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Thread: An Old-fashioned War

  1. #1
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    Default An Old-fashioned War

    29 Dec. Scripps Howard News Service Op-Ed - An Old-fashioned War by Clifford May.

    To be fair to our enemies, they are only doing what comes naturally. We are the historical oddballs.

    Wars have been fought since time immemorial. The vast majority have been over power and resources, to defeat rival civilizations, to vanquish hated “others.”

    Why did Spartans, Persians, Macedonians and Romans fight? What motivated Bonaparte to take on the Austrians, the Ottomans, the Russians and the English? What caused Imperial Japan to attempt to conquer Asia?

    Almost a thousand years ago, Genghis Khan provided a candid and classic answer: “Man's highest joy is victory: to conquer his enemies; to pursue them; to deprive them of their possessions; to make their beloved weep; to ride on their horses; and to embrace their wives and daughters.”...

    Militant Islamism – the 21st century's most dynamic and dangerous form of totalitarianism -- is attempting to appeal to 1.2 billion Muslims living in more than a hundred countries. Non-Muslims are encouraged to convert. Indeed, Osama bin Laden expects many will once it becomes clear which side in this global struggle has the stronger will to power.

    Again, there are grievances to cite as justification: For the poverty, unemployment and oppression that plague many Muslim societies, Militant Islamists blame Christians, Jews, Hindus and the “apostate” Muslims who collaborate with these “infidels.” They charge that “Crusaders and Zionists” are stealing Islam's resources.

    The fact that a quarter century of rule by radical mullahs has left Iranians worse off than they were before the Islamist Revolution is elided. That Saudi and Gulf sheiks are among the wealthiest individuals in the world does not, in the radical mind, contradict these claims.

    Bin Laden and his ideological brethren promise that the conflict that has begun will not end until Muslims have the lands, power and status they demand and deserve. Lesser peoples are to be annihilated or subjugated...

    Only one aspect of all this is new and novel: the Western conviction that it is passé to wage war in pursuit of such objectives. Most Americans and Europeans can not imagine fighting other than in self-defense or against severe oppression.

    That is admirable; less so the lack of imagination that leads so many in the West to “mirror-image,” to delude themselves into believing that everyone sees the world as they do.

    To win a war requires more than boots and bullets. It requires understanding the enemy's motives and goals, and perceiving how intensely he is committed to victory.

    Postmodern Americans and Europeans may believe wars of conquest are obsolete, a discarded relic of the distant past. They may even see war itself as an aberration, an unnatural disruption of what they have convinced themselves is the “normal” state of peaceful coexistence. But our enemies view the world differently. Their perspective is of an older vintage.

    “The ordinary theme and argument of all history is war,” observed Sir Walter Raleigh in the early 17th century. Wishing that were no longer true does not make it so. We infidels pretend otherwise at our peril.

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    Default what world does the author live in?

    Cliff writes "Postmodern Americans and Europeans may believe wars of conquest are obsolete, a discarded relic of the distant past. They may even see war itself as an aberration, an unnatural disruption of what they have convinced themselves is the “normal” state of peaceful coexistence. But our enemies view the world differently. Their perspective is of an older vintage".

    I wonder what America and Europe Cliff is writing about, or if he thinks postmodernism begins in a eutopian future instead of the 1960s when both America and Europe had a robust military structure and a combined command structure (NATO) to counter the exact type of threat he thinks the world ignores?

    Last time I did a reality check we were still concerned about North Korea making a grab for South Korea and China making a grab for Taiwan; until recently we were worried about Iraq making another run for Kuwait, thus the expensive containment policy we implemented, and now we're engaged in a war against global radicalism, and the list could on and on. The author is the naive one if he confuses the rantings of a few far left leaning professors and their mindless followers with America and Europe who have realistically (not always effectively) foreseen and prepared to deal with the exact types of threats Cliff mentioned in his article.

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    Default He's talking about the far left?

    "the Western conviction that it is passé to wage war in pursuit of such objectives. Most Americans and Europeans can not imagine fighting other than in self-defense or against severe oppression.

