This is the 4th post in a series about some ways in which our Long War are changing us.
- How will the Long War affect America? Will it make us stronger or weaker? Crazy? Unleash our dark side?
- Why we fight. Causes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Killing prisoners, our new tactic in the War on Terror?
Might there be a psychological basis for our wars? Or might we suffer psychological damage from our long wars? Perhaps they might warp our values, perhaps even awakening an atavistic bloodlust. Already we can see signs of this in our newspapers and on television. See Ralph Peters’ “Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars“, Journal of International Security Affairs, Spring 2009 — Excerpt:
The point of all this is simple: Win. In warfare, nothing else matters. If you cannot win clean, win dirty. But win. Our victories are ultimately in humanity’s interests, while our failures nourish monsters.
Much of Peter’s essay is IMO good sense. Don Vandergriff (Major, US Army, retired) discusses these aspects in a favorable review at his blog on 29 May 2009.
But there is an element to this Vandergriff does not discuss. “Winning” is not enough for success. Winning the wrong way in the wrong war can destroy a nation. As describe in “Lt. Col. Ralph Peters on Journalists: ‘Kill Them All’“, Richard Silverstein, posted at Tikun Olam, 21 May 2009 — Excerpt:
He hasn’t the faintest notions that it is possible that our victory, if we win dirty and betray every principle of value, will turn us into monsters. Then we won’t really need an enemy. We will have become out own worst enemy.
Imagine the Civil War with Peters at the helm instead of Lincoln. Massive civilian casualties instead of few. Routine torture and killing of prisoners (he seems to advocate both, the latter more clearly). A horrific war made ever more so. Would reconciliation have been possible?
And that’s in a just war. The delusional self-righteousness of Peters and others has involved us in what are effect crusades — bringing light to people living in darkness (as he sees it).
Much of the power of American and our military comes from our record of using it good causes (Not always. We’re people, not angels). As in the lyrics of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the nation’s sword should be drawn only in a valid cause. The mad crusades advocated by Peters do not quality, in my opinion Nor in the minds of most Americans, which is why the need to concoct fake reasons to fight. Saddam’s WMD’s in Iraq; to prevent another 9-11 in Afghanistan.
So we have wars supported neither by Americans nor the people being “helped” (which involves killing many of them). Both aspects lead to much whining by pro-war advocates, that Americans are too weak and the targets (of our weapons and help) are ungrateful. To sensible people these are warning signs of evil in progress.
Peter’s is the mad face of America, for all the world to see. Combined with the fact of our massive military — fighting almost constantly around the world — might encourage some foreigners to believe that our grand strategy is just killing. Everyone that is a threat. Everyone that might be a threat. Everyone that appears a threat in our delusional nightmares. And their neighbors and relatives.
The results of this will not be pretty for America. It’s a game that almost inevitably will end badly for us. Do you think this is overstated? Read on.
- More advice from Ralph Peters
- War bloggers
- Serious and responsible discussion of the horrific realities of war
- A note about the different types of blogging about war
- For More Information
(1) More advice from Ralph Peters
These are snippets from Peter’s massive body of work, much of which is first-rate. Still, these are horrifying.
(a) “Don’t stop until Hamas is destroyed“, New York Post, 5 January 2009
Here’s the bitter truth: Israel can’t stop its own bleeding without drowning Hamas in blood. That’s Hamas’ choice, not Israel’s. No negotiations, no compromises, and no shuttle-diplomacy bargains will ever placate terrorists who believe their god wants tributes of Jewish blood.
Israel may never get another such chance as this to rip the heart out of Hamas. But Israel needs the fortitude to accept painful friendly casualties on the ground and to resist international pressure – which will be fierce.
(b) “The Audacity of Rope — Crush all the Pirates — Now“, New York Post, 14 April 2009 — Excerpt:
Attack their harbors with land, sea and air power. Kill pirates, sink their vessels (including those dual-use fishing boats) and wreck their support infrastructure. The clans behind the pirates must feel sufficient pain to rein in their young thugs. The price for piracy should be stunning. And we don’t need to stay to rebuild Somalia. End the fix-it fetish now. We need to leave while their boats are still burning down to the waterline.
