held at the American Embassy in Teheran in 1980), then-Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher asked Beckwith if Delta was going to handle the Iranians guarding the hostages by “shoot(ing) them in the shoulder or what?” Beckwith replied, “No, sir. We’re going to shoot each of them twice, right between the eyes.” Christopher’s response? “You mean you’re really going to shoot to kill? You really are?” 

Risk aversion in it’s purest state. Not only that, but notice that Christopher was more worried about the terrorists getting killed than the Americans! I’ll say it again – WTF?!?!?! 

Once you’ve made the decision to go ahead with a military option, you have to stick with it. You have to accept that people, even your own, are going to be hurt and/or even killed. Most importantly, you have to stay the course even when things don’t go exactly as you planned, because in war nothing ever goes exactly as planned.

The Fog of War (aka All Battles Are Clusterfucks): Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, the great 19th century German field marshall once said “No plan survives initial contact with the enemy (actually, what he really wrote was “Therefore no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force,” but that takes to long to say 🙂 ).” Old Helmuth was influenced by an earlier, Prussian military strategist by the name of Carl von Clausewitz , whose seminal work, “On War,” talked about (among other things) the “fog of war.” I reference these two commanders because of another part of Kizz’s quote above. Allow me to reiterate the relative portion: “It was, almost from the outset, a succession of miscalculations and unanticipated catastrophes so complexly intertwined that it’s impossible for anyone to say…” Miscalculations. Unanticipated catastrophes complexly intertwined. Elements combined to make even remotely accurate predictions of the outcome impossible. That is the fog of war.

Remember how I ended the section above?

“Most importantly, you have to stay the course even when things don’t go exactly as you planned, because in war nothing ever goes exactly as planned.”

The fog of war and risk aversion are almost always inextricably tied together because the policy makers who decide to use a military option fail to realize that on the battlefield things never go as planned, that the fog of war will introduce things you hadn’t planned on or take away things you had planned on, and then somebody gets hurt or killed and they panic and immediately want to pack up and go home. It’s easier, to them, to do so, because then all they have to do is figure out a way to spin things so that they don’t look like an idiot and still have half a prayer of getting re-elected. The fact that the people on the ground are having the rug pulled out from underneath them by that panic is irrelevant. The morale of the troops is meaningless to them. That the people who put their lives on the line for them now feel like they’ve done so for nothing is of little or no consequence.

So now, in addition to a populace who no longer has the stomach for war because they’ve actually seen the reality of it and a government ruled by a slavish reliance on polls that cause knee-jerk reactions and pandemic risk aversion, you have a military force that doubts its government’s wisdom and resolve and the support of the population it’s trying to defend. That’s a perfect recipe for low morale, which in turn is a perfect recipe for, no matter how large, well-trained, and/or well-equipped that force may be, a strategic military defeat.  

The Role of the U.S. Military in the World (aka Mommy, Mommy, Come Save Us, Quick!): Is it just me, or does it seem like every time America decides it needs to go to war and asks some (supposed) friends to come along for the ride, all of a sudden all those “friends” have refrigerators to clean or nose hairs to pluck, or some other lame-ass excuse? My god, it would be easier to convince Tila Tequila to join a convent! Look at the Machiavellian contortions George H. W. Bush had to go through to put the first Coalition together to throw Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991. We want to deal with some people we deem to be bad guys and ask for a little assistance and almost immediately everybody else’s response is, “You don’t need our help. You’re the big, bad United States. You go take care of that problem by yourself.” The next day, of course, they’re screaming bloody murder about what we’re doing, claiming that we’re just playing the bully, throwing our weight around, and just trying to prove how big our guns are. Then, the day after that, when they’re in trouble, they come crying to us, “Mommy, Mommy, come save us, quick! We know that we wouldn’t help you when you asked, but you’re obligated to help us because… well, because you’re the United States!”

