Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Kindler, Gentler Way Of War

Probably doesn't work. Excellent Varifrank piece from several weeks ago spells out why (with good use of quotes by General Sherman).


We have created a culture that can not accept the idea that death and destruction are the natural wages of warfare. We no longer penalize those countries that engage in warfare by destroying their infrastructure and killing large numbers of their armed forces or their civilian populations. Almost from the start, our armed forces are more interested in the humanitarian aspects of the battlefield than we are in inflicting the horror of war as a way of incenting the enemy into "bending to our will". The result is that we have forced our enemies into a strategy of using civilians as shields and cities as fortresses against retaliation.

In World War II, it was common practice for Allied ground forces who found themselves under sniper attack in small european villages to back off and call in an artillery barrage. The result of this action was not that "the sniper was brought to justice..." but that the general civilian populace were taught that their quiet tolerance of the "insurgent" or sniper would probably result in their own destruction. The result of this sort of practice was that the civilians would find their way through enemy lines to let the allied forces know where the snipers were in their town, not because the necessarily liked the allies but because it was the only way of avioding the horror of their artillery.

Imagine the battlefield commander of today who doesnt give three days notice of an impending attack on a town, a full press briefing of who and what will be used in the attack. Heaven forbid if during the attack someone manages to get video of the enemy being killed in the streets during the attack.

You dont have to imagine it. Thats Falluja.

Now try to imagine your grandfather standing on the outskirts of Caen saying "Hey, someone get the New York Times up here, we need to make sure that the French civilians get out of Caen before we can send in the artillery in three days..." Chances are more likely that after a week of watching his men get killed from sniper fire from the beautiful church spire in the middle of town that "the old man" simply cranked the field telephone a few turns and gave the map coordinates to HQ and let fly with an artillery barrage, all while he and his men cheered each shell as it went overhead into the town as they ate dinner in their foxholes.

"Thats war" is what he would have said if you were silly enough to ask him how he could have done such a thing. But what I wonder about is why we even have to ask. We in the modern age are too far gone from the age of horror to understand that sometimes horror is exactly what is called for, if only to stop a greater horror from occuring.

"War is cruelty and it cannot be refined" The man said, and we in our foolishness have tried to do just that.

We have predictibly failed.

Our modern age has provided a plethora of "wonder weapons" which can destroy precise targets with great regularity at low cost to ourselves and the civilians in the area. We feel better because as basically humane people, we desire to see that only the guilty are punished and the innocent are not effected, but in war and in war zones, this is a perversion of reality. The unintended result of our desire to be humane is that the civilian populace in war zones do not fear our weapons,because they are known to be precise and guided not just by electronics but by squads of lawyers and analysts who will do a great deal of work to ensure that the target is legitimate long before the word is given to launch.

Unfortuantely, the civilians do fear the insurgents who now find the only place to hide and receive cover is within the civilian populace itself. In our desire to be nice, we drove them there and our desire to be nice has given them no penalty for doing so.

With no threat of retaliation by our armed forces, they have no choice but to work with the insurgents, to provide them cover, either by quietly turning a blind eye or by overt acts of support. This is the direct opposite of the effect that we need in order to be effective on the battlefield.


The best way to lower our losses and the losses of civilians everywhere is to ensure that our military is so universally feared that just the threat of its being used causes those who would be our enemy to come to the table and talk. What I fear is that our desire to be nice and loved in the world has caused just the opposite to be true.

1 comment:

Milwaukeedave said...

What people fear is not war, because war they will get--and if not war, then enslavement and then war. (This is an inverse variation of: "I am sick of corn and peas, corn and peas, corn and peas every night of the week. Tonight, I just made corn.)

No, they fear seeing righteousness prevail by whatever means necessary. That would be the end of their cause.