    That is admirable; less so the lack of imagination that leads so many in the West to “mirror-image,” to delude themselves into believing that everyone sees the world as they do.

    To win a war requires more than boots and bullets. It requires understanding the enemy's motives and goals, and perceiving how intensely he is committed to victory."


    I'd say that Clifford May is using those who are the loudest (and most liberal) to represent all American and European thinking. He is incorrect in labeling all of us this way, as there are many who do understand the nature and intent of the Jihadists.

    Unfortunately the America that Cliff is writing about does exist and it doesn't take long reading Op-Eds, watching TV talk shows, or browsing liberal blogs to find those who belong to the America he describes. It's not just a few professors on the left either. It wouldn't take much time to build a very long list of professors, pundits, and politicians who belong to the exact same America he writes about.
    The immediate calls to pull out of Iraq without any discussion or concern as to the short or long term consequences of such a move come from the America that he writes about; and we know how hard and loud Murtha, Pelosi, Reid, Dean, et al beat that drum.

    I have personally encountered members of "that America" in the audiences to which I've spoken.

    I am thankful that not all of us think that way, that many are aware of the current threats and looking to counter future threats. It would be interesting to have him write on that perspective......

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    Default Still disagree

    Brian,

    I still disagree with the thesis. Just because the West no longer hungers for Empire (and that can be argued), doesn't mean we can't imagine others doing so, and to date we have successfully beat back most attempts. Even liberal politicians will fight to maintain our national security posture. First they have to for political survival. American won't stand for a weak President, which in itself undermines the authors argument. Second, they know we have to have it (with few exceptions), because for the most part they understand history, regardless of their views on abortion, gay rights, and health care. You mistakeningly put Murtha in the category of liberals that doesn't care for national defense, but he has long been a friend of the military establishment, fighting hard to get us the funding required to deal with the threats the author mentions. While another topic all together, but what Murtha said is the military has done all it can do in Iraq. He may or may not be right about that, only time will tell. If he turns out to be right, we'll regret not listening to him. His statement is a far cry from being a naive liberal that believe in national defense. Several liberals and conservatives alike think staying in Iraq for an extended period is against our national interests because it is stretching the military too thin to deal with more pressing threats like Iran and N. Korea, not to mention growing troubles to the south of our border. We simply have disagreements, not a take over of naive liberals like Fox News wants everyone to believe. The author mistakenly assumes he is the only one that can see potential threats and that the rest of the West is naive, but he should question who has authorized our robust defense funding up to this time and for what? He hasn't enlightened anyone, and needs to do a little more reading and critical thinking before publishing such garbage.

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    Default They do exist, but was it written the wrong way?

    Bill,
    What is your take on pulling out of Iraq prematurely and the message it sends to terrorists groups? Would that embolden them like it emboldened bin Laden after our response to Mogadishu, USS Cole, etc? (Not asking that sarcastically, just wanting to gain perspective without needing another thread).

    I'm of the thought that those who are hollering the loudest for our immediate withdrawal from Iraq are the ones Clifford was writing about. They belong to the group which does not have the will to fight unless the threat to themselves is completely apparent and immediate. The specific threat from Islamic Jihadists is usually unclear or uncertain, and we haven't been attacked here lately, so this group loses the will to fight. What they fail to understand is that the threat still exists.

    This group was on board after 9/11, but now as things have become gray, vague, fuzzy, sticky, uncertain, unclear (your choice) because we haven't been personally attacked again, they are demonstrating either a lack of conviction to fight or a lack of forethought on the threat, or both.
    You then have to question either their concern for our national security or their capability to think about the consequences of immediate withdrawal from Iraq (both as a matter of national security and political longevity).

    The Islamic Jihadists hate us no matter what and are going to keep planning and attempting attacks. And we know they are emboldened by our weak response to their attacks or the outcome of events such as Mogadishu. Will pulling out of Iraq prematurely give them yet another encouraging event? If the answer is yes, then you have to question the conviction or thinking of those advocating immediate pull out....that puts them amongst the group of which Clifford May was speaking.