Are we obligated to help those people? Are we supposed to be the world’s police force? Exactly what is, or what should be, the role of the United States military? Once upon a time we used to have pretty good reasons to go to war, or at the very least our government convinced us we did. “We need to throw off these unfair taxes and gain our independence.” OK. “We need to retaliate for our the impressment of our sailors and free our ports from blockade.” Sounds good. “We need to free Texas from Mexico.” All right. “We need to preserve the Union.” Right on. “Free Cuba! Remember the Maine!” Yeah! “We need to maintain freedom of the seas and retaliate for the sinking of our merchant ships.” Let’s go. “Remember Pearl Harbor!” Fuck, yeah! “We need to stop the Communists in Korea.” OK. “We need to stop the Communists in Vietnam.” Sure. “Free Kuwait (and ensure cheap oil)!” Absolutely. “Remember 9/11!” Fuck, yeah!

But starting in the 1980s we started getting into things like Lebanon. Bosnia. Somalia. There were many who cried out that we should be involved the crises in places like Rwanda and Darfur. Why did we get involved or want to get involved in situations like these? Why is it that it seems like the people who protest our involvement in (at least apparently) legitimate conflicts then turn around and insist that we put our troops in harm’s way for very ambiguous reasons? Did anybody really know who were supposed to be the good guys and the bad guys in Lebanon in the 80s? How about in Bosnia in the 90s? Did the conflict in Somalia really affect U. S. national security? Do the genocides in Darfur and Rwanda affect our national security now? Hasn’t the complaint of the military ever since Vietnam been that they shouldn’t be sent to war without a clear reason and objective and overwhelming support and resolve?

I always thought the role of our military was for our own national defense. If our leadership determines that American lives, territory, property, and/or interests are threatened, or have actionable intelligence that those things are about to be threatened (yes, I believe in the right to launch preemptive strikes), then I believe they should respond with the necessary military force. I have never thought that the role of our military was to be the world’s police department. I hate to come off as a cold-hearted bastard here, but the problems in Lebanon, Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Darfur were/are not, as a nation, our problems. As such, they should not (have) require(d) the putting of our military personnel in harm’s way in an attempt to solve those problems. Exactly what did those 18 Americans from Operation Gothic Serpent die for? What did the 241 Americans blown up in the truck bombings in Beirut in 1983 die for?

If the situations in Darfur or Rwanda or wherever else bother you as an individual that much, then do something about it yourself. Complain to the United Nations (after all, resolving situations like Darfur and Rwanda is supposed to be their job). Cut a check to one or more of the appropriate charities. Join the Peace Corps. Join the Red Cross. Join the Foriegn Legion. Become a mercenary.

Look, I’m not saying these tragedies aren’t horrific and shouldn’t affect us as human beings. They should. What I am saying is that they don’t threaten the United States and as such don’t require a response from our military. We’ve had our problems as a poor, struggling-to-find-our-feet country, too. We had to deal with what we felt at the time was an oppressive government, too. We solved our problems. We had a revolution and overthrew our oppressors (with help from France, granted). Other countries might want to try following our lead.  

Colonizing vs Nation-Building (aka Are We Imperialists or Just Trying to Make the World Safe for Democracy?): This portion of our program is brought to you by another quote from Kizz: “How can we, as a nation, continue to deride Britain for colonizing pretty much everyone who stood still at the beginning of the 20th century when we’re demanding democracy of everyone with a civil war these days?” I say it’s because there’s a difference between colonizing and nation-building.

An interesting aside here – it was Clinton’s idea to change the mission in Somalia from humantarian relief to nation-building. Huh! A Democrat wanting to nation-build. Really? You mean that’s not solely a Republican idea? Huh! As long as I’m on this topic, I find it funny that Republicans get the bad rap for being hawks when a brief review of many of this country’s conflicts reveals that it’s almost always been Democrats who get us into wars. Woodrow Wilson got us into WWI. FDR got us into WWII (not that he had much choice). Harry Truman got us into Korea and put the first American military personnel into Vietnam. JFK fucked up the Bay of Pigs, which got us the Cuban Missile Crisis (which he handled brilliantly, I’ll grant you), and he increased our involvement in Vietnam. LBJ pushed us the rest of the way into Vietnam. Good ol’ Bubba gave us Somalia and Bosnia.

