“Expanding War, Contracting Meaning” by Andrew J. Bacevich

Expanding War, Contracting Meaning“, Andrew J. Bacevich, posted at Tom Dispatch, 30 October 2008 — “The Next President and the Global War on Terror.” 

I strongly recommend reading Bacevich’s latest article, written by one of the finest geopolitical analysts of our time.  This post provides an excerpt, which does not do justice to the whole.

Baceich’s opening demonstrates how history repeats itself, but not always in a humorous fashion. Keep the following in mind when reading it.

In February 1968, when the great controversy raged over whether to limit intervention {in Vietnam}, General Mathew Ridgway was called in by President Johnson to discuss the war. And there was one moment which reflected the simplicity and toughness of mind which he and others had exhibited in 1954 {to stay out of Vietnam}, and the fuzziness of the 1965 decision making. Ridgway was sitting talking with Johnson and VP Humphrey when the phone rang. When Johnson picked it up, Ridgway turned to Humphrey and said there was one thing about the war which puzzled him.

“What’s that?” Humphrey asked.

“I have never known what the mission for General Westmoreland was” Ridgway said.

“That’s a good question” said Humphrey, “Ask the President.”

But when Johnson returned, he immediately go into one of his long monologues about his problems, pressures from every side, and the question was never asked.

    — From David Halberstam’s The Best and The Brightest, chapter 8

Introduction by Tom Engelhardt

At the very least, they are ensuring that, when that next president enters the Oval Office, he will be embroiled in a wider war across an inflamed Middle East. As the ground war in Afghanistan has grown worse, for example, another border-crossing set of actions, a CIA-operated air war in the Pakistani borderlands, only increases in intensity. The Times recently offered the following figures on its front page: “at least 18 Predator [missile-armed drone] strikes since the beginning of August, some deep inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, compared with 5 strikes during the first seven months of 2008.”

In Afghanistan itself, an increasingly unpopular U.S. air war, with all its “collateral damage,” continues. Only last week, in a “friendly fire” incident, American planes leveled an Afghan Army checkpoint, killing nine Afghan soldiers and wounding three. (After its usual initial reluctance, the Pentagon magnanimously blamed those casualties on “a case of mistaken identity on both sides.”) And southwest of Kabul, reports came in that another American air strike had killed at least 20 private security guards for a road construction project.

You can say one thing: To the bitter end the Bush administration clings to a fundamentalist belief that military power offers the royal path to all solutions. It’s a conclusion that has already left an area from Somalia to Central Asia unsettled and increasingly aflame, and that seems only to draw more nations into the President’s “global war” with, as Andrew Bacevich makes vividly clear, ever less of a rationale. You can listen to a podcast interview with Bacevich, whose bestselling book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism is a must for your post-election bookshelf, by clicking here.

Excerpts from Bacevich’s article

A week ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration’s conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.

… In this sense, the global war on terror relates to terrorism precisely as the war on drugs relates to drug abuse and dependence: declaring a state of permanent “war” sustains the pretense of actually dealing with a serious problem, even as policymakers pay lip-service to the problem’s actual sources. The war on drugs is a very expensive fraud. So, too, is the Global War on Terror.

Anyone intent on identifying some unifying idea that explains U.S. actions, military and otherwise, across the Greater Middle East is in for a disappointment. During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt laid down “Germany first” and then “unconditional surrender” as core principles. Early in the Cold War, the Truman administration devised the concept of containment, which for decades thereafter provided a conceptual framework to which policymakers adhered. Yet seven years into its Global War on Terror, the Bush administration is without a compass, wandering in the arid wilderness. To the extent that any inkling of a strategy once existed — the preposterous neoconservative vision of employing American power to “transform” the Islamic world — events have long since demolished the assumptions on which it was based.

… In neighboring Pakistan, meanwhile, there is the war-hidden-in-plain-sight. Reports of U.S. military action in Pakistan have now become everyday fare. Air strikes, typically launched from missile-carrying drones, are commonplace, and U.S. ground forces have also conducted at least one cross-border raid from inside Afghanistan. Although the White House doesn’t call this a war, it is — a gradually escalating war of attrition in which we are killing both terrorists and noncombatants. Unfortunately, we are killing too few of the former to make a difference and more than enough of the latter to facilitate the recruitment of new terrorists to replace those we eliminate.