    Understood on your views of Murtha, I incorrectly "labeled" him. However, his views certainly gave support to those who advocate our immediate pull out (for their own reasons), even if he didn't mean to have them used that way.

    Like you, I don't think naive liberals are taking over, but there is undoubtedly a very vocal group of them advocating actions which many agree would not be in the interest of our national security.

    I do agree the author isolated himself in his use of "most Americans" and at the end of his article when he lumped all "postmodern Americans and Europeans" togetherr. Was that his intention or did he just not proof his thoughts before publishing?
    Last edited by Brian B; 12-31-2005 at 01:55 PM.

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    Default What's prematurely?

    I don’t agree with everything Sen Murtha said, and think a withdrawal must be done in concert with a stated strategy, because we’re not talking about ducking our tail between our legs and running, but admitting we accomplished our military objectives (regime change and neutralization of WMD). On the political side the regime change was very poorly planned, so now everyone is hoping the military can make a chicken salad out of chicken crap, and if anyone can do it, it is our military, but even we can’t always turn the tide of history and culture. Saddam is out of power, it would be better if he was dead, but his thugs are dead, captured, or in hiding. That was an achievable military objective, on the other hand making Sunnis, Kurds, and Shi’a love one another and embrace Iraqi nationalism is not a feasible military objective, that is a political and social process that the Iraqis will have to work out on their own, and we may not like the way they work it out. Coming from this perspective, I do think the Senator’s position should be analyzed professionally from a strategic standpoint, not a partisan one.

    Yes, he did call for an immediate withdrawal, which I disagree with in principle, but he also made some sound arguments that I posted below. This isn’t a guy who doesn’t care about National Defense or a Chicken Little, rather a Senator, right or wrong, who thinks we’re on the wrong course. The America I fight for embraces this type of debate, that is what democracy is all about, not blindly following an emperior.

    Select Murtha comments:
    "The future of our country is at risk. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the USA, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region. General Casey said, “the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.”

    The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats. The future of our military is at risk. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We can not allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care, to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared. The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls at our bases in the U.S. Much of our ground equipment is worn out and in need of either serious overhaul or replacement.

    This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry and without a draft. The burden of this war has not been shared equally; the military and their families are shouldering this burden. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify.
    Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME". END of select quotes.

    You asked what I thought, well I think if we’re perceived to have turned tailed and ran like we were perceived to do in Vietnam and Somalia, then as you stated that will embolden all of our enemies, not just the Islamists. Then again I think we either need much more manpower to suppress the insurgency, or we need to rapidly phase our forces out and let the Iraqis come a settlement. Sitting the middle doesn’t work. Also I think we need to launch overt punishing raids into Syria and possibly Iran (if it is proven they’re supporting the insurgents). My proposed strategy for withdrawal is pull out into the desert and provide rapid reaction forces for the Iraqis if needed. First off this gets us out of the populated areas where we are simply pissing off the Iraqis and appear to be conquerors, and second withdrawing will allow the Iraq defense forces to deal with the problem their own way without being impeded by our ROE. If the insurgents/terrorists are dumb enough to mass in an attempt to challenge the Iraqi Defense forces, then our rapid reaction forces could crush them. Of course this all simply rough conjecture and probably full of holes, but should at least be considered as course of action.

    Parts of the Senator’s speech that I did agree with were his comments on conducting an expensive war on the cheap by giving our citizens tax cuts! At the same the same time they’re talking about cuts to the DoD budget, especially in the personnel manning and the benefits arena. Our leadership has done a poor job at mobilizing the support of the American people for this war. Support is more than watching Fox news and cheerleading, but making sacrifices like paying war taxes and encouraging kids to join the military. Instead our government leaders reward our folks for doing nothing, which in effect undermines our morality as a nation. While normally not pro-draft, if we have to keep lowering standards to meet recruitment goals, then maybe we do need it. Maybe some kids with silver spoons in their mouths needs to feel what it is like to wear body armor all day in 110 degree weather. We’re fighting a war, or we’re not, and I think right now the nation is getting mixed messages.