I’m just sayin’…

Now back to our originally scheduled program…

Basically, I think it’s safe to say the difference between colonizing and nation-building is whether or not you plan on sticking around after the actual war has been fought. The British invaded and conquered all those lands during the height of their empire with the intent of “making the world England.” They had no intent of leaving, nor of ever allowing the people they had subjugated to govern themselves. Nation-building means you intend to leave once you feel comfortable that the nation you have built can survive on its own without your help anymore. We don’t plan, nor did we ever plan, to make Iraq the 51st state of the Union. We don’t even want them as a Middle Eastern version of Puerto Rico or the U. S. Virgin Islands or Guam. We didn’t invade them with the intent of conquering them and subjugating them. We invaded them to topple Saddam because we believed (among other things) that he and his government harbored, financed, and trained terrorists. When we believe the Iraqi people are ready to stand on their own, we’ll leave.

Or, when Obama takes office, even sooner. 

If You Throw Trash on My Lawn, I’m Gonna Kick Your Neighbor’s Cat (aka The War on Terror): A couple of weeks ago I wrote this “Randomness” post. Part of that post focused on an article I had found by Mark Bowden about the tracking down and killing by U. S. forces of the high-ranking al-Qaeda officer Abu (Abu? Wasn’t that the name of the monkey in Disney’s Aladdin?) Musab al-Zarqawi. TwoBlueDay responded to that part of the post with this: “I have said before (and it did not originate with me) that the wars in “Iraq” and “Afghanistan” are what our government is doing instead of fighting the “war on terror.” On 9/11 a bunch of Saudis killed a bunch of Americans. In turn, we have killed a bunch of Iraqis and Afghanis (oh, plus a few stay foreigners who came to those places to be killed). So, I guess, if my neighbor throws trash on my lawn, I should come to your (not his) house and kick your cat.”

Yes, the 9/11 attacks were carried out (mostly) by Saudis, not Iraqis or Afghanis. However, those individuals were not carrying out the attacks in the name of Saudi Arabia. This was not an act of war by Saudi Arabia against the United States. Those attacks were carried out by those individuals in the name of anti-American terrorism, or, more specifically, by members of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups do not recogonize political boundaries when it comes to recruiting members. They will take volunteers wherever they can find them. Does the name John Walker Lindh ring a bell? 

We did not launch a war on Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, or Iraq. We launched a War on Terror. We attacked Afghanistan and Iraq becuase our intelligence indicated that these were countries that sympathized with, harbored, financed, equipped, armed, and trained anti-American terrorists. In Bush’s address to the nation on September 11th, 2001 he said, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” On September 20th, 2001 he further elaborated, “…we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

The strategy of the War on Terror is two-pronged. One prong is to attack the terrorists directly by finding out who they are, where they are, hunting them down, and capturing or killing them. The other prong is to take away their support mechanisms. If they do not have places to run to, places to hide, they will be easier to find and capture or kill. If they do not have money, equipment, weapons and ammunition, and training, they will be easier to defeat in battle and cease to exist as a viable threat. Try to think of the terrorists as German forces in the field in WWII, and countries like Iraq and Afghanistan as the factories and oil fields run by the Nazis. Obviously we engaged the German forces in the field, but we also pounded those factories and oil fields night and day (between the British and Americans, repectively) with strategic bombing raids. As the German forces in the field had less and less equipment to fight with, they became less and less of an effective fighting force.

That’s why we went into Afghanistan and Iraq (and – don’t be surprised if this happens – why we may very well go into other places, too), not to kick the neighbor’s cat. 

The Scalpel vs. the Hammer (aka There’s A Better Way to Fight the War on Terror): Ironically enough, given my defense of how the War on Terror is being fought above, my point behind referencing the aforementioned article by Bowden was to point out that, while I agree the War on Terror needs to be fought (reference the Is War Even Necessary section above if you have to ask why I think the War on Terror needs to be fought), I don’t necessarily agree with how it’s being fought. 

