Skip to comments.Iraq: Lessons of Terror Learned
Posted on 04/16/2003 8:19:44 PM PDT by nunya bidness
Iraq: Lessons of Terror Learned
by Sean Finnegan
If a man is slain unjustly, his heir shall be entitled to satisfaction. But let him not carry his vengeance to excess, for his victim is sure to be assisted and avenged. - The Koran, 17:33
Like many, I was not convinced during the long wind-up for Operation Iraqi Freedom. There didn't appear to be compelling evidence for action against Iraq in the name of the War On Terror while the terrorists seemed to be active everywhere but Iraq. However, my mind was changed when I read Caleb Carr's The Lessons of Terror (A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again), a book based on an essay from The World Policy Journal in 1996. Carr provides an historical analysis of military mistakes and a blueprint for combating terror that the world is witnessing today.
He defines terrorism as: The contemporary name given to, and the modern permutation of, warfare deliberately waged against civilians with the purpose of destroying their will to support either leaders or policies that the agents of such violence find objectionable.
After September 11 the government pursued the terrorists more as criminals and less as soldiers. With the exception of the Taliban whose members fought like soldiers but were detained as "enemy combatants", the administration presented the War On Terror as a "global manhunt", as President Bush defined it. Indeed, it seemed for a time that the war would be more of a case being built by the FBI and it appeared that the conclusion would end, not on a battlefield, but in a courtroom, as many of the terrorists had seen.
The impression left on the American people was that the War On Terror was against criminals rather than highly organized, trained, and destructive paramilitary units who targeted entire nations. Or in other words: soldiers.
History has proven that any nation or faction that resorts to warfare against civilians finds that its efforts are at least frustrated and at most see its existence terminated. And any attack on civilians should never be met in kind.
"Rather, it lies in the formulation of a comprehensive, progressive strategy that can address all terrorist threats with the only coercive measures that have ever affected or moderated terrorist behavior: preemptive military offensives aimed at making not only the terrorists but the states that harbor, supply, and otherwise assist them experience the same perpetual insecurity that they attempt to make their victims feel. The methods must be different, of course, for, as stated, terror must never be answered with terror; but war can only be answered with war, and it is incumbent on us to devise a style of war more imaginative, more decisive, and yet more humane than anything terrorists can contrive"1
Terrorism will be eradicated when it is shown to be a losing strategy.
History: Roman Punitive War
The Romans perfected the art of "punitive war"
or "destructive war" which used war against civilians as a way of showing them the might of Rome. It also served to give the underpaid and conscripted foreign legions a means to loot and rape as a reward for service.
The sacking of Carthage by the Romans raised the specter of civilian suffering when most of the men, women and children of the city were destroyed along with the buildings. The Romans also crafted the use of indigenous warriors as agents of war and in some cases the brutality these soldiers visited was returned to the Romans at a later time. The best example of this is the fierce resistance to the invasion of Germania by Augustus in the year 9. The Romans had gone there to quash a rebellion led by their own Arminius, a German commander of the auxiliary in the province of Publius Quintilius Varus. The rage of the Germans to the ruthless treatment of civilians by the Romans fueled their defiance. The fighting on both sides was fevered but eventually tipped in Rome's favor. The rebellion was defeated and the price the noncombatants paid was heavy but the memories of the German tribes were indelibly etched with the Roman atrocities. The distinction in this case was that while the Roman legions fought a "punitive" war, the Germans fought as Arminius described: "My fighting has been open, not treacherous and it has been against armed men and not pregnant women."
Clash of Faiths
If the Romans fared badly, two faiths that both championed peace managed to do worse. Christianity and Islam achieved levels of brutality against civilians unsurpassed by the Romans and inspired violence based on ideology that would stay with civilization to this day. During the ascendancy of Christianity, Augustine of Hippo penned the concept of "just war". The emphasis was that the purpose of war should be peace and breaking the cycle of plunder and rapaciousness. His sole reason for war was "A just war...is justified only by the injustice of an aggressor; and that injustice ought to be a source of grief to any good man, because it is human injustice." And Islam was subject to the same subjective and contradictory extrapolation of scripture as the Bible. Both faiths shared the same history of emerging from a violent history and fought their way to secure their destiny and it was that struggle that tempered the use of their sacred texts.
The two faiths met in Jerusalem in the 11th century when the Muslim Saljuq Turks removed the vow of protection over Christian pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This began the bloody era known as the Crusades where the two faiths were to consume the blood of generations over ideology with little benefit but the consolidation of power in the hands of their leaders. The ideal of both faiths to spare noncombatants was soon discarded and tales of whole cities being destroyed by Christians and Muslims became routine. But the more significant result of the blood feud was the internal fracturing of both faiths instead of the unity and peace that was promised to the faithful.
Appropriately in the aftermath of this turmoil, the Catholic Church lost most of its credibility in politics and war. The period of the Reformation showed monarchs bypassing the church and going straight to God for legitimacy. And the citizenry gladly followed the new leadership and the protection it offered. This support launched France and Germany from a minor territorial dispute into the Hundred Years War. It was during this war that Sir John Fastolf, an English advisor to the King, formulated a new approach. Combat, he concluded, should only take place "betwixt men of werre and men of werre." This notion took hold after the war in the minds of military leaders and legal scholars. The exception of this philosophy was that it was promulgated not from God but rather from men.
A group of Italian mercenaries in the 14th century fashioned a pragmatic war strategy that fit the new "professional" aspect of soldiering. The group known as the condottieri hired themselves out during the period of regional conflict in Italy, and in some cases they would end up fighting each other from time to time. For them, the concept of victory was more decisive and less bloody, and by extension less expensive. From the ranks of these professionals emerged new techniques of fighting best expressed by two of their noted practitioners, Paolo Vitelli and Prospero Colonna, who explained, "Wars are won rather by industry and cunning than by clash of arms."
The Catholic Church took up arms again in the post-Reformation period known as the Inquisition and once again the people rather than the soldiers paid a large price. Torture and persecution was routine and it was visited on the meek as a rule. This period did little to uplift the church and it was the church's interests that suffered almost as much as the people. The Spaniards moved on from that period to a more fulfilling one that included plundering the New World for its riches. Sir Francis Drake, a naval raider for the Queen of England, soon discovered his "sea dogs" had earned a reputation as being bold and decisive, but also sensitive to the enemy and civilians. By only targeting military ships, Drake proved that you could defeat your enemy by depriving him of the weapons and funding for war while protecting the innocent. The natural byproduct was that British solidarity rose from his actions while the Catholic Church's empire declined further due to its dependence on brutality and overbearing force on the people.
