« | Main | Uh-Oh... »

August 31, 2007

War. And Peace.

I've been told I have an unhealthy obsession with war. If that is true, and I suppose it is possible, it would not be because I love conflict.

Not that. Never that.

It would be because I hate and fear it so.

Somewhere in her basement my mother has a black and white photograph of me. I must have been about three years old at the time. I'm standing with a gaggle of neighborhood children, hands on hips, one of my Mom's cast off purses clutched fiercely under my arm. Blonde curls and rosy cheeks notwithstanding, I am in charge of everything; a miniature She Who Must Be Obeyed ready to take on imaginary monsters, wayward puppies and anything else that requires a gentle but firm talking to. But all my bottled up sassiness was just an act.

Because I remember, too, how much I hated it when the evening news came on. Forty five years later I still recall running from the room to hide on the stairs with my hands over my ears, because I never could bear to hear that anyone had been hurt. To this day I cannot stand to watch the news. I read newspapers, instead.

All the same, this morning I didn't intend to write about war. I started out to write about children:

If you’ve somehow managed to miss the story—which would be quite an accomplishment at this point—CBS had 40 kids out in a New Mexico ghost town this summer to film a reality show in which the children, ages 8-15, were to build their own society, compete for prizes, bicker, befriend, and of course, be filmed.

CBS is now under fire because, due to some serious mistakes on the network’s part (and allegations that it tried to conceal those mistakes by deflecting inspectors), the production may have fallen afoul of New Mexico’s child labor laws. There were also four injuries on set. One little girl, whose mother has filed a complaint against CBS, was splashed with grease while cooking. Three other kids were treated after ingesting small amounts of bleach from an unmarked bottle. None of the injuries were serious, and they were all treated promptly.

Reading Mary Katherine's words, my thoughts drifted back to my sons' growing up years. They included camping trips with axes, gasoline, chainsaws, knives. In my nightstand I keep cherished photos of a long ago trip to New England. The boys built a rock lined fire pit, chopped firewood, cut down saplings and built wobbly camping structures. After a hard day's work the Testosterone Trio sat around the fire, looking excessively manly. The paterfamilias was captured with a cigar hanging out of his mouth, his progeny clowning around with hatchet (relax, no one was injured). All three look tired, dirty, sweaty, and extremely happy. Not a single antibacterial wipe, Gameboy, or soda in sight but somehow - miraculously - everyone survived.

But this ancient rite of manliness (though it no doubt violated who knows how many misguided but well meaning child labor and safety ordinances - just think of the second-hand smoke!) pales in comparison to those practiced by less effete societies:

Men are made, not born... Unlike women, men must take actions, undergo ordeals, or pass tests in order to become men...

Culture after culture features rites of passage from boyhood to manhood. Only select men can achieve “manhood,” and it must be won individually. In many cultures’ initiation rituals, older males systematically inflict pain and injury on young ones, who must hold up without flinching, or face life-long shame. Men who fail the test become “negative examples … held up scornfully to inspire conformity.” The particulars of these rituals vary by cultural context. In fishing communities, would-be men go on dangerous expeditions into the water. In hunting cultures they risk their lives in hunting exploits. In societies with frequent warfare, young males must participate in war – and, for some, kill an enemy – before being called a man...

These practices recur in cultures worldwide that “have little else in common,” including those with frequent or infrequent war, and simple or complex social organization. In East Africa, boys endure “bloody circumcision rites by which they become true men. They must submit without so much as flinching under the agony of the knife. If a boy cries out while his flesh is being cut, if he so much as blinks an eye or turns his head, he is shamed for life as unworthy of manhood.”... Pueblo Indian boys aged 12–15 are “whipped mercilessly…[and] expected to bear up impassively under the beating to show their fortitude.”

How very odd that we in this most affluent and industrialized of nations claim to admire the naturalness and simplicity of aboriginal cultures. And yet we seem to be turning our backs on the acquired wisdom of uncounted generations of human experience - on what is an otherwise universal human practice: the ritual toughening of young men by enduring hardship; the offering of a chance to prove (or is it to learn?) that they can endure pain and suffering without complaint? And perhaps this exercise is not only intended to teach others. Perhaps it is intended to allow the participant to take his own measure, to discover the strength that lies within?

Is it really a sign of our cultural advancement that, where once we sought to toughen our children, to build character and endurance against a world that is often harsh and unforgiving, we now seek to shield them against even the most innocuous of life's little misfortunes? With affluence and the relative absence of discord we have become hypersensitive to discomfort; so much so that we now strive not only to erase all signs of strife from our present lives, but to airbrush all mention of violence and unpleasantness from the past as well:

"If you want peace, prepare for war.” Thus counseled Roman general Flavius Vegetius Renatus over 1,600 years ago. Nine centuries before that, Sun Tzu offered essentially the same advice, and it’s to him that Vegetius’s line is attributed at the beginning of a film that I saw recently at Oslo’s Nobel Peace Center. Yet the film cites this ancient wisdom only to reject it. After serving up a perverse potted history of the cold war, the thrust of which is that the peace movement brought down the Berlin Wall, the movie ends with words that turn Vegetius’s insight on its head: “If you want peace, prepare for peace.