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    Default Good COAs

    Bill,
    Good places to start and discuss on your strategy and COA's. Like the ideas for our withdrawal as the job continues to be wrapped up, especially with the public statements that need to be made while simultaneously withdrawing as situations dictate.

    I am thankful for the support we do get from home and any cheerleading that comes with it. But no one else has had to bear the brunt of this war beyond the military and our families. No disagreement from me on those points.

    You said we were pissing off the Iraqi's in populated areas, which I know we are in some cases. Sometimes they love us being there when we provide the security and stability, but when we don't we can be complicating.
    I sometimes hear others take that a step further and say that "our presence is fueling the insurgency" which I have trouble getting my head around.

    When they attack us directly, I can see that point. When they attack the ISF because they simply are an extension of our presence or our policy, I can even see their thought process and how they might justify that to themselves. But on days like yesterday when so many civilians are targeted, how could that be our presence fueling the insurgency? Any thoughts from anyone on this? What angle or perspective am I missing?
    Personally I don't agree with that line of thinking and feel it's for personal reasons as we discussed in the "Insurgents on Drugs" thread and for an endstate of destabilization to establish a safe haven i.e. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

    Opened up for beating and/or enlightenment from all.....

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    Default Attacking non combatants

    I think the enemy attacks non combatants because it is too weak to attack US forces or the Iraqi forces. He must rely on ambiguity as to time and place of attack and pick soft targets. The election in December is a good example of this. The time of voting was fixed as were the places of voting and those places were defended while the polls were opened. The results were few if any attacks. In the last year I can recall only two attacks by the enemy on defended positions both of which failed. One was near Qaim and the other was at Abu Ghraid. Most of the other action has been defensive responses when US and Iraqi forces are attacking. His other method of attack is passive booby traps. Attacks on non combatants continue to be counter productive within Iraq. Bill Roggio's latest report at Threatswatch.com indicates the Sunnis in Ramadi are furious with al Qaeda about the attacks.

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Merv Benson
    I think the enemy attacks non combatants because it is too weak to attack US forces or the Iraqi forces. He must rely on ambiguity as to time and place of attack and pick soft targets. The election in December is a good example of this. The time of voting was fixed as were the places of voting and those places were defended while the polls were opened. The results were few if any attacks. In the last year I can recall only two attacks by the enemy on defended positions both of which failed. One was near Qaim and the other was at Abu Ghraid. Most of the other action has been defensive responses when US and Iraqi forces are attacking. His other method of attack is passive booby traps. Attacks on non combatants continue to be counter productive within Iraq. Bill Roggio's latest report at Threatswatch.com indicates the Sunnis in Ramadi are furious with al Qaeda about the attacks.
    Remember - there is no monolithic single enemy in Iraq. We face a number of indigenous factions ranging from Islamists to secular Ba'athists, as well as Zarqawi's bunch of foreigners.

    I do not feel that "weakness" is what is behind the attacks on civilians. I believe they are very purposefully targeted with the strategic goal of goading the Shi'a into massive bloody reprisals against ordinary Sunni Arabs as a way of inciting civil war. (If you haven't, I recommend taking a look at Terrill's Strategic Implications of Intercommunal Warfare in Iraq )

    Bill Roggio demonstrates his misunderstanding of Al-Qa'ida when he states "....al-Qaeda often oversteps its bounds in Iraq...". The bounds he alludes to do not exist - Al-Qa'ida in Iraq has never truly viewed the Sunni Arab population as a "natural base of support". Al-Qa'ida's ultimate goal is not to help Sunni Arabs regain control in Iraq - their goal is to humiliate the US and drive us out by whatever means necessary, using and manipulating the indigenous population with cold calculation. The ends justify the means. They have no real concern for broad Iraqi Sunni Arab support, beyond the narrow transitory and local measures needed to infiltrate who and what it needs to continue to carry out such attacks.

    In this context, the Ramadi attack clearly demonstrated Al-Qa'ida's view of anyone who supports the current Iraqi administration and, by extension, US goals in Iraq. They weren't "overstepping their bounds" - they were sending a message.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 01-06-2006 at 11:25 PM.

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