In 1625, during the post-Reformation religious conflict known as the Thirty Years War, a Dutch jurist Huigh de Groot (known as Grotius) wrote The Rights of War and Peace. He continued the tradition of St. Augustine in the search for structure to natural law. A key point was that even in a just war the combatants must conduct themselves humanely and responsibly or suffer the decline of combat into mayhem. The study of natural law led to a formation of regulations for war that became known as "international law", with emphasis on lawful behavior being enforced by a recognized authority.
The English Civil War of 1640 brought about by King Charles I imposing the Anglican Church on the countryside had one interesting footnote - the Puritan officer Oliver Cromwell and his dubious legacy of warfare. Cromwell ascended to power by quelling civil unrest and eventually pushed England into colonialism based on a rigorous standard of effective military discipline. By making his New Model Army wear uniforms and drill routinely, he set a standard that can be seen in contemporary armies. It was the discipline of his soldiers when dealing with civilians that set them apart. Loyalties were garnered not by force but by compassion. Unfortunately, after some of these same soldiers fled to Ireland, Cromwell hunted them down and brutalized them and their civilian enablers - a notable blind spot for his expansive vision and one which would fester into the current
"Troubles" in Ireland.
While England was flirting with enlightened warfare, the French were regressing at an alarming rate. Built on Cardinal Richelieu's raison d'etat or "reason of state", Louis XIV consolidated the political power of destructive war in the expansion of France in the 17th century. The tool of this expansion was the creation of a cordon sanitaire around France in Rhineland, Catalonia and Piedmont, where troops burned farms, killed and raped civilians, and looted the countryside to secure a dead zone perimeter for protection against hostile armies. Naturally, those persecuted brought about Louis and France's decline in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
The Mongol invasion of the Muslim world brought about a consolidation of power that eventually propelled the Ottoman Empire to dizzying heights and impressive advances in science and culture. For the Mongols, terror was not a policy but a way of life. After sacking Baghdad they interbred with the Turks and eventually became Muslims themselves. And it was from the pages of the Koran that the new Turco-Mongol tribes gained Islamic evangelism while using native plundering with staggering results that stretched from central Europe to North Africa. No better time exposed the dichotomy of Islam than the Ottoman Empire with examples of both compassion and tolerance on one hand and exhortations of violent evangelism on the other. The empire didn't rise because of brutality, but rather despite it.
In the 17th century, the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, wrote in his book Leviathan: "Covenants without the sword are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all. The bonds of words are too weak to bridle men's ambition, avarice, anger and other passions, without the fear of some coercive power." His contention was that only countries that raised well-armed and highly disciplined armies could offer any hope of maintaining international order and securing the rights of their citizens.
The 18th century produced the age of Enlightenment and with it the concept of "limited war", and clearly defined rules of engagement for armies that now fought for success based on specific and limited political goals. It was during this time that the word "civilian" was first used to describe noncombatants. And no leader better displayed this concept than Frederick the Great of Prussia.
Forging a state from second-rate German states, Prussia faced overwhelming force by hungry and rich nations on all sides. Success for the Prussian military would depend on strict discipline including even more decorative uniforms, fierce reprisals for "foraging" in foreign lands by opportunistic and well-armed soldiers; while being balanced with increased pay, medical care, and improved housing. In addition, success was achieved by avoiding large battles of destruction and concentrating on decisive engagements which left the opponent hopeless, shocked in surprise, and eager to surrender. The most salient aspect of this limited war was the absolute necessity of respecting the lives of both civilians and soldiers. He wrote, "Useful hardworking people should be guarded as the apple of one's eye, and in wartime recruits should be levied in one's own country only when the bittersweet necessity compels."
This "progressive war" could be called a blueprint for Operation Iraqi Freedom and an apt description of the condition of Iraq when his words are considered. "I perceive that small states can maintain themselves against the greatest monarchies when these states put industry and a great deal of order into their affairs. I find that the great empires are full of abuses and confusion; that they maintain themselves only by their vast resources and by the intrinsic force of their mass." Iraq clearly used its vast resources for accumulating force of mass, but failed when it forgot to guard the apple of its eye, the Iraqi people.
Law of Nations
Emmerich de Vattel, a Swiss pastor, wrote The Law of Nations in 1758 which became an enormously influential study. He accumulated man's experience in war to the point where the laws of war had been refined to "[t]he rights founded on the state of war, the lawfulness of its affects, the validity of acquisition made by arms, do not, externally and between mankind, depend on the justice of the cause, but on the legality of the means in themselves...All damage done to the enemy unnecessarily, every act of hostility which does not tend to procure victory and bring the war to a conclusion, is a licentiousness condemned by the law of nature."
This notion flew in the face of the supposed success of destructive war and it was destructive war that he addressed when he wrote, "How then shall we, in particular cases, determine with precision, to what lengths it was necessary to carry hostilities in order to bring the war to a happy conclusion? And even if the point could be ascertained, nations acknowledge no common judge: each forms her own judgment of the conduct she is pursuing to fulfill her duties. If you once open the door for continual accusation of outrageous excess in hostilities, you will only augment the contending parties with increasing animosity; fresh injuries will be perpetually springing up, and the sword will never be sheathed till one of the parties be utterly destroyed."
It should be noted that Vattel was quite prescient because he provided the only solution for war followed by lasting peace would be compromise brought about by strict application of standards of conflict for both the aggressor and the aggrieved. In addition, Vattel's Law, that certain belligerent behaviors are beyond questions of justness and indeed rob just causes of rectitude, must be applied. All terrorists and their sponsors must be treated uniformly and severely as their behavior has nullified any justness in their cause.
The Golden Age of Piracy was the brought upon the Mediterranean and the Caribbean in a fashion that hearkened back to destructive war. One particular example of piracy, a pastime that has been heralded in romantic terms, was in the Barbary States, a group of Muslim principalities in North Africa. Thomas Jefferson sent a naval squadron there in 1815 and made it clear that American vessels were best left alone. What's important to note is that the Barbary Pirates were the basis for military action in Afghanistan with the understanding that the U.S. didn't need a formal declaration of war then and now to deal with both examples of terror. However, in the case of the Barbary Pirates, while they acted like terrorists by threatening freedom of the seas and were state sponsored, they lacked a key element of terrorism: the objective of changing the political behavior of nations. In their case it was a simple matter of theft.
Elsewhere, colonialism reverted back to the old standard of allowing the locals to fight per their customs to secure land and trade for the outsiders while civil strife was buried under unenlightened leaders in Asia. Examples include India, where European companies enlisted indigenous people to secure the British East India Company only to have to crush those same people when they rose up against them after nationalizing the company; China, where the Manchus used brutality to subjugate Tibet in the north, Taiwan in the south, and the Muslim provinces of the west; and the Ottoman Empire, which continually dealt with the rebellious subjects of the fragmented faith of Islam and where the rise of fundamentalism, known as Wahhabism, was a reaction to the oppression and religious confusion.