(2) War bloggers
Peters’ views are mirrored across the Internet on the sites of the warbloggers. Somalia pirates, Hezbollah, the Taliban — for some people the answer is often to “kill them all.” Somewhat like Ralph Peters, without Peter’s great knowledge and brilliance.
Why do these people get so much attention? Perhaps they offer us simplistic and satisfying recommendations. Mil-junk for the mind. More interesting is why they are treated so respectfully (or ignored) by others outside their circle.
Here are excerpts from one site, Herschel Smith writing at The Captain’s Journal. He’s IMO among the most knowledgeable and insightful of the war-bloggers, making these views more striking (I cited his excellent technical analysis in One telling similarity between the the Wehrmacht and the US Military). As above, these are snippets from a large body of work.
But like so many of them — perhaps caught up in war-fever — they’re blind to the strategic basis of what we’re doing. (Andrew Exum might be another example, in a different way)
(a) From “Financing the Taliban“, 15 August 2008 (Italic emphasis in the original):
“It isn’t about the poppy, marble or financiers from the house of Saud. It’s about the religious radicals practicing jihad because of their belief system, who would fight to the death to destroy the West. There is no solution except to kill them.”
(b) “Pirates in the Gulf of Aden”, 1 October 2008 — Excerpt:
“This is easy. We tell the LOAC and ROE lawyers that they’re special and that they should go to their rooms and write high-sounding platitudes about compassion in war so that they’re out of the way, we land the Marines on the ship, and we kill every last pirate. Then we hunt down his domiciles in Somali and destroy them, and then we find his financiers and buyers and kill them.”
(c) “U.S. Marines versus Hezbollah: A Modest Proposal”, 12 August 2006 — Excerpt:
“So when will payback occur? Why not unleash the U.S. Marines on Hezbollah. Let’s watch payback happen “Marines-style!” The war will be dramatic and over very quickly. And Hezbollah will be no more. Problem gone.”
(3) Serious and responsible discussion of the horrific realities of war
This kind of war-fever is a common but not inevitable effect of war. The realities of war can be discussed in a responsible and useful manner. Here are two examples.
- “On the Virtues of Killing Children“, Grim, Blackfive, 10 August 2006
- “On the virtues of killing extremists (and sadly, their families)“, Uncle Jimbo, Blackfive, 31 July 2009
(4) A note about the different types of blogging about war
War blogs are written by a range of authors (serving, veterans, others), and often focus on the wider war.
I use the definition of “milblogs” given by Major Elizabeth Robbins (US Army) in “Muddy Boots 10: the rise of Soldier blogs“, Military Review, September-October 2007:
Military web logs, known as blogs or milblogs, are small websites that Soldiers maintain as informal journals for personal comments, images, and links to other websites.
Milblogs are a subset of the larger category of ”war blogs”, providing what Swiger calls a “grunt level” view. I recommend reading Major Robbins article, which shows the new and unique contribution of milblogs in explaining modern wars to the people back home.
(5) For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
- About America’s national defence strategy and machinery
- About Iraq & Sub-continent Wars – my articles
- About Iraq & Sub-continent Wars – studies & reports
- About Military and strategic theory
Posts about torture:
- Something every American should read, 25 March 2009
- So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?, 30 April 2009
- We close our eyes to torture by our government. The Brits are stronger., 9 April 2009
- Dispatches from the front lines in the war for America’s soul, 11 May 2009
- Quote of the Day, 20 May 2009
Some posts about grand strategy:
- The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
- America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
- The Fate of Israel , 28 July 2006
- Why We Lose at 4GW , 4 January 2007
- America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
- One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
- ABCDs for today: About Blitzkrieg, COIN, and Diplomacy , 21 February 2008
- America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past , 30 June 2008 – chapter 1 in a series of notes
- President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris , 1 July 2008 – chapter 2
- America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
- America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
- Justifying the use of force, a key to success in 4GW , 8 July 2008 – chapter 5
- A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief” , 8 July 2008 — chapter 6
- Geopolitical analysis need not be war-mongering , 9 July 2008 — chapter 7
- The world seen through the lens of 4GW (this gives a clearer picture) , (10 July 2008 — chapter 8
- The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
- “A shattering moment in America’s fall from power”, 19 November 2008
- Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009
- The US Army brings us back to the future, returning to WWI’s “cult of the offense”, 13 February 2009