There have been many arguments against the War on Terror, particularly when it comes to the Iraqi theater. It’s cost too many American lives. It’s cost America too much money. It’s cost too many innocent Iraqi lives. Because of all those innocent Iraqi lives, the war in Iraq has created more terrorists than it’s killed.

Believe it or not, I would agree with those sentiments. Not in and of themselves, but because I know there were – and still are  – better alternatives to how we’re waging this war. Alternatives that would have cost us less money, fewer American lives, fewer innocent Iraqi lives, and therefore would have created fewer new terrorists. Look at the numbers – over 4200 Americans have died in Iraq. Over 90,000 Iraqi civilians have died. The Iraq Theater has been projected to cost America roughly $1.9 trillion. Let’s try to use the events of the Bowden article as a microcosm. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by a pair of guided 500-pound bombs dropped from an F-16C fighter jet. An F-16C costs over $18 million. The bombs dropped were a GBU-12 and a GBU-38. The GBU-12 costs $19,000. The GBU-38 costs $35,000+. JP8 jet fuel costs somewhere in the area of $1.40/gallon and the F-16C has an approximately 1,700 gallon tank, so, assuming a worst-case scenario where the bombing mission required the use of the entire tank (unlikely, but for the sake of argument…), $2,380 was spent in jet fuel. The bombs killed not only al-Zarqawi, but also his “spritual adviser,” two women, and two children under the age of five. Think the deaths of the women and children didn’t create a few more terrorists?

Now, what if al-Zarqawi had been killed by a single bullet? What if an American special operations soldier (Ranger, Green Beret, Delta operator, SEAL shooter, Marine Scout/Sniper, take your pick) had set up shop from anywhere as far as 2,000 yards away with a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle? The TAC-50 costs $7,000. A .50BMG bullet costs anywhere from $50 to $80, depending on who you buy it from. A bit less expensive than that F-16 and its bombs, huh? And lest you think a 2,000-yard shot is impossible, the longest sniper kill on record was made a by a Canadian in Afghanistan with a TAC-50 from 2,657 yards away. Any sniper capable of making that shot would be able to do so without hitting anybody else and of getting away long before anybody even knew he was there. So, at the cost of just over$7,000 and minimal risk to a two-man sniper/spotter team you would have killed al-Zarqawi and only al-Zarqawi, your mission would have been achieved, the bad guy would dead, the good guys would be alive, the innocents would be alive, and no new terrorists would have been created.

That is how I think the War on Terror should be fought, and how it should have been fought from the very beginning. I understand the rationale behind the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as I detailed above. Those things hurt the terrorists. However – and my apologies for sounding bloodthirsty here, but – I don’t want to hurt the terrorists, I want to kill them. Find out who they are, where the are, hunt them down, and send them to that land of milk and honey and 72 virgins they’re so eager to get to. This war should have been a covert operation from the very beginning. We should have learned our lessons from Vietnam that you do not fight an enemy who uses guerialla warfare and terrorism with conventional warfare tactics, strategies, and equipment. You must fight that enemy on his terms, and you must be better at it than he is. Would such a war have been as dramatic, splashy, and CNN-worthy as the one we have now? No, but in retrospect I think that would’ve have been a good thing. As long as every so often we trotted out somebody like Saddam or al-Zarqawi or (god, won’t I be ecstatic if this day ever happens!) bin Laden, I think the American people would have been satisfied that we were exacting vengeance for 9/11. I also think that our resolve to exact that vengeance would never have wavered, much less waned.

I have no doubt that special operations forces – “scalpels,” if you will – are heavily involved in the War on Terror. Unfortunately, as the media shows us every day, so are the “hammers” in our military. We don’t need to be using aircraft carrier battle groups, armored divisions, stealth technology, cruise missiles, and $35,000 smart bombs. We don’t need to be invading countries and nation-building.

We just need to be hunting.

(oh, btw, remember back at the beginning of this long-winded escapade when I said I wanted to get it all out asap before I lost my stream of consciousness? What a crock of shit! I started writing this on New Year’s Day. Only now, roughly a 1/2 hour before my beloved Falcons take the field, am I finally – GRATEFULLY – hitting the Publish button!)

