We’re stuck in 18th century military thinking and we barely do that as well as Napoleon or Sherman.
Clausewitz’ theorem, that all war is extension of politics (or policy) by other means, simply does not hold in the majority of the wars America has been involved in in the last 15 years. War as politics is the brood of RealPolitic , that is that wars have a logical purpose which in the end makes for a better peace.
As Ralph Peters states, modern warfare has largely reverted back to its default setting, before the state became all-powerful. It is now, “Wars of Blood and Faith”, as Peters terms it. Clausewitz assumed that people, army, and government were separate entities in a war. Current engagements involve people fighting that do not represent governments, are not an organized army per se. This is one reason that when we see dead “civilians”, many in America want to do something to stop war crimes, as civilians are not lawful targets in war. But in the case of Iraq II, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Syria, civilians were in fact the enemy. They wore no uniform and held few conventions that modern armies hold to. A US soldier can shoot a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, and someone can protest: “You shot a farmer!”–and they’d be right. Current laws of war are wholly inadequate in this type of war. The outrage many express at the slaughter in Syria is merely what war always was before the last 200 years. In fact, Qaddafi and Assad are fighting in the only way they can win. Assad cannot throw down his arms, build a school, and quell the insurgency. Historically, this is how insurgencies were stopped: Remorselessly hunt down the insurgents and kill them until they quit. Because of the nature of a “people’s war” the combatants become so marbled with noncombatants, that innocents inevitably die. It’s why America will not win another “small war” in our lifetime.
Our confusion on this matter is clouding the analysis of Syria. It ruined our analysis of Libya and Egypt. If the exact same people fighting against those governments wore uniforms, America would not have sided with them. It was merely our instinct to protect civilians that resulted in US intervention. In both countries, chaos now reigns. In Syria, the most powerful forces of blood and faith are now at work–those of the Sunni/Shia schism. Little talked about, perhaps because Americans do not properly understand the intensity of hatreds that can arise between sects, is the fact that the Syrian conflict is boiling down, just as the Iran/Iraq War, and Iraq II’s insurgency did, to Shia vs Sunni Islam. In the case of Iraq, when the minority Sunni Baathist regime fell, and was replaced by Shia, disavowed Sunni Baathists, desperate to retain power, joined al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). In Syria, a Shia minority, led by Assad, rules a Sunni majority. Iran, a majority Shia nation, backs Assad. If Assad falls, the civil war will rage on. This is not about the despot Assad, it is about Sunnis coalescing power in the form of al-Qaeda, against Shia Assad, backed by Hezbollah irregulars.
Deepening American involvement in Syria threatens to bring much more chaos. Iran is already threatening retaliation, Russia, more intervention. Better to let Hezbollah and al-Qaeda hammer each other.
“All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.” ~George W. Bush
“We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam,” ~Barack Obama
Surely we are not at war with Islam. If we were, we’d kill everyone who professed the Muslim faith. The problem with Obama’s and Bush’s statements is that they lead many to underestimate the level to which Muslims in the Middle East and Asia support the jihadists. Throwing out statistics that show only a small percentage of Muslims are responsible for the destruction wrought is a bit like saying that because less than 1% of Americans serve in the US Army, only 1% of Americans support the US military. People fail to realize the power of both the “our team” mentality and religion, especially in parts of the world where the people have little hope in this world and nation states have been shamed in war by America and Israel.
Many people throughout the Muslim world gain satisfaction when the US suffers a setback at the hands of extreme Islam. Otherwise, the extremists could not exist to the extant that they do. Polls throughout the Muslim world show that Muslims in the Middle East support the actions of the jihadists. Most Muslims, even those living is Western countries, support Sharia Law, which is fundamentally at odds with Western values. In a poll of 9 countries, Turkey was the only nation in which a majority of the people said that Sharia should not comprise the law in entirety, or be a “source of legislation.” Pakistanis, despite the billions of military and domestic aid poured into their country by the US, continue to despise Americans. Most Pakistanis also wish that bin Laden was not dead.
People shocked at the recent Egyptian election results should study some history. I’ve long said that Egypt was the spiritual center of jihadism, not Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia made good fodder for the Left because of oil. Egypt, in the poll cited above, had the highest percentage of people that believed Sharia should be the sole root of law.
The Muslim countries that have in recent years received the most American aid are Pakistan and Egypt. Approximately 25% of the money used to fund the Pakistani army comes from American aid. The top recipients of US foreign aid in 2011 are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Egypt in that order. Egypt has routinely ranked among the top nations in the world in the number of dollars given to it by the American government.
There appears to be an inverse correlation between the positive views in a country when measured against the amount of US aid provided to it. The argument of course is that America is trying to show these countries that the US is not the enemy. This method of appeasement is failing. In a poll published by the Washington Post shortly after Mubarak stepped down, 79 percent of Egyptians viewed the US negatively, with 20% saying they have a positive view of the US. This is a sharp decline from the Bush years when 30 percent of Egyptians viewed the US positively.