In all of these cases and many more, the adage of "to defeat a savage you must become a savage" was repeated over and over with dismal results. Furthermore, in the case of African intertribal warfare, Westerners exploited the destructive war there by buying defeated warriors who became slaves by local custom, thus contributing to further strife and resentment both at home and abroad.
The New World
How Enlightenment was used as a subjective philosophy can be seen in the settlement of the New World. Prior to westerners reaching their shores, nomadic Indian tribes had achieved maximum psychological effect on the agrarian tribes by using terror. To the newly arrived Europeans this provided a convenient method to settle the new land by using the natives and their brutality by proxy. During the French and Indian War, Britain and France both used the tribes to try to vanquish their foe, but between them, the settlers only saw the violence at the hands of the Indians. The French, lacking greater numbers, relied more heavily on the tribes, and as such it is no surprise that they suffered the most, and in 1759, they lost all influence in the New World when Montcalm was defeated in Quebec.
The American Indians taught the settlers and the British well (or helped them forget their European standards), for during the American Revolution, both sides unleashed plunder, rape, and murder to shape the views of noncombatants from north to south. Nathanael Greene wrote in 1781, "Nothing has been more destructive to the true interest of this country, than the mode adopted for its defense." It was one thing to suspend standards of war to face a foreign enemy but it was quite another to do so with former comrades. This pragmatism would show routinely in the founding of the United States and specifically in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, which promised liberation and enlightenment to colonial white men, but was silent on bondage for blacks, war against the Indians, and rights for women. At the time, principles would be secondary to the pursuit of unconditional triumph over external enemies.
As imperfect as the founding of the U.S. was, it was an inspiration to the French. They set out to emulate the success of the colonists by forcing every man, woman, and child to fight or be vanquished for the revolution. And from their efforts arose the standard of "total war" in the name of liberty. It took the strong hand of dictatorship in Napoleon Bonaparte to channel the force of mayhem and redirect the energy that would eventually come back to revisit the French for having unleashed cruelty as a means of freedom.
Napoleon's efforts were remarkable because he was able to harness the fervent emotion of the French people and in particular his troops who maintained strict discipline while enduring intense rigors. Unfortunately, this discipline in training quickly dissipated on the field of battle, and it wasn't long before native resistance rose up against them. In Calabria, the Tyrol, and Portugal movements sprang up, but the more effective effort started with the guerrillas in Spain.
The distinction between guerrilla warfare and terrorism is critical to understanding the contemporary War On Terrorism. The difference is the choice of intended targets. Guerrillas attack military targets while protecting the interests, and maintaining the loyalty of civilians. For terrorists, civilians are the target. And the force that encounters guerrillas and preys on the civilians to curb such activities usually just strengthens the public's resolve.
But even the noble effort of the guerrillas can wander into dangerous territory when they cross the line and launch campaigns against civilians, either to regain popular support or retain control. Two such examples are the degeneration of the IRA from attacking the British military to targeting civilians, and the Palestinians in the intifada movement who shifted from blowing up Israeli soldiers to blowing up Israeli citizens. Once they crossed the line, their movements faced the self-defeating future of loss of popular support both at home and abroad.
It was the efforts of guerrillas in Spain and Portugal that eventually led to Napoleon's defeat at the hands of Britain's Duke of Wellington, but the French model of total war did leave an impression on Karl von Clausewitz, an officer in the Prussian army.
Clausewitz: Total War
Clausewitz went on to document his fascination with the concept of total war as it was defined by Napoleon's overbearing and indiscriminate methods in his influential book On War. The book produced the famous quote, "War is nothing other than the continuation of state policy by different means," a sentiment that pales in comparison to the remainder of his theory.
J.F.C. Fuller, the British historian, noted that Clausewitz "never grasped the true aim of war was peace, not victory." Indeed, Clausewitz created further confusion with his theory, that war had three specific aims: "To conquer and destroy the enemy's armed force, to get possession of the material elements of aggression, and to gain public opinion." The problem was that by using the model of total war and subjecting the enemy's civilian population to brutality, how could he expect to gain public opinion? Few examples in history had been shown to support this.
Another Prussian, Helmuth von Moltke, took the Clausewitz maxim of war as an instrument of policy and rejected the rest of On War, going on to create the modern general-staff and launch three successful and progressive campaigns that transformed Prussia into modern Germany. He did this without being universally destructive and unlimited in his goals. With Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Moltke carved out the German state with the goal of not extending the country's interests beyond the point that other powers could live with. However, the two would split on their tactics in the Franco-Prussian War when, after surrounding Paris and effectively winning victory, Bismarck decided to "possess" the city by breaking the Parisians' spirits through artillery bombardment. Moltke protested, citing that the bombing would likely stiffen not weaken French resistance. Bismarck ordered the bombing anyway and certainly added to the foundation for future conflict between the countries.
The bombing of Paris can be correlated to the War of 1812 in which the assaults of the British on the innocents of the U.S. and the razing of Washington, DC were attempts to break the will of the population to fight. Instead, the action galvanized the will of the American people and led to the final defeat of the British on our soil and inspired our national anthem which reminds all who sing it of the strength of our convictions then and now.
Perhaps no conflict better illustrates the depth of destructiveness of Clausewitz's vision of war than the American Civil War. And while the cause of the war is open to debate, the greater effect it had on the fabric of this country is timeless for the actions of one man: William Tecumseh Sherman.
Sherman truly represented both the progressive war of Frederick the Great and the failure of total war of Clausewitz. In his infamous march from Atlanta to the sea and journey north through the Carolinas, he brilliantly deprived the Confederate army of vital supply lines by destroying railways, roads, bridges, and telegraph wires while systematically defeating his adversaries and destroying their access to arms. But he didn't stop at meeting military goals. He also unleashed violence on the people that was comparable to a Roman punitive raid and declared that he was at war with every man, woman, and child in the south. He and his troops acted in such a barbaric fashion against noncombatants, coupled with the heavy handed destruction of the south, that it plagued the period of Reconstruction. But his greater legacy is the hatred of many southerners to this day and the continuation of division between the states and the central government. The union was maintained but the cost was great, and much of that cost can be attributed to Sherman.
Colonialism and Proxy War
The anarchist movement coalesced during the 19th century and is often referred to as one of the foundations for modern-day terrorism, but the connection does not hold true. Even though the anarchists did use methods of terror - namely violence, assassination, and bombings - they did not share the core methodology of terrorism. The anarchists did not have state sponsorship, they were not formally trained in paramilitary tactics, they did not maintain extensive intelligence, and they did not have access to military weapons. Essentially, the anarchists were criminals with lofty rhetoric.