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Responses

  1. Ooof! Feel better, there, Sparky?

    There are a lot of assumptions that have to be made before we (the collective we, not just you and I) can have this conversation. I think that part of the problem with having these discussions is that finding – and agreeing on – those definitions is damned near impossible.

    Honestly – and this is me, the freaky, compassion-centered liberal talking – I have no problem with war per se. I wholeheartedly agree with everything – everything – you said in your first few paragraphs about there being people who do not respond to anything BUT violence. For as much as I would like that NOT to be the case, I’m not so butched up on love and daisies that I don’t know that to be true. I might be optimistic, but I’m not stupid.

    Here’s the thing; if I knew that I could trust my government – if I believed in my leadership and trusted that it was acting in the best interests of the collective, meaning ALL of us and not just a select few – then I would likely support war when it was called for. I DON’T trust my leadership, though (and let’s be clear that the new administration isn’t going to have my immediate trust, either; they’re going to have to prove to me that they operate differently than all the other bozos who’ve gone before them) and, until I do, I’m going to continue to be highly critical – and more than a little incredulous – about ANY military action that isn’t fending invaders from taking over our major cities.

    While I appreciate the point you made about freedom of speech not being equal to the right to be told everything, I think that there’s far less transparency than their should be. The government has a LOT of our trust to earn back.

  2. We attacked Iraq because of . . . . ? The announced reasons were lies, therefore there are no good reasons. Q.E.E.

    We went into Afghanistan, the graveyard of invaders, for what . . . .? Oh, yeah, to destroy Al Queda. That’s certainly worked out well, hasn’t it?

    Our country’s response to 9/11 has been about as expensive and ineffective as it could have been.

    P.S. so I don’t end up being misunderstood, the First Gulf War was just as stupid as the current wars.

    No Islamic country will ever be a democracy. “Nation Building” is a fruitcake idea.

    My answer: Secure The Borders. I did not say “isolationism,” I said “Secure The Borders.” No person or object enters the “homeland” unless known and welcomed. No person here with temporary permission disappears into the woodwork.

    And, in my view, the biggest factor in terrorism (that is radical Islamic terrorism against the USA), is Saudi Wahabist Islam. The “royal” family has coddled these maniacs, and they (and we, if we don’t watch out) will reap the whirlwind (even more than we are already).

    Is war sometimes unavoidable? Sure, it was completely avoidable in Korea, Viet Nam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, and a long list of others. Our only problem? Too stupid and imperialistic to avoid it in those cases.

    You cannot win where there is no prize. I’m a “liberal” if that term has any more meaning than “conservative” (which has no meaning but hypocrisy), and you don’t need to humor me.

  3. I meant “Q.E.D.”

    And I’m not calling you a hypocrite, I’m assessing what the “conservatives” who’ve been in power have said versus what they’ve done.

  4. Me again.

    Yeah, some wars are necessary. If someone were lobbing poorly-aimed missiles at my people, it would be “shock and awe.” Israel has little choice, really.

    Say someone bombed Pearl Harbor. Same result for the attackers.

    I don’t believe in the “War on Terror.” As I see it, every time the government wants to spend billions/trillions of borrowed money on some particular boondoggle, they call it a “war.” We’ve got the “War on Drugs,” “War on Poverty,” “War on Cancer,” etc. These have made the country poorer/weaker (all those billions/trillions were borrowed, of course). The appetite for drugs in our country is destroying cultures far from our shores, there are more poor people than ever (don’t care how they got that way, if it’s a war it’s a war), and cancer is still the scourge it always was, if not worse.

    I know I come into your blog as a guest, and mostly say things quite vehemently, telling you you’re wrong, and doubtless left-handed to boot (humor to placate conservatives). What I’m always trying to say, in my often inarticulate way, is that the “powers that be” in this country, and on this earth, seem hell-bent on destroying the whole shooting match [hey, hold on, “shooting match” what a pun!], while wearing really dark suits with ties and saying everything they are doing is for the best.

    It’s the only world we’re gonna get. You’d think we could do a little better.