The problems in giving countries like Pakistan and Egypt lots of money are macrocosmic of what I saw happening in local projects in Afghanistan. The money will always find its way into the hands of America’s enemies because they are the most ruthless, devious and aggressive portions of those societies. They also in many cases have a monopoly on violence, something the state usually lays claim to–if it is not a failed state. In Afghanistan the people were not “all in” for the Americans. They really didn’t care that much, at least in areas far from Kabul, if the insurgents blew up a few American Imperialists. They’d take five bucks to plants a bombs and be on their way. In one fell swoop they’d made a month’s wage, killed some infidels, impressed the locals with their “bravery”, and maintained a semblance of national pride.
Egypt’s Mubarak held the forces of Islamic jihad at bay with the only weapon that works against it: Decisive brutality. As with Saudi Arabia, Egypt was a police state, as much because of the extremists as Mubarak. Only with extreme vigilance could the Egyptian government survive. Frankly, Mubarak may have been the West’s only hope in Egypt, but starry-eyed Westerners with a Democracy fetish ran him off, unleashing a hoard of militants, radicals and young men electrified with a rage whose dynamo was built in 1967 and 1973 during the humiliating defeats of the Egyptian Army at the hands of the Israelis. The effect of these defeats upon the Arab psyche cannot be overstated.
The Arab Spring has generated nothing resembling Western democracy and displays brilliantly the weakness of Democracy itself: People can vote for any horrific idea they choose. Hitler was democratically elected. Muslims have voted and acted exactly how we should have expected them to. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists now hold power. The Salafists in Egypt hold the same views as al-Qaeda and Hamas. Christians are trying to leave the country, fearing for their safety.
The revolutions in Egypt and Libya were hardly induced by only few extremists. In fact,it seems the revolutions enjoyed the backing of millions upon millions of extremists. It is the same sort of thing we saw in Nazi Germany. Many Germans were not Nazis or did not take part in the actual fighting. But most of them wanted to see the Nazis win. And so it is with Muslims in Libya, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. The Muslims there overwhelmingly want to thrash Israel and the United States in any manner they can. If the terror proxies can trounced by the hyperpower or the Jewish state, we can of course expect the “innocent” population of “moderate” muslims to melt back into the woodwork.
Islam unifies people against Israel and the West. As Mark Steyn writes in his book, America Alone, the draw of Western “McWorld” to the average Arab male is vastly overstated. Secularism is about as un-motivational as a Rosie O’donnell workout video. It is meaninglessness and provides no promise of power or life after death, no cloak of righteousness; something that means far more to a poor 23 year old man in Cairo than does the promise of flipping burgers.
Now Israel has a monstrous number of problems on its hand, all coming to bear at once. Iran wants the bomb and is not far off from getting it. Egyptians are muttering that they want the Camp David Peace Accord “adjusted.” 20,000 surface-to-air missiles are missing from Qaddafi’s stockpiles. The current American president’s negative comments about Netanyahu were caught on an open mic.
The vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East are not jihadists or terrorists. But most of them support the actions of extremist Islam when those actions are directed against Westerners or Israelis. Our money and McDonald’s cannot possibly fill the same void that is filled by Islam. And Democracy, as with any form of government, is only as good as the people that comprise it.
So what is the answer? Does America have to kill every last Muslim? Not any more than it had to kill every last German or Japanese. America has only to decisively defeat the front-line troops of Jihad. But decisive victory may no longer be something the West is capable of, despite its overwhelming superiority in almost every facet of military and economic might.
The Arab Spring has not created Arab states that are more stable or less violent. It has provided kindling for another 100 years of Jihadist immolation. Our children’s children will see The Long War continue.
We won in Iraq, against every wish of those who voted for Obama. But America’s military still faces a huge problem.
In this article , Dick Cheney states concerns about possible insurgents waiting for the imminent US withdrawal from Iraqi cities. While the article’s title: “Cheney fears Iraq withdrawal will ‘waste’ U.S. sacrifices” insinuates that Cheney is against the withdrawal, I think he is only expressing concerns that most people have.
It’s unlikely at this point that another insurgency will take hold in Iraq. Al-Qaeda lost the minds of the people, which is the only real thing terrorism seeks to gain. In fact, at this point, with the Iraqi army trained up by the Americans. it may be that violence goes down when we leave the cities, and at the very least, it won’t be Americans that are the targets of suicide bombings. Narrowing the target selection of terrorists to Iraqi forces and civilians will even further erode the insurgency’s chances of gaining a foothold.
With a properly trained Iraqi security force and the American strawman gone, we can expect Iraq to move forward as a viable democratic state in the Middle East.
Since Bill recently brought up the movie, Team America: World Police, I had to see it again. I hadn’t seen it since it first came to the theatres, but I remember that my buddy Mike and I laughed so hard we were spraying buttered popcorn and skittles onto the back of people’s heads. I also remember cringing when I looked back and saw that some dude had ignored the R rating for the movie and brought his 12 year old son along. They’re puppets after all! Dad–those puppets are doing what the people were doing in your Hustler Magazine!
Here’s one of the best quotes in the movie, though there are a ton of good ones:
Sean Penn, giving his speech to F.A.G. (Film Actor’s Guild) on why Team America is evil for fighting terrorism in Iraq:
“Last year I went to Iraq. Before Team America showed up, it was a happy place. They had flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles. “
They could have used virtually any Democrat for the piece and it would have worked.