There’s nothing inherently wrong in fighting simultaneously on several fronts, as long as actions on front A are compatible with those on front B, and together contribute to overall success. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Global War on Terror. We have instead an illustration of what Winston Churchill once referred to as a pudding without a theme: a war devoid of strategic purpose.

This absence of cohesion — by now a hallmark of the Bush administration — is both a disaster and an opportunity. It is a disaster in the sense that we have, over the past seven years, expended enormous resources, while gaining precious little in return.


If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below.  You may find answers to your questions in these, such as the causes of the present crisis.  I have been writing about these events for several years; since November 2007 on this site.  As you will see explained in these posts, the magnitude of the events now happening is beyond what most Americans have — or can — imagine.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more information

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Interviews with Bacevich:

  1. The Delusions of Global Hegemony“, TomDispatch, 23 May 2006 — Part 1 of 2.
  2. Drifting Down the Path to Perdition“, TomDispatch, 25 May 2006 — Part 2 of 2.
  3. Transcript of Interview on Bill Moyer’s Journal, 15 August 2008

14 thoughts on ““Expanding War, Contracting Meaning” by Andrew J. Bacevich”

  1. FM, sorry this is a long post, but it gets to the nob of the problem.

    From “Why Iraq Will End as Vietnam Did” by Martin van Creveld (2004). (FM has read him, I urge everyone else to do so as well), with quotes from Moshe Dayan.


    In 1977, by which time he was serving as foreign minister under Menahem Begin and engaged in peace-talks with Egypt, the Hebrew-language articles were collected in book form and published. In the preface, Dayan explains they were too long to be included in the memoirs he had published a year before; perhaps his real aim was to warn Israelis of the consequences that might ultimately follow if they did not get rid of what he called “the blemish of conquest”. If so, unfortunately he did not succeed.” …..

    About Moshe re Vietnam:

    From France he went to Britain in order to see Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery of Alamein. Montgomery at that time was in the midst of writing his History of Warfare; Dayan, who had met him once before when he was studying at Camberley Staff College in 1951, noted how “relaxed and alert” the old man looked. Montgomery’s ideas concerning Vietnam were very clear-cut. The Americans most important problem in running the War was that they did not have an unambiguous objective. He himself had tried to get an answer on that subject from no less a person than former vice president Richard Nixon. In response he had been treated to a twenty-minute lecture; at the end of which he remained as much in the dark as he had been at the beginning.

    To Montgomery, an exceptionally systematic commander who always planned his moves very carefully, that was the essence of the problem. Not having a clear overall policy, the Americans were permitting the field commanders to call the shots. They did what they knew best, screaming for more and more troops, locking up entire populations in what where euphemistically called “strategic hamlets”, and bombing and shelling without giving a thought to what, if anything, they were achieving. At the end of their talk Montgomery told Dayan to tell the Americans, in his name, that they were “insane”.

    {OS comment Monty had personal experience of CT work in Ireland and Palestine}

    …… Back to Von Crevald’s thoughts about Vietnam

    Some people claim that the US won the War in Vietnam, to which I can only say that I strongly disagree. Others argue that Vietnam differed from Iraq, saying that it was essentially a conventional war that was lost because the American civilian leadership failed to provide its Armed Forces with proper strategic direction. It is of course true that there are considerable differences between the two. Still, recalling Dayans observations, I think there are three main reasons why the similarities are more important.

    First, according to Dayan, the most important operational problem the US Forces were facing was intelligence, in other words the inability to distinguish the enemy from either the physical surroundings or the civilian population. Had intelligence been available then their enormous superiority in every kind of military hardware would have enabled them to win the War easily enough. In its absence, most of the blows they delivered including no fewer than six million tons of bombs dropped hit empty air. All they did was make the enemy disperse and merge into the civilian population, thus making it even harder to find him. Worst of all, lack of accurate intelligence meant that the Americans kept hitting noncombatants by mistake. They thus drove huge segments of the population straight into the arms of the Viet Cong; nothing is more conducive to hatred than the sight of relatives and friends being killed.

    Second, as Dayan saw clearly enough, the campaign for hearts and minds did not work. Many of the figures being published about the progress it was making turned out to be bogus, designed to set the minds of the folks at home at rest. In other cases any progress laboriously made over a period of months was undone in a matter of minutes as the Viet Cong attacked, destroying property and killing “collaborators”. Above all, the idea that the Vietnamese people wanted to become Americanized was an illusion. All the vast majority really wanted was to be left alone and get on with their lives.