Colonialism in the late 1800's had extended far across the globe but had transformed from state-run interests to corporate interests backed by force of the state. And the emphasis for most of these corporations was exploiting natural resources through the use of the local population. The problem was that sometimes these populations didn't always agree with the concept of the "white man's burden".
England faced growing resistance in Afghanistan during its three forays in the country during 1839-1879. The Brits had gone there to prevent the Russians from snatching the "jewel in the crown" that was India. Early in the campaign the Afghanis supported the effort but over time they grew to hold the English with contempt and eventually they turned on them. In Africa, the UK faced opposition from the Zulu army in South Africa and Muslim fundamentalists in the Sudan. It was in the Sudan that the fierce fighting prompted General Herbert Kitchener to turn British maxim guns on Muslims in what was more of an execution than a battle.
President William McKinley sought to "lift up" the people of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, but others in government had designs on a naval base from which to project power and snare trade with China. The price was bloody fighting with nationalist guerrillas, whereby civilians paid the price on both sides of the conflict.
France had its hands full in Algeria after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Abd al-Kader. The response was a "scorched earth" policy by the French that would rival Sherman. The memory of the brutality festered there and Algeria emerged as a training ground for terrorists to this day.
In these cases and others, colonial interests were subverted by the actions of the colonists because of their treatment of civilians. If the colonists had bothered to look at history they would have seen that since Roman times it never profited a country to arm the locals to do their bidding and expect them to ignore atrocities at the same time.
The Great War
While colonialism was tangled in far-off provinces, old wounds had been reopened in the European continent. The reasons for the start of the Great War matter less than the methods used in the conflict, and in that respect both sides fought a total war with unprecedented civilian casualties. Winston Churchill's
"Orders in Council" rewrote maritime law to force a naval blockade of German vessels and effectively starve the German people. The Germans responded with submarine warfare and the sinking of the Lusitania, with the loss of 1200 civilians including 128 Americans. This act would also draw the U.S. in to the conflict.
The targeting of civilians by both sides in this initial clash was by definition terrorism, for the intent of these acts was to inflict harm for political purposes. The descent of 18th century Enlightenment to total war was notable in that the events took place on the continent. The cost in civilian lives was countless, but the immersion of western powers in the tools of brutality, including poison gas, mass murder, and the destruction of towns and villages, removed all credibility for those powers to speak of the laws of war.
And yet they did. The Geneva Conventions had met first in 1864 and then in 1906 to formalize the protocols of war, including medical care for combatants. In particular, rules were established for maritime war, which the British had broken in 1914. The rules also outlawed the use of chemical weapons and set standards for the treatment of prisoners of war. Unfortunately, after World War I, the list of signatories did not include any of the countries established after the fall of the Central powers and the protocols had no effective penalty provisions. It should be noted as well that none of the European colonies had any say in the matter.
Terror Finds a Home
Terrorism made a critical advance in the aftermath of World War I in Russia where the Bolshevik Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin established the "worker's state". Finally there was a state that would foster the ideology and the practice of terror as well as fund it to fruition. Lenin spoke of terror in a prescient fashion when he warned his comrades that "our duty is to warn most energetically against too much fascination by terror, against regarding it as the main and basic means of struggle, something to which so many are inclined at this time."
The Treaty of Versailles and President Woodrow Wilson's commitment to the League of Nations (later to be named the United Nations) all but sealed the fate of Germany for the next Great War, which ended up being nothing more but the continuation of the first. Nor did it bode well for the future that the League would leave the Arabian Peninsula, which had risen against the Ottoman Empire, hamstrung with European mandates, protectorates, and spheres of influence. It was only by action by the Senate that the U.S. did not participate in the League in order to maintain American military authority.
Wilson was convinced that the root of the problem in Germany was "Prussianism", but he was wrong. Kaiser Wilhelm was the master of the tactics of poison gas and murder of civilians in Belgium, and while he was Prussian, his tactics would have appalled Frederick the Great and stood in stark contrast to the progressive warfare of Moltke.
Moreover, Wilson had neglected to note that France, not Prussia, had been far more guilty of consistently raising egomaniacal kings and emperors to sweep the continent seeking domination. History was becoming a stumbling block and the post-war period from 1918 to 1939 set the stage for even greater conflict. Germany was stripped of its war machine and later the Great Depression seized the world plunging the country in to economic chaos and fomenting contempt from its people.
"New" New Model Army
During that period of time while Germany was rebuilding itself, the German officer corps were developing capabilities more in keeping with the progressive model they had forsaken previously. The emphasis now was in developing material and tactics to advance limited and specific political and military aims through bold offensive strategies while avoiding large battles of attrition. One of those tactics was called blitzkrieg or lightening war.
Through the use of armored divisions and tactical air squadrons they would use compact and highly mobile forces to paralyze the enemy's command and render their government confused and demoralized. While Adolph Hitler was less than enthusiastic, he watched as the Panzer divisions did exactly what they were trained to do. Poland fell in weeks with remarkably little cost.
The problem Hitler had with the Prussian progressive fighting was that it did nothing to satisfy his true intentions - namely, domination and genocide. This created a split in the German fighting machine and ultimately doomed it. Progressive warfare and the final solution could not work simultaneously. And in 1940 Hitler had his way with the air war in Britain and chose terror at his peril. He quickly refined his technique and concentrated on the systematic elimination of all conquered citizens who were not fit to work in the forced-labor machine.
Once again, a winning strategy was circumvented for total victory and the effect on the enemy was seething determination. Bombing Britain galvanized the British people as did the extermination campaign against Russia. Furthermore, it created a thirst for vengeance that would not have been fashioned with compromise.
Unfortunately, the thirst for vengeance also knew no bounds. The "strategic bombing" of the Allies, ostensibly to disrupt German industry, also exacted civilian casualties. And naturally, the civilians responded in kind. German industrial production actually increased during the bombing campaign. Both sides had made a commitment to using air power to pound the enemy into submission while preventing troops from suffering losses, an error that would beleaguer future history.
Not that the Allies didn't use progressive methods. Patton's race across France was and still is considered to be a brilliant use of mechanized warfare. But for every advance there was a digression like the firebombing of Dresden whereby over one hundred thousand fatalities resulted. As has been seen before, the Allies won not because of their tactics but rather despite them.
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor has been remarked as the closest event to the attack on September 11th, but there is a difference. The Japanese attacked a strategically important naval base with devastating results. The loss of civilian life was truly collateral damage. The U.S. response, on the other hand, was less strategic and the use of incendiary bombs over urban and suburban populations did little stop the Japanese advance in the Pacific. In this context the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings were of no strategic value, while the Pentagon could be considered strategic.
President Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb was less historic than where he decided to drop it. Hiroshima, a city of several hundred thousand civilians and only ten thousand soldiers, was slightly less militarily significant than Nagasaki. In addition, all of the major military installations in Japan had already been struck. The only reason America is not remembered as a terrorist state for that action is due to the remarkable way that we won the peace after the war.
The Marshall Plan and MacArthur's rebuilding of Europe and Japan stand as a testament to enlightened victory from the depths of total war. West Germany and Japan rose from the ashes and rejoined the community of civilized nations. Both countries eventually joined the United States in facing the next foe, which was Stalin's Russia.
The rise of Communism played on the American public's fear of the next threat of totalitarianism and public support gave consent to the government to develop the necessary tools to preempt just such a threat.
James Forrestal, FDR's secretary of the navy, pushed for and won the approval of the National Security Act of 1947. From it emerged the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, and the Defense Department. This triad formed the "national security state", a portion of the government that rarely was scrutinized by Congress, much less the American people.
Forrestal did not live to see the benefit of his hard work. He was relieved of his duties by Truman in 1949 and after checking in to Bethesda Naval Hospital for treatment of a mental collapse he threw himself out of a window.
His legacy went on without him. The Defense Department kept the country on a war footing, the National Security Council circumvented the law, and the State Department and the CIA planned and executed covert operations with mixed results and grave implications. Some of these operations bordered on state-sponsored terror and created the atmosphere for future conflicts in foreign lands.
In 1956, Eisenhower commissioned a study of the CIA by James Doolittle (of Doolittle's Raid fame). In his assessment Doolittle wrote, "It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed object is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human behavior do not apply. If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of 'fair play' must be reconsidered....It may be necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy."
The Red Scare was less a fear of Communism invading the country and more a matter of the fear of the leaders that, given the choice, people would select Communism. So the CIA set out to vanquish Communism with operations like the Bay of Pigs fiasco while ignoring a rift between China and Russia, and the decay of the British Empire and the rise of conditions that would soon promote terrorism in the failing colonies.
The Vietnam War typified the honor and determination of the American warrior while exposing the abject failure of a political decision to fight a war with no clear goals. While B-52s tried, once again, to beat the enemy into submission from the air, the effect was an opposite reaction; the enemy refined his mastery of the techniques of guerrilla warfare.
Expediency and frustration took a toll on a civilian population in the middle of a war that to them was nothing more than the continuation of a colonial power struggle. Napalm, carpet bombing, razing of villages, secret missions in Cambodia, and other ineffective tactics were designed to break the will of the Vietnamese people, but they amounted to terror in the end.
America didn't lose in Vietnam because of the troops on the ground. The war was lost because leaders like Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Kissinger had chosen a self-defeating and repugnant philosophy that history had proven was flawed time and again. The price of lives and the treatment of veterans were paid by the soldiers, not the politicians, who should have known better had they cared to look back in time. And the loss of public support at home hamstrung future operations and carried forth a stigma that lingered over key decisions in future conflicts. The war at home also produced a press that, emboldened by its "victory" over the war, tarnished the valor of the men and women in uniform.
The notion of popular war is represented in the case of Northern Ireland and Israel and the conundrum of whether a "popular war" has to be an "unlimited war" and whether unlimited wars can be popular. The French Revolution proved that popular wars were, by nature, unlimited. For when people fight for something they hold dear, like freedom or ideology, their actions will not be constrained by discipline, the balance that holds unlimited wars to limited wars.
Cromwell unleashed a torrent on Ireland and it continued for centuries following. The British established a Protestant authority over the largely Catholic population. Any insurrection was crushed by ruthless methods and furthered discontent. During the 19th century the Irish Nationalist Party (INP) held eighty seats in Parliament where it fought for home rule and promoted the rights of tenement farmers working for British and Protestant landlords.
On Easter Monday, 1916, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Sinn Fein, and the Irish Volunteers proclaimed the end of London's rule and called for a general uprising. The call went unanswered due in part to public support for the efforts of the INP in Parliament and the rebellion was put down. The British government could have seen the lack of support and simply jailed the rebels but instead the guilty were summarily executed. Thus they now became martyrs and the movement solidified.
Moderates were swept aside and the government jailed most of the leadership of Sinn Fein, but Michael Collins was not captured. And he became the most effective leader the movement needed. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was formed and it quickly waged war on the British military with impressive results. By 1920, Ireland was on the brink of rebellion. But then the IRA made a fatal mistake.
Initially, their paramilitary campaigns focused solely on military targets. Then less concern was paid to civilian lives, and finally civilian lives were cultivated as a way to promote fear and disrupt the efforts of the British authorities. In other words, they had become terrorists. The response from London was to suspend negotiations and send in hardened troops. By 1921 the government offered Collins and the IRA free-state status; nothing more than they could have had in 1914. Collins accepted and he was murdered for doing so.
By moving from a limited campaign to unlimited, the efforts to liberate Ireland were sacrificed. After the general retreat in 1949 by the British, the troubles were contained in Northern Ireland. No ground has been gained since. And the only hope the IRA has now is that the Unionists continue to persecute civilians and thus alienate the public.
Middle East Shuffle
Britain and France promised the Muslim tribes of the Arabian Peninsula independent statehood for their assistance in defeating the Ottoman Turks in World War I. The problem was that the colonists had lied. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 gave the two countries dominion over the territory and the Balfour Declaration of 1917 included the inclusion of a Jewish home as well. Britain and France danced around the subject and in 1928 Jordan was granted independence, followed by Iraq in 1932, Syria in 1941, and Lebanon in 1943. Palestine was left with increasing agitation between the Jews and the Arabs while Britain desperately hung onto this strategically vital link to Middle East trade.
The British tried to solve the problem in 1936 by splitting the country in two. Fighting broke out immediately. The Jews made the fateful decision to include the Irgun and Stern Gang, a pair of paramilitary bands, in their move for statehood. The two groups brought Soviet-inspired cell based terror to the region in the way of beatings, bombings, and murder. And where before the Jews had a sympathetic cause, now they were being propelled into conflict just as the IRA had been with equally dubious results.
In 1939, London issued an about face called the "White Paper" in which they admitted they were unfair to the Arabs, that the Jewish immigration needed to slow down, and most importantly that they themselves needed to get out, leaving the Arabs and the Jews to run Palestine jointly "in such a way as to ensure that the essential interests of each community are safeguarded."
The Arabs rejected the plan and the Jews increased their assassination of British officials, Arab leaders, and moderate Jews. In 1946, the Irgun, commanded by Menachem Begin, blew up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Ninety people died, including Jews, Britons, and Arabs. It wasn't long after that the British informed the U.N. that they were formally turning over control of Palestine. Israel's stalwart ally had had enough.