  5. It seems clear to me that you have spent far longer considering and articulating this than will many who would disagree. Thank you for taking the time. You’ve done an excellent job restoring the integrity of several popularly hijacked narratives, and my disagreements with what you’ve written are few and minor.

    Like you, I do not think the Global War on Terrorism has been fought flawlessly. I do, however, believe history will ultimately find it remarkable that after the September 11 attacks, the U.S. would not suffer another terrorist attack on its soil for seven years (and counting!). For all of the flaws, real and imagined, of the George W. Bush presidency, I believe that substantial accomplishment is destined for the top line.

  6. Chili: I know what you’re saying in regards to trusting our leadership. Certainly, the outgoing administration has lost a lot of that trust since 9/11. Unlike you, I’m willing to bet a lot of people will give the incoming administration a lot of trust by default, simply because they’re replacing the outgoing administration.

    Unfortunately, the current adminstration isn’t the only one that has… ummm… “not been completely forthcoming” with the public about the reasons for going to war. The Mexican – American War was a land-grab, plain and simple. Manifest Destiny at its finest. The Spanish – American War was launched by newspapers (“You provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war!”) and was also imperialistic in nature. When you start taking a closer look at America’s involvement in WWI you realize that Woodrow Wilson was throwing his own spin to get the American people worked up enough to go after Germany. Pretty much every American military adventure starting with Korea has been at least a little bit suspect.

    Believe me, ol’ G. W. ain’t the only one who’s “played a little fast and loose with the rules” to get his gun off.

    I’m not saying that makes the things he’s been accused of all right, but let’s not be ingenuous enough to think he’s the first one to do them.

    As far as less transparency goes, I have no problem letting the people see more of what’s going on – WHEN it’s safe for them to know. If passing along such information no longer endangers American personnel still in the fight by revealing plans, timetables, tactics, equipment, etc., THEN the people can know.

    TwoBlue: On March 22, 2003 President Bush stated in a radio address to the nation (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030322.html) that we were going to war in Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMDs, his support of terrorists, and to free the Iraqi people.

    I will grant you that there is a strong argument for the WMDs to be called a lie. I, personally, believe that you can also make a pretty strong case for the absence of WMDs in Iraq to be very bad intelligence.

    There has been no proof that there was ever a connection between Hussein and al-Qaeda, granted. However, if you think there was never any support for other terrorists from Iraq during Saddam’s reign, you’re being naive. Hell, you could make a case for Hussein’s government itself to be a bunch of terrorists.

    I believe the Iraqi people are free, at least free-er than they were. Hussein’s dead, right? So are his sons. The Baath party is history.

    As far as Afghanistan goes, yes, bin Laden is still at large and al Qaeda still exists. However, the Taliban was removed from power, which was also a primary goal.

    Remember, there’s two prongs to this strategy, one of which is to remove the terrorists’ support networks. Also remember that Bush said this would take time, and that it would be different than any other war we’ve ever fought. Finally, remember that it’s a War on Terror, not just on al-Qaeda.

    All that being said, as I referenced in the “Scalpel vs Hammer” section, I agree that this war has been fought incorrectly.

    Oh, btw, what’s Q.E.E. or Q.E.D?

    I have to REALLY disagree with you about the first Gulf War. The only thing that kept me from trying to enlist in the military again when Desert Storm came around was that I just knew it’d be over before I got out of basic training.

    Just to be technical, Egypt is Islamic and a democracy. Not an American democracy, granted, but a democracy nonetheless.

    I agree with your take on nation-building. It never has worked (see Iran in ’53, Guatemala in ’54, Chile in ’64, Cuba ever since Castro took over, Vietnam, etc., etc., etc…), and likely never will.

    I have no problem with your Secure The Borders idea.

    OH MY GOD – WE AGREED WITH EACH OTHER!!! ON A COUPLE OF THINGS!!! 🙂

    I’m not familiar with Wahhabism. I’ll have to do some research on that threat.