    The third and most important reason why I think Vietnam is relevant to the situation in Iraq is because the Americans found themselves in the unfortunate position where they were beating down on the weak. To quote Dayan: “any comparison between the two armies was astonishing. On the one hand there was the American Army, complete with helicopters, an air force, armor, electronic communications, artillery, and mind-boggling riches; to say nothing of ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and equipment of all kinds. On the other there were the [North Vietnamese troops] who had been walking on foot for four months, carrying some artillery rounds on their backs and using a tin spoon to eat a little ground rice from a tin plate”.

    That, of course, was precisely the problem. In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality of the forces whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on, things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.

    In other words, he who fights against the weak — and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed — and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish.

    As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however, advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters skids. {end excerpts}

    And who can add more to that than what Crevald has said.

  2. What if the strategic goal (purpose, meaning) of the war isn’t rational, that is, can’t be admitted in public? For example, what if the objective of the war in Iraq was not to install democratic government, but to destroy the integrated society that previously existed and replace it with three weakened mini-states? What if the object toward Iran was similar — the destabilizing of a stable state in order to replace it with either a US client, or another failed state? The deeper motive for both of these actions could have been access to oil, denial of access to rival states, general turbulence to drive up oil prices and sell a lot of arms, or furthering Israel’s strategic goals by removing any governments deemed threatening to it.

    Another possible motive, also inadmissable in public, could have been the creation of a massive, indefinite foreign threat, and atmosphere of turbulence, in order to impose authoritarian control over America’s domestic population. A step on the road to 1984, in other words.

    All of these strategic goals are adumbrated in the Project for a New American Century, whose ultimate goal is a deep remilitarization of American society in order to achieve some kind of global dominance.

    In other words, victory in the usual sense, the rational and military sense, was not the object of these wars, but permanent instability, in order to justify permanent militarization.

  3. I believe that Bacevich is right in every way, but how did it come to that? Especially after the lessons of the Vietnam War? I think the answer lies in the atmosphere back in 2001-2002: There was a wish for revenge after 911, but also a strong belief in the might and right of American power that seemed impossible to stop or contain. Just launch a couple of cruise missiles and the natives would run back to their huts. Finally it is very difficult to ignorere how much of the war was waged for domestic reasons. You can’t ignorere the lack of a Grand Strategy without debating the question of domestic politics inside the United States. The War on Terror was never intended to be just about foreign policy, but also about ensuring the enlargement of presidential powers, aka republican power in Washington (Big Government is only bad when the president is a democrat). I believe that the Surge in Iraq is a very good example: It calmed down the situation in Iraq and thus seemed like the United States had achieved some sort of a military victory (Even though even general Petraeus doesn’t think so) and so it would help McCain get elected to president. Unfortunately the economy went down the tubes before that could happen.

    One day a historian should determine exactly how much of the war in Iraq (or Vietnam for that matter) ever was about Iraq and not about domestic politics. I really want to know the answer.

  4. I don’t think it is just a wish for revenge. Afghanistan, dispite our screwups, was a clear case of just war. We were attacked, those who planned and plotted the attack were sheltered by the Afghanistan government.

    The real question is “why Iraq”. It is Iraq, and the deliberate misleading by the leadership to convey Iraq as part of the “global war on terror” that lead us to this unfocused disaster.

    And I have yet to have an explanation of why Bush and those under him were so eager to start the war in Iraq that makes sense, unless they really are that delusional about “rewriting the middle east”.
    Fabius Maximus replies: There were clear geopolitical reasons to invade Iraq (just none that could be stated to the US public or the world). I discuss here and here.

  5. Great note about the Big vs. small issues. I’ve previously claimed there is no myth about the Big Strong Just, but imperfect King/ Ruler, fighting against weak liars, and having problems. America ‘won’ the war in Vietnam, with the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Signed by Kissinger and a N. Viet liar who had the honesty to avoid accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Please look up articles about life in Saigon in 1974 — plenty of Vietnamese were happily Westernizing, altho wanting to be left alone was likely more important to most than which side won.

    In 1975, in violation of their agreement, the N. Viet commies attacked and blitzed the corrupt, cowardly, incompetent — but fairly well human rights respecting, S. Viet forces, who had just been denied a good amount of funding by the Dem Party dominated US Congress.
    So America lost the peace. Commies also gave us killing fields in Cambodia, accepted and implicitly supported by the Dems in Congress. (Opposing cash to fight commie takeover is implicit support for commies.)