The Irgun had taken the potential of the Jewish state and stained it with the blood of terror. The effort to break the will of the Arabs by bombing civilians had backfired and now the Jewish state was forever split between the legitimate efforts of the likes of David Ben-Gurion and the fanaticism of those like Begin. And as always, the response from the other side adjusted to the format.
The Arabs now assumed the popular role of terror and they too immersed themselves in the Soviet model along with the new name of Palestinians. But they drifted in their hate from not only the Jews but also to the United States, whom they believed was a vital source of Israeli power. And in that respect, they were applying the same logic that the U.S. would use to attack our enemies in the War On Terror.
During the time that the various Palestinian organizations coalesced in to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), they rarely garnered favorable public opinion, but there were exceptions. The intifada movement initially was viewed with approval when they fought with guerrilla tactics against the Israeli military. Pictures of young boys using rocks and slings against combat troops drew obvious parallels to David and Goliath. But just like Michael Collins, Yassir Arafat grew frustrated and the PLO slipped into the routine of blowing up civilians. And like Michael Collins, Arafat may face the same fate when more extreme members decide his methods and voice are archaic.
The IRA and the PLO illustrate the slim difference between patient movement for independence and the rush for achievement from frustration. And in that respect the United States has learned little from history, but it's never too late.
When America was attacked on September 11, 2001, terrorists opened the door for a unique opportunity to deal with the problem definitively and progressively. The doomed ideology was now operating in the open and we were given a reason to target them, not just as a law enforcement issue, but more importantly as a military issue. And if ever there was a time to ditch 2000 years of failed military strategy, this was the time.
This new strategy also had to drop the newly traditional method of accumulating a large cross-section of support through ineffective organizations like the UN, NATO, and coalitions. In addition the new paradigm had to shift from defensive and reactive to offensive and preemptive. Afghanistan stands more as an example of the former but Iraq clearly stands as an example of the latter.
Terrorists have to be defined as a military force for this objective to be successful. They are at war with us and it's time we treated them as such. The question of how to deal with an army of terrorists who not only inhabit far-flung ghettos but also our own soil is less a matter of traditional international police work and more a matter of taking the war to their heart and where the bulk of their assets exist. Minds can change outside of their home turf when they see that they are cut off and indeed that their base no longer exists.
Recent history does not illustrate much in the way of adaptive, progressive thinking when it comes to dealing with these armies but there are a few highlights. From the Gulf War and throughout the 1990s, strategic bombing was used almost exclusively in attempts to achieve goals that could only be made with a ground element. And like before, this method only bred resentment by the people whom we were trying to unburden.
More Bombs, Less Control
Coalition bombing prior to ground operations in the 1991 Gulf War was not only designed to shape the battlefield but also to strike deep in to Iraq to destroy WMD facilities. It worked in the first case and failed in the second. Iraqi soldiers could not surrender to aircraft and until we had "boots on the ground", so they waited.
The bombing of Belgrade in 1999 was heralded as a decisive air battle because Slobodan Milosevic was ejected. This was not the case. Bombing did take place and despite the bombing an educated and determined people brought about change. The withdrawal of Russian support played as important a role as bombs in this case. The Clinton
Administration's love affair with air campaigns was not new in history but it did give comfort to those at the Pentagon who feared an engagement that would challenge not only their theories but also their history in ground conflict. Evidence can be seen in the miserable failure of both political leadership and application of force in Somalia, an example of the rare case where Clinton gave up an aerial element and deployed troops without sufficient armor and a truly confusing mission.
The campaign in Afghanistan illustrates perfectly the transition from total war to progressive war. The CIA had, as were the custom, supported the mujahadin in an effort to punish the Soviets for their involvement in many colonial style wars by proxy - a classic example of Doolittle's "fundamentally repugnant philosophy" of fighting dirty. Naturally these "freedom fighters" did what all the other factions had done in the past. Once the initial conflict was over, they turned on their handlers.
The CIA is one of the best examples of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Time after time American troops were deployed to solve messes the "minds" at Langley had put America in. What makes it worse is that one of the most important roles of the Central Intelligence Agency is to in fact develop intelligence and provide it to the executive branch so that a determination could be made how to best handle the problem. But the "company's" one-stop shop operations driven attitude prevented this from happening. The intelligence failure of 9/11 can firmly be placed at the feet of the CIA, an agency that was doing just about everything else but paying attention to their primary mission.
After America declared War On Terrorism, we performed brilliantly in Afghanistan and it was in large part because of the application of progressive fighting and less on archaic methods of long battles of attrition. Special operations played a key role and a light, highly mobile, and adaptive force moved primarily on the ground to seek out the shadowy enemy. This may be one of the few times that the CIA may have been helpful but it should be noted that it was from a tactical perspective and not from a strategic and stand-alone operational one.
Another aspect of the flawed thinking that pervaded military planning in the latter half of the 20th century was that individuals could not be targeted. The thinking was that our country could not act warlike against a person but the problem was that people give orders and commit other people to do things which essentially start wars. Two examples of dynamic thinking, despite conventional wisdom, are the tactical air attack on Libya in 1986 and the invasion of Panama in 1989.
The raid in Libya was masked as a strike against key military installations, but the true intent was to target Muammar Qaddafi. He had been, for some time, not only supporting terror but was also providing training facilities on his soil. The strike didn't kill Qaddafi but it certainly put a damper on his efforts. Manuel Noriega, another CIA failure, had in true fashion turned on the U.S. Then President Bush decided it was time to address the issue of the stability of the Canal Zone, so Noriega was captured and his actions there were nullified. Both examples illustrate that the U.S. could be at war with individuals but the manner in which they were dealt with was adjusted according to the needs of the situation.
Perhaps the most promising sign of the prospect of the future of "progressive war" was in the transition from the Reagan, Bush, and current Bush administrations. During the Reagan Administration, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger developed what became known as the "Weinberger Doctrine". This doctrine was notable not for what it promoted but rather for what it constrained. Specific qualifiers were put on military activity such as: engagement should only be a last resort and in the vital national interest, America should have a clear intention of winning, objectives should be clearly defined, and the necessity of the support of the American people. Naturally, this inhibited an already conservative Pentagon bureaucracy.
President George H.W. Bush appointed Colin Powell as his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the transition from the Weinberger Doctrine to the Powell Doctrine continued with little change in philosophy. Restraint was recommitted as well as the accumulation of overwhelming military force. This inconsistent goal put America's military on course with a war of attrition in the pursuit of an absolute or unconditional objective. Clearly the making of a total war was implied.