    I’ve heard a lot of people say that the War on Terror is a war on a concept, and that you cannot do that. I disagree. It’s simply an incorrectly named war. It should be called The War on the Terrorists. We are trying to make this country safe against ALL of the terrorists out there. As I said in that “Randomness” post, I don’t think it’s a war that can be won, but it is a war that needs to be fought. There will always be terrorists. There will always be people who believe mindless violence against innocent civilians is the best way to achieve their goals. While we may never eliminate such people from the face of the planet, we absolutely MUST make them few and far between and make them realize that they will pay dearly for their actions if they target us.

    Bo: thank you for the compliment.

    I’m not quite ready, however, to give Bush complete credit for the lack of terrorist action against U. S. soil. I quote Aaron Cohen, former Israeli commando and author of “Brotherhood of Warriors”:

    “I don’t buy the Bush administration’s explanation that there hasn’t been another terrorist attack since 9/11 because we (the United States) are better prepared. I think there hasn’t been another major terrorist attack on American soil because the Arabs know that they don’t need to attack the United States until THEY’RE ready. After all, EIGHT (emphasis mine) years elapsed between the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 9/11. There’s a different conception of time in the Middle East. They will wait decades to strike again if need be. And right now there are more than enough Americans to shoot in Iraq.”

  7. This is an outstanding, well thought out post. I only wish I had the stamina and ability to write this detailed.

    I agree that one of the things we did wrong at the very beginning of Iraq was to give too much trust to our government out of fear. And, you know what? Yesterday, I saw a speech by Obama that is leading us in exactly the same direction, only about the economy. People are so fearful that we are rushing into a boondoggle of a solution by letting the government have too much power with out debate on the issue.

    When Roosevelt said, “speak softly and carry a big stick,” I think he had it right. We cannot demand that countries behave in gov’t just like we do, but we can damn sure be prepared and willing to use the stick when they attempt to harm us.

  8. So are the threats they’ve steadily made since 9/11 all part of the same nefarious scheme, in which inaction only underscores the creeping, insidious nature of the enemy?

    I believe that if they could, they would. I believe this is supported by their rhetoric, as well as the fact that radical Islamic fundamentalists have successfully carried out multiple homeland attacks on civilians in other parts of the world since then.

    Nothing here, and is there another metric that makes more sense? Nuance has ample applications. I don’t think this is one. When the irrational, seething Bush hatred dies down–and it will, sooner than many realize–this is going to stand tall.

  9. Don’t mistake me here, Bo. We’re pretty much on the same side in regards to this. I didn’t say Bush doesn’t deserve ANY credit for the lack of terrorist activity on American soil since 9/11. I’m simply saying he doesn’t deserve TOTAL credit. Are the ramped-up security measures in this country since 9/11 at least partially – and more likely MOSTLY – why another terrorist act hasn’t occurred here in America? Sure.

    However, if you look at the history of terrorism, you’ll see that it is their standard modus operandi to make hit and then lay low. Make your statement, do your damage, let your target respond with a show of force, and then wait. Sooner or later your target will lower his defenses. He’ll eventually do so because either he feels safe and therefore the measures he’s put in place are no longer necessary, and/or because those measures are expensive, both in terms of manpower and in terms of money.

    Whatever mistakes Bush has made or people say he has made, I am far happier that he was the one in office on 9/11 and since then instead of Al Gore!

  10. I think the WMD question is closed. As for “fighting terrorism” by the Iraq war, I guess we’ll never agree, but I don’t buy it. As for liberating the Iraqi people, when did our country all of a sudden be against vile dictators?

    Boondoggle all the way. Wasted lives. Wasted money.

    In retrospect, would you have expended the treasure and lives now gone to “liberate” the Iraqi people?

    Afghanistan. A black hole for every army which ever went in. A black hole for us.

  11. Saintseester: thank you for your compliment. While a lot of things I bandy about here at the Eyrie are just kind of slapped together, I felt a subject like this one needed to be as well-thought out and well-presented as possible.

    I’ve been to your blog, and you do yourself a disservice if you don’t think you write well, too.