    No side in a war can decide to win. Each side’s choices are two: keep fighting, or lose.

    I support victory — meaning the pro-democracy forces keep fighting until we establish some functioning democracy. But this is much harder than pro-market (anti-communist) which was the successful goal in S. Korean containment. An authoritarian/ dictator can impose a market much more easily than can the US impose a democracy.

    I think this is the Vietnam lesson which is not well taught.

    But to claim: “any inkling of a strategy once existed — the preposterous neoconservative vision of employing American power to “transform” the Islamic world” — the success of the Surge in reducing violence in Iraq shows the transformational strategy to be far from preposterous. Altho the costs and the length of time it has been taking for the Iraqis to stand on their own, and still not ready, have been far higher (in cash, not American lives) and taken longer than neocons over-confidently predicted.

    If Obama is elected, and runs away / fails in Iraq, that will not disprove the vision. Only if McCain is elected and stays, and loses, will it be shown wrong. Certainly Bush and Bremer did a lousy job of teaching Iraqis good democracy quickly.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This comment about Iraq is absurd on too many levels to reply here, although I have discussed all of these things elsewhere.

    Just one reply: President Bush did not sell the Iraq War as a plan to establish democracy in Iraq. For good reasons! The American people would have overwhelmingly rejected it as BOTH utopian and none of our business. Geopoltical experts would have denounced it as nuts, as there is little reason to believe that democratic regimes will necessarily support the US (as they do not in Russia and Iran, and increasingly so in Turkey and other nations).

    Your comments about Vietnam are absurd. Almost nobody doubts that many people in S. Vietnam supported us; the question was our ability to win at an acceptable cost. Almost every study at the time questioned this, from the report of General Ridgeway’s Army Survey Team after the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to after-the-fall studies.

    The following is not meant personally, it is directed at the statement — not the author.

    “No side in a war can decide to win. Each side’s choices are two: keep fighting, or lose.”

    This is a child-like view of the world, esp inappropriate with respect to war. This is true in wars for national survival, but those are a small fraction of the total universe of wars. In other cases there are other alternatives, often (as in Iraq) many of them.

  6. However, I don’t think those clear geopolitical reasons were in the minds of the administration. What were the internal reasons that the administration so lusted for war?
    Fabius Maximus replies: I think Stratfor’s analysis does represent the thinking of important elements of the Bush Administration. IMO Stratfor’s provides a window into the thinking of key government and corporate elites; that is one of its most useful features.

  7. “To each and every one of these questions, the Bush administration devised answers that turned out to be dead wrong. The next administration needs to do better. The place to begin is with the candid recognition that the Global War on Terror has effectively ceased to exist. When it comes to national security strategy, we need to start over from scratch.”

    While I agree with Col Bacevich, understanding that an approach was wrong in no way determines that the next approach will be right – just more likely to be different. What gives any indication that “the thinking of key government and corporate ELITES” (emphasis added)will show any more understanding of the core world problem of 4GW or using General Rupert Smith’s term – war among the people?

    The people vote for change today, and much dancing in the street will follow. Come January, the hated Bushy will be gone, departure from Iraq sure to follow, the term Global-War-on-Terrorism buried, and 4GW will cease to be a problem because….?

  8. Few Presidents are trained in Grand Strategy. Many have strategic sense, developed from their years as politicians, but few study history or understand how complex and difficult war is, and how unpredictable it can be once unleashed. I wonder how intentional Roosevelt’s “Germany first” strategy was versus how much was forced upon him by the reality of the destruction of our battleship fleet at Pearl Harbor.

    The trouble is, most of our generals don’t understand grand strategy either. A few wise ones recognize that, like Schwartzkopf, they will be the ones developing and then presenting the strategic goals for their political masters to approve (Schwartzkopf & Petre, “It Doesn’t Take a Hero,” Bantam Books, 1992). But years of playing the bureaucratic game make them reluctant to propose grand strategic goals, no matter how desperately needed–they convince themselves that those are “out of my lane.”

    And for some reason we Americans have seldom been good at the end game, at least in the last century (WWI, WWII, Korea, Desert Storm).

  9. FM: If my comments about Vietnam are absurd, where is the link showing how terrible Saigon was in 1974? Facts: 1973 Peace Agreement, 1974-75 Dem Party reduction in support for the gov’t. of S. Vietnam, 1975 blitz by N. Viet commies to take over the south, successful Peace Accords violations against the S. Viet forces, without US support and without significant US reaction.