Of the Reagan and elder Bush presidencies one person stands out in his discerning view of military goals. Reagan's secretary of state, George Shultz, promoted a vigorous, offensive, and preemptory acceptance of challenges to American security. In contrast to Weinberger, Shultz proclaimed, "Can we as a country, can the community of free nations, stand in a purely defensive posture and absorb the blows dealt by terrorists? It is time to think long, hard, and seriously about more active means of defense---defense through appropriate preventative or preemptive actions against terrorist groups before they strike."
The strike against Libya followed two years after his statements. Whether the strike was preemptive or in retaliation depends on the legal connections that could be made from Qaddafi to terrorist acts. But the message was clear to anyone with any connections to terror: you will pay. And those leaders in countries of questionable intent would have to confront the very real choice: is it worth it to continue to support terror, directly or indirectly, or maintain regional power and personal fortune?
Another prominent aspect of the Libyan strike was the basis of U.S. action in accordance with U.N. Article 51, which permits military self-defense and nothing else. There was no coalition of the willing and no inquiry with the U.N. as to how it would approve of such a matter. Indeed, any inquiry would have blown the element of surprise. Reagan just did it and asked forgiveness later.
Operation Desert Storm was probably the last gasp of the Weinberger/Powell doctrine of cautious operations, with President Bush advancing the notion of a U.N.-backed coalition of many nations. There was no element of surprise and the extensive use of weeks of aerial bombardment hearkened back to the standard of breaking the enemy's will to fight. The intent of the air campaign was to disable Iraqi air defenses and disrupt command and control, as well as shape the battlefield for the ground campaign. The problem emerged that, despite the use of new precision guided weapons, the bombing was very destructive to the infrastructure of Iraq and equally destructive to Iraqi civilians.
After the ground offensive was finally launched the war ended in exactly 100 hours. Iraqi soldiers were finally able to surrender and the retreating Iraqi armor was laid to waste. But the campaign was not a success in any real strategic terms. By leaving Saddam in power the U.S. had failed to remove the leadership of the enemy. Iraqi military casualties were heavy but they too regrouped over time. And the promise America made to the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north was not met, and those two groups paid heavily for their efforts to end the regime.
The U.N. was given dominion over the commerce of the Iraqi government and sanctions were imposed but the effect on the country was that the civilian population paid the ultimate price. The shortsighted goal of liberating the Kuwaitis while leaving the Iraqi people enslaved was brought about by the need for the Bush Administration to adhere to the coalition and U.N. mandates. The U.S. could not prove that Iraq was a direct threat to its sovereignty. That would take 12 years to occur and untold misfortune would be placed on the Iraqi people and finally on American civilians.
After September 11th the American military and the minds at the Pentagon went about determining how to deal with the specter of terrorism. President Bush in announcing the commencement of the War On Terror made the blanket proclamation that the Axis of Evil - Iran, Iraq, and North Korea - were the center of mass of terrorism. The immediate reaction was that American force was projected into Afghanistan where it was known that al-Qaeda was operating in the open despite years of cruise missile attacks during the Clinton Administration.
Despite the possibility that the Rumsfeld Defense Department might apply a progressive approach to the new conflict, it remained to be seen. But the historical distinction was made: the U.S. had been attacked and we had all the reason we needed to respond. A month-long air campaign preceded a ground offensive during which time the sympathetic Northern Alliance moved into key cities. When U.S.-led coalition forces moved in the bulk of the fighting was done in a month's time, and when the last holdout city of Kandahar was taken, it signaled the end of conventional warfare.
Afghanistan was a good indication of the direction the Pentagon was taking. While the aerial campaign signaled a return to tried and true methods, and while the diplomatic efforts to assemble a coalition signaled a capitulation of American righteous indignation for the sake of the concerns of other nations, the application of tactical methodology truly was a departure from recent history. Traditional infantry units, close air support and independent special operation forces meshed tightly to provide the exact battlefield that Frederick the Great had envisioned. Furthermore, mobility was paramount with light armor and artillery being utilized rather than bulky tank divisions and airlift functioned effectively to project force quickly and accurately. The war in Afghanistan proved that the notion of light and mobile forces could be decisive against an entrenched foe. And while the fighting continued, the enemy was deprived of a base of operations. The scattering of al-Qaeda was to be expected, but the message was received by all terrorists that direct military operations will not be tolerated and indeed will be punished.
Iraq: Getting It Right
Which brings us to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rumors swirled during the first months of the Bush Administration that there was a plan to return to Iraq and finish what had been started 12 years before. And when the plan was revealed after 9/11, the press took the opportunity to malign the eventual campaign by applying the same standard of proof that al-Qaeda was held to in Afghanistan for Iraq. The Bush Administration even provided substance to this standard when members went before the U.N. in an attempt to pigeonhole the mission by presenting evidence they claimed proved the existence of weapons of mass destruction and as well as ties to terrorism both direct and indirect.
The problem with the diplomatic effort was that it hampered the element of surprise, which was dubious to begin with due to the nature of conflict between the U.S. and Iraq being in a state of cease-fire. Further obstruction came in the assembling of a consensus before the U.N. Both of these problems augmented the concern that the U.S. would be seen as acting unilaterally outside of the U.N., and without a clear connection to terrorism, the President would be seen as acting outside of his authority for the War On Terror. The period of time between the determination that Iraq was next on the list of targets and the time in which we committed to the engagement exposed all that needed to be seen about the process of consensus and the utter uselessness of the United Nations.
By squandering our righteous indignation before a host of countries that cared less about the process of securing the freedom of all nations and more about the potential for trade with the Hussein regime, it's no wonder that Americans must have felt displaced. In the long run it may be for the best that finally the U.N. was exposed for what it truly is: a debating society with board rooms for greedy leaders to secure favorable trade agreements while forsaking their own sovereignty as well as the sovereignty of other nations. In the cases of France, Germany, and Russia, their legacies will be suspect in light of the fall of Baghdad.
The administration of Operation Iraqi Freedom will go down in history as the culmination of the greatest elements of progressive warfare using the latest technology and proven battlefield objectives and tactics. There was no month-long air campaign to signal the beginning of fighting. Cameras in Baghdad showed an eerie calm while for weeks forces were pouring into the country. Embedded reporters displayed in real time the precision of targeting of munitions and the cautious discipline of infantry while engaging the enemy who was surrounded by civilians.
The historical nature of this war is complex and vibrant. Air power was focused on the exploitation of pinpoint accuracy and redundant safety measures while systematically engaging air defenses and eliminating them. Leadership targets, or people who start wars, were pursued throughout the campaign. Command and control was cut, not by destroying bridges, power sources, and communication centers but rather by targeting key individuals and units based on a constant flow of intelligence on the ground. Traditional mechanized warfare was displayed in an historic speed run from Kuwait to Baghdad that would make the blitzkrieg seem slow. Tactical air support eliminated threats at a blistering pace while taking more risk than had ever been taken to ensure accuracy. Infantry units performed flawlessly while moving constantly and adapting to the ever-changing and sometimes impossible conditions. And throughout the whole campaign, communication was coordinated with staggering volumes of information which was constantly updated and verified.