    Teddy was a president to be admired, wasn’t he? So was FDR. I never shy away from the opportunity to say I think FDR was the last great president this country had. Too bad the Roosevelts couldn’t have had the political stamina the Kennedy’s have had, huh?

    TwoBlue: there’s absolutely no way to deny that we’ve supported some scumbags in our time. Saddam Hussein himself, for example. Manuel Noriega. Ngo Dinh Diem.

    However, I don’t think we’re against vile dictators “all of a sudden.” Mussolini, Tojo, and Hitler ring a bell?

    No, I wouldn’t have expended the treasure and lives now gone to liberate the Iraqi people. I don’t even say that in retrospect. I said that back in 2003. As I said in “The Scalpel vs the Hammer,” we’ve been fighting this war incorrectly from the get-go.

    I would have simply put a .50 cal. BMG round between Hussein’s eyes from about a mile or so away.

    To paraphrase Private Jackson from “Saving Private Ryan, “What I mean by that, sir, is if you was to put me and this here sniper rifle anywhere up to and including one mile from (Saddam Hussein)… with a clean line of sight… Pack your bags, fellas.”

    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXy-tqLf24U. Within the first 1:10 or so of the clip)

  12. Mussolini, Tojo, and Hitler do ring bells. Correct me if I’m wrong, we, as a nation, did nothing at all to help the poor souls being oppressed by these characters just for the sake of being altruistic. When the attack at Pearl Harbor happened, and our country was at risk, we (correctly) kicked their butts.

    I don’t believe for an instant there was any humanitarian motive involved with either the Iraq or Afghan wars. The oppression of those folks, by, respectively Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, didn’t bother anyone much until Prez decided to protect us from non-existent (and known to be non-existent, if you ask me) “weapons of mass destruction.” I believe “regime change” wars are pretty much illegal, and, if not, certainly immoral. Let the people of those nations bleed for their “freedom” if that’s what they want (and it isn’t).

    Neither war has, or can, accomplish anything, in my opinion.

    Oh, and I am a war veteran.

  13. TwoBlue: First and foremost, let me say with truly heartfelt sincerity, “Thank you.” Thank you, sir, for serving, and thank you for putting your life on the line for this country.

    Second (and of far less import), I would point out that times were a bit different when Adolf, Benito, and Hideki started throwing their weight around. We were mired in the Depression and eyebrows-deep in isolationism with a capital “I.” Even so, we didn’t completely ignore the situations in Europe and Asia. A group of Americans decided to take things in their own hands and joined Claire Lee Chennault in China to form the Flying Tigers. FDR set up the Lend-Lease Act.

    And then Pearl Harbor happened.

    As I alluded to in “Risk Aversion,” this generation had its Pearl Harbor on September 11, 2001.

    Which brings us back to whether or not we responded to 9/11 correctly. As I think I’ve stated multiple times above, I AGREE with you on this. I don’t think the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were necessary. I don’t think nation-building is a good idea. I do think we should get out of Iraq.

    I do NOT, however, think we need to stop fighting the War on Terror. We just need to fight it differently, more efficiently, and more effectively.

  14. Well, we certainly don’t want to just allow terrorists to visit and damage our country. I don’t cotton to the “War on . . .” lingo as I’ve made obvious, but, of course, at some level that’s semantics.

    I’m gonna stick with “protect the borders.”

    I don’t keep posting here trying to get any “last word,” by the by, I just enjoy it. I’m not saying you accused me of any such thing, it just popped into my head.

    I’m sure we agree on many things.

  15. […] would continue the War on Terror. As I’ve mentioned here before, however, I would wage it in a different way. Yes, I would pull our troops out of Iraq and […]

  16. […] all up in arms about for the past week or so turns out to be something I’ve advocated for quite some time – deliberately hunting down and assassinating terrorists. Oh, the […]

  17. […] to fight the War on Terror in a much more efficient and effective manner, as I’ve detailed before. Finally, lest anyone accuse me of being against these wars now only because it’s Obama in […]

  18. […] Whittle on War v. Peace (didn’t I say some the stuff he’s saying here?) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)I Am Not A Doctor…Recruiter advisory: Explicit […]


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