    Only if you can show some of these facts are false should anybody accept your dismissal of my analysis without facts.

    You are correct when you state: the question was our ability to win at an acceptable cost
    This question also depends on the year it is asked. It wasn’t asked by Dems in 1964…

    We can’t go back to 1956 and allow Vietnam to democratically elect and nationalist, anti-imperialist, successful General Ho Chi Minh, a communist which Ike refused to allow to win an election. We can’t go back to 1974 and increase support for the S. Vietnamese.

    But we should learn that creating a pro-market democracy in a non-industrialized non-markert non-democracy is really, really hard. (Installing a pro-market/anti-commie but non-human rights respecting S. Viet general/ dictator, like in S. Korea, would have far easier.)

    Questions today about Iraq should be based on the situation there, now. (Installing an Iraqi dictator w/o democracy would be easier.)

    I suspect this is one of the reasons for Iraq, over Afghanistan, in becoming the more significant target of democracy nation-building.

    US “liberation” is a code word for “democracy”; Bush was selling the Iraq war in his 2003 SOTU:Your enemy is not surrounding your country — your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.

    You are wrong. Bush DID sell his Iraq war partly on a basis of establishing democracy in Iraq.
    And he won re-election in 2004, after the invasion, in order to establish democracy, win, in Iraq.

    In another March attack address, Bush states:“We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.”

    This was similar to his statement at the Azores with (Spanish) Aznar & Blair: “We’re committed to the goal of a unified Iraq, with democratic institutions of which members of all ethnic and religious groups are treated with dignity and respect.”

    Bush haters keep ignoring what he actually says, and/or re-interpret it to mean whatever straw man they want to attack (he came for oil!).

    If it wasn’t Freedom and democracy in Iraq that Bush was selling, what was he selling? I doubt that you can find any speeches where he advocates anything else.

    Bush undersold the costs, and especially the time. But it was the media who refused to believe his words about the goal result of Operation Iraqi Freedom–Democracy in Iraq. (Also democracy in Palestine. Hoping that terrorist Hamas doesn’t get elected. But maybe it’s time to support democractically elected terrorists rather than support non-democracy.)
    Fabius Maximus replies: One symptom that the “right” is exhausted in America is the effort they make to re-interpret history, much as the South (i.e., the non-Black component) did after the “war between the states.” Adding to their mythology — featuring stories about the value of the McCarthy crusades and the excellence of the Vietnam War — will probably be calculations showing that the Bush Jr years were wonders of statesmanship and management.

    “where is the link showing how terrible Saigon was in 1974?”

    Where is the quote showing any relevance of this to what I said?

  10. I served in the US Army during Vietnam, and it was not my impression that we “won.” Quite the contrary, it was a humbling experience. And it seems that in Iraq we are being humbled once again. If the concept of “victory” has any meaning at all , it must certainly be a paradoxical one.

    The whole theory of counterinsurgency is a recipe for disappointment. The idea that we can invade or occupy a foreign country in order to establish democracy by force, a contradiction in terms. We would do well to depart Iraq promptly; the end of this year would not be too soon.

    In Vietnam, our most fundamental failure was to regard our adversaries as “gooks.” We failed to honor their essential humanity, and as a result we were unable to imagine farsighted policy. We are suffering the same failure of imagination in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in Gitmo and the Middle East in general, for that matter. “Death from Above” is a cool slogan painted on the side of a fighter/bomber, but it’s shortsighted policy.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for posting a comment. First person testimony is always appreciated here.

  11. Iraq was important becuase it gave us an excuse to be in the middle east. Peak oil is upon us. Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, and Russia didn’t/doesn’t care for our hegemon status. Saudi Arabia sees our “friendship” as a necessity for their internal stability. We invaded Iraq to break up any future alliances between Iraq, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Turkey and maybe even China. Our presents in Iraq ensures middle eastern oil is pumping in our direction.

    Each country could pursue its geopolitical imperatives and gurrentee each others security. Turkey could move into the Balkans, Russia into the Baltics and Central Asia, Iran and Iraq could back the Palestinians, China could dominate the South Pacific, Venezuela could spread socialism through S.America. So none of these counties would interfere with each others goals. The oil producers could jack up the price of oil for the US or just refuse to sell any at all.

