Status quaestionis, War & Peace



By David Beilstein

IN the Oct. 29 issue of National Review, Mark Steyn’s column, Happy Warrior investigates something neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party seems to want to consider.

The best military — spending more on a twenty-first century fighting force than Russia, China, and second tier countries combined — can no longer win wars.

A flock of goat herders has, literally, bogged down U.S. Forces in the Hindu Kush.

The election of Barack H Obama in November of 2008 offered the Democratic Party a chance to score victories where the Republican administration of George W. Bush got stuck in quicksand — ably turning Iraq around sure, but not quick enough to create the necessary political capital for the cause.

The Democratic Party, of course, got bogged down worse — expanding American military prowess into North Africa and the broader Middle East. While bragging about drawing down in Iraq, surging in Afghanistan, the Obama administration appears to have lost control of both.

That was before the Libya fiasco — where new reports indicate Ambassador Chris Stevens and CIA operators where smuggling weapons to pro-Islamo-fascist groups inside Libya with Syrian ties. Now that this operation has blown up in the Obama administrations proverbial face — with four dead Americans — a series of questions linger. And it becomes more understandable why the Obama administration turned a blind eye and tried to blame this violent military attack on outrage over a movie.

Not good.

In Babylon (Iraq), new problems conspire to turn gains there won by passion and spilt blood around, fomenting worse things to come. Afghanistan, likewise, is a disaster waiting to happen. Still, we are back to the same starting point: why is this country, with this military, not able to win wars?

Steyn’s point concerns the nature of war; war being about the destruction of enemy forces, totally. But more so, it is about the destruction of the enemies will to continue fighting. Our modern warfare tactics destroy enemy material — weapons, installations, houses and bunkers — but it does not destroy their will to win.

It’s why the U.S. fire bombed Dresden and dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan.

In the guise of General Sherman (and his march to Atlanta) we wanted to make war so terrible those involved in the fighting would either be killed or stop fighting. This not only saved American lives, but enemy lives also. The quicker and more vicious a war is, the less people need be destroyed. It has been a lesson learned, severely, in the twentieth century, but also world history.

We face a lack of strategic awareness in our military leaders. Not to be missed is a clear and direct vision from civilian leaders guiding our military endeavours. The United States has become impotent — that paper tiger Osama Bin Laden talked about after the Somalia debacle.

We start wars, or respond to threats, too easily. But American military prowess (at the behest of civil magistrates, and crippled by them) have become inept at ending wars. It has been decades since such a turn of events unfolded with the U.S. firmly waving the flag of total victory. There has been a wafting air of support for the U.S. Military regardless on the Republican/conservative side. But as William F. Buckley, Jr. was famous for saying, the question of results always grabs for attention in the classical liberal mind.

In other words, Is it working? It is not working. Iraq and Afghanistan — the colossal foolhardiness of the Arab Spring? We are not winning — and given how much lives and treasure we invest in our war fighting, we ought to be asking why.

And we ought to be changing course and tactics immediately.

*This piece was previously published under another title and different art


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