This war has displayed the best of historical warfare techniques being combined and refined to a level of success that is unparalleled. The fighting is a crucial aspect of the endeavor but perhaps the more rewarding and ultimately more lasting effect is the compassionate and disciplined way that it was undertaken. Never before in history has a military operation been more diligent in the use of force while taking disproportionate care to spare the innocent. Iraqi civilians and even combatants were treated with the same care as our forces and humanitarian aid was being administered on the battlefield while combat still raged. Civil authorities were immersed in our armed forces to get a grasp of the eventual reconstruction needs as well as coordinating relief efforts at the front.
Now that the end of the conflict appears close, the task of reconstruction will become a priority, but the care that the military elements took will hasten the results. Never before was a country brought to bear for the failure of its leadership with such little damage. The Hussein regime brought total war on its citizens but the United States and coalition-armed forces ended the terror on the Iraqi people and provided them with little damage in the process.
The aftermath of this war will eventually be reduced to the initial debate of whether it was worth it, whether it was part of the War On Terror, and whether Saddam Hussein provided a threat to the American people. But the effect of this conflict will surpass those questions. The Iraqi people will be left to choose what type of government they want and hopefully they will be able to do so without the heavy hand they have grown accustomed to in the past. The United States will have an implacable ally for the foreseeable future and a presence in the troubled Middle East if the Iraqi people want one. But perhaps the most important outcome from Operation Iraqi Freedom will be that no matter what the U.N. or any other country has to say, the message is clear: if you are in any way connected to terror you will pay with the loss of your war machines and soldiers, and your leadership will be held responsible. And any leader who cares more about his power and influence would be best served to eject the elements of fanaticism and send them to the valley of death in Mesopotamia before the juggernaut comes to him.
1. Carr, Caleb,- The Lessons of Terror (A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Failed and Why It Will Fail Again), New York, Random House, 2002
April 15, 2003
Heads up neighbor.
The definition applies without condition. Neither the PLO, Israel, or the US in WWII should be given a bye. The distinction in the case of nuking Japan is that history was tempered by the follow through of the reconstruction campaign.
It was terrorism to nuke Japan, and it was terrorism when Dresden was firebombed.
I just hope the Iraqi people will be able to hold on to what has been offered to them.
Oh, let there be no doubt, it was terrifying. It was meant to be and it was aimed squarely at breaking the will of tow entire sets of people whose resources was pitted against ours in a war for the very survival of our way of life.
So, yes, horribly ... but necessarily ... we bombed the cities. We won the war and the peace and we kept an unbelievably dark night of even worse terror, terror practised as genocide against the free peoples of the world, from descending on mankind.
An unimaginably terrible trade off to be sure ... but a horribly necessary one.
The atomic bombings in Japan were directed at one thing, and one thing only. The quick end of the war without the necessity of invading Japan ... and the saving of American and Japanese lives by so doing. My Dad was on a Landing Craft Infantry preparing for that invasion. And in all likelihhod his life as well as a couple of hundred thousand Americans and millions of Japanese were saved by those two terrifying but necessary bombs.
A hell of a decision to have to make ... but the right decision.
It is well said that in total war there are no innocents. When a culture and people are so gripped with the aims of their leaders as the Japanese and most Germans were ... it is a fight of us against them with the survival of freedom and libeeryty at stake. We know this from observing what the enemy nations did to those nations they conquered ... and what we did with the nations after defeating them. That stark contrast, between Manchuria and all of Europe for the Axis, and between how a conquered Germany and Japan were treated reveals all. The steps getting there were terrible ... and they were horrible ... but not nearly as horrible as losing such a war.
It is also well said that war is hell.
We are now pitted against enemies in these terrorists and their abettors that may well be as grave and dangerous a threat as those of World War II. I particularly think that if the Chinese ever jump in on this thing on the other side at an inopportune moment, that the threat could be even greater. I pray they don't ... I pray we are not faced with such decisions ... but I also know that despite the weaknesses and failings of mortal men ... sometimes it is necessary to pull out all of the stops, as horrific as that sounds and as horrific as it is.
I spent two years in Germany talking to people who went through those years. Amazing tales from most Germans. A few were still bitter ... but most were humbled and thankful that it had turned out the way it did, and they were willing to admit it ... despite losses we can scaresly imagine.
Well ... I've gone on too long. There remains terrible evil in the world ... as you know, some of it right here on these shores. I pray we can check it and arrest it before it spreads from the cultish cliques, cells and groups where it curtrently resides to whole peoples which would make such warfare again a brutal necessity.
Best Fregars to you my friend on a thought provoking article.
Question, is this course worth two or three credits, and when is the final?
but I do not agree that the method of warfare we practised in World War II was wrong, if that is the implication.
If, by applying the standard of terror based on the definition above, the intention was to affect the the will of the people politically from the use of nukes, then I think it fits the definition of terror
Was it wrong? There was no way for us to act any differently than we had in the past, and just about every other country up to that time. With the obvious noted exceptions.
The importance of what our people are doing in Iraq right now is that they are finally getting it right. All the elements of progressive war are being displayed. Lightening mechanized attacks (Rommel, Patton), light/mobile objective based missions (Frederick the Great), etc.
In my mind the most important task undertaken by our men and women is the application of compassionate discrimination of targets at the risk of injury and death.
This legacy will bring forward a new generation of free Iraqis who will remember the pains our country went to to free them.
In that respect the time and mistakes of former military planners will be put in perspective.
Not so with most Germans under Hitler, and an even greater percentage of Japanese under the Emperor. They were very gungho and as a people willing to support that tyrant right up to the end (that support wained faster amongst the Germans).
It is this, in my estimation, more than anything else that is allowing us to prosecute the type of "compassionate" or "progressive" war you speak of.
If was not because we were historically bound that we fought as we did in World War II. More than the technology, it was the nature of the enemy and the populations that suported their armies.
Clearly, the newer technology allows us to be more discriminant if that is called for ... but let those millions in Baghdad (or anywhere else) turn against our forces and be gungho in their production and support of thier leader (as they were in World War II) and things change quickly.
Our actions after World War II to the enemies we had just defeated and who had worked so hard to support a regime that was bent on uteerly destroying us ... tells us that we had the compassion then, even as we do now. The major difference, IMHO, was the will of the people whom we were fighting ... and it was a will that had to be broken if we were going to ultimately safe more lives.
Human nature has not changed in the intervening years. We have not faced such a foe (meaning an entire culture or people) in Iraq, or at any time in the last 20+ years. I pray we never do ... but sadly, I believe it is very possible.