    By invading Iraq we took this option off the table. The leadership couldn’t make this argument becuase it would compromise intelligence sources. They used 9-11 and WMDs as a cover to achieve our geopolitical goals.
    Fabius Maximus replies: There is no evidence for any of this. A good imagination does not equal geopolitical analysis.

    Despite the consistent failure of attempts to expand for the past 400 years (excluding invasions of undeveloped states), these fantasies continue to circulate. More recently Europe could not hold onto its colonies, the USSR could not hold onto Eastern Europe or Afghanistan. Conventional warfare lives, at least in our imaginations — if not in the real world.

  12. FM: “There is no evidence for any of this.”

    You’re right, I have no evidence to support this. I guess I just can’t accept the idea that our leadership truly believed “spreading democracy” was truly possible? The WMD threat never seemed legitimate, so assuming an intense cost-benefit analysis, I can’t see any other reason why we’d waste so many resources?

    FM: “More recently Europe could not hold onto its colonies,”

    The US and USSR sure didn’t help in this regard. Instead of competing against each other, the West should have joined in together for a truly global empire. From what I understand, the largest technology gap was around the mid 1800’s for the West (compared to the world). At that point, Europe, the US, and Russia could have togerher built a Western centric order.
    Fabius Maximus replies: (1) While the available evidence does not prove why we invaded Iraq, it gives good grounds for estimates. Here are two posts on the subject:
    * Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq, 4 March 2008
    * Stratfor again attempts to explain why we invaded Iraq, 24 March 2008

    (2) Since the maturation of 4th generation war by Mao, few foreign nations has been able to hold onto their colonies. It has nothing to do with the political alliances among the developed nations, but the increased abilitity of colonies to mobilize and resist. Even NAZI Germany found it increasingly difficult to do so, esp in Yugoslavia.

  13. FM: “It has nothing to do with the political alliances among the developed nations, but the increased abilitity of colonies to mobilize and resist. Even NAZI Germany found it increasingly difficult to do so, esp in Yugoslavia.”

    I believe that with enough troops, and enough brutality, anything is possible. Had the West + Russia acted in the early 1800’s like I described, Marxism would have never spread. But your point about Marxism is very important. Leftist thought not only gave the 3rd world a doctrine to rally behind but more importantly, screwed with the minds of the Colonists themselves. The brutality needed to hold the colonies would never be possible today.

    Through leftest thought the West went from believing it had the right to rule the world to believing the world has the right to rule it. Very unforchunate.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Your confidence in force is charming, but not supported by facts. This has been discussed at length in the 4GW literature. For example in Chapter 6.2 in Martin van Creveld’s “Changing Face of War” (2006), speaking of attempt by foreigners to hold foreign lands:

    What is known, though, is that attempts by post-1945 armed forces to suppress guerrillas and terrorists have constituted a long, almost unbroken record of failure … {W}hat changed was the fact that, whereas previously it had been the main Western powers that failed, now the list included other countries as well. Portugal’s explusion from Africa in 1975 was followed by the failure of the South Africans in Namibia, the Ethiopians in Ertrea, the Indians in Sri Lanka, the Americans in Somalia, and the Israelis in Lebanon. … Even in Denmark {during WWII}, “the model protectorate”, resistance increased as time went on.

    Many of these nations used force up to the level of genocide in their failed attempts to hold thier conquests.

  14. FM: “Many of these nations used force up to the level of genocide in their failed attempts to hold thier conquests.

    Then they didn’t try hard enough. And I suspect public opinion had a lot to do with it? If we really wanted to pursue this topic we would compare the conquests that worked with those that didn’t. Not every European colonial regime left their colonies due to insurgency. Conquest is a matter of will. By the 1960’s the Europeans lost their will and their empires.

    If the Israelis wanted to, they could probably neutralize every man, women, and child in Lebanon. The Americans could have done the same in Somalia. With armour, air power, and chemical weapons it really wouldn’t be the hard. But the Israelis know they would face a sh-t storm in the media and as Americans, we just don’t have the will. It all comes down to will.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I suggest you read a bit of this history before commenting on it. As shown in the excerpt I included in my reply to your previous comment, many of these colonial or neo-colonial wars were waged by regimes that had no limits on the force they could use, nor concerns about public relations or media coverage. A good imagination does not equal geopolitical analysis.

    “It all comes down to will.’

    Truly one of the dumbest of common sayings. Comic book wisdom.

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