What happens when we, as a nation, cease to study war?

To study history is to gain perspective, to place current events in their proper context in the larger scheme of human (and non-human) events. Without it, the daily drip-drip-drip of news stories becomes a trickle, then a current, then a raging flood that sweeps us up and carries us away, powerless to steer our course much less raise our heads from the maelstrom long enough to sense our direction. It is perhaps the crowning irony that so many of those who argue that the use of force is inherently wrong or misguided would also have us forsake the study of warfighting. Without a thorough knowledge of history - and of the history of war - we are at the mercy of any expert with an agenda. We cannot judge for ourselves, because we lack the knowledge, whether they are telling us the truth.

We mistake the counterfeit for the genuine, a John Kerry (who spent all of four months in Vietnam) for a Mack Owens. And so we are misled, to our detriment:

...opponents of the war have drawn the Vietnam analogy like a gun, seeking from the very beginning to argue that Iraq and Vietnam were analogous. Ted Kennedy famously called Iraq “George Bush’s Vietnam.”

I have argued on several occasions that the parallels between the two conflicts at the operational and strategic levels of war were nonsensical. But that has never stopped the opponents of the current war from invoking the conventional Vietnam War narrative, which goes something like this: The U.S. was predestined to lose the Vietnam War because the Vietnamese Communists were too determined, the South Vietnamese too corrupt, and Americans were incapable of fighting the kind of war that would have been necessary to prevail.

...The fact is that the outcome of a war is not predetermined. Who wins and who loses are determined in the final instance by the respective actions of the combatants. Victory or defeat depends on decisions actually made and strategies actually implemented. We came close to victory in Vietnam, but then threw it away.

The 1972 Easter Offensive provided the proof that Vietnam could survive, albeit with U.S. air and naval support, at least in the short term. The Easter Offensive was the biggest North Vietnamese offensive push of the war, greater in magnitude than either the 1968 Tet offensive or the final assault of 1975. Despite inevitable failures on the part of some units, all in all, the South Vietnamese fought well. Then, having blunted the Communist thrust, they recaptured territory that had been lost to Hanoi. Finally, so effective was the eleven-day "Christmas bombing" campaign (LINEBACKER II) later that year that the British counterinsurgency expert, Sir Robert Thompson exclaimed, "you had won the war. It was over."

Three years later, despite the heroic performance of some ARVN units, South Vietnam collapsed against a much weaker, cobbled-together PAVN offensive. What happened to cause this reversal?

First, the Nixon administration, in its rush to extricate the country from Vietnam, forced South Vietnam to accept a ceasefire that permitted North Vietnamese forces to remain in South Vietnam. Then in an act that still shames the United States to this day, Congress cut off military and economic assistance to South Vietnam. Finally, President Nixon resigned over Watergate and his successor, constrained by congressional action, defaulted on promises to respond with force to North Vietnamese violations of the peace terms.

History provides invaluable context that helps refute agenda-laden spin. Contrary to the conventional wisdom rammed down our throats by an anti-war press, the historical record shows that insurgents rarely win wars: (h/t Karl's must-read post on media miscoverage of the war)

Myths about invincible guerrillas and insurgents are a direct result of America’s collective misunderstanding of its defeat in South Vietnam. This loss is generally credited to the brilliance and military virtues of the pajama-clad Vietcong. The Vietnamese may have been tough and persistent, but they were not brilliant. Rather, they were lucky—they faced an opponent with leaders unwilling to learn from their failures: the United States. When the Vietcong went toe-to-toe with U.S. forces in the 1968 Tet Offensive, they were decimated. When South Vietnam finally fell in 1975, it did so not to the Vietcong, but to regular units of the invading North Vietnamese Army. The Vietcong insurgency contributed greatly to the erosion of the American public’s will to fight, but so did the way that President Lyndon Johnson and the American military waged the war. It was North Vietnam’s will and American failure, not skillful use of an insurgency, that were the keys to Hanoi’s victory.

Though, as Karl notes, defeating a determined insurgency generally takes 8-10 years, a recent DoD showed that insurgencies similar to the one in Iraq lose about 60% of the time. What does this all mean?

It means that, despite the chorus of derision that greeted George Bush's speech last Tuesday and has followed every pronouncement that all America needed to do to win this war was "stay the course", it appears the President is not as stupid as his critics make him out to be. His understanding of military history is not flawed; on the contrary, it matches precisely the recollection of those, like Mack Owens and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, who were actually there - on the ground - making history at the time rather than protesting the war or telling America that if we withdrew from Vietnam there would not be any bloodbath. In an issue of Foreign Policy, Melvin Laird recalls:

The truth about Vietnam that revisionist historians conveniently forget is that the United States had not lost when we withdrew in 1973. In fact, we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory two years later when Congress cut off the funding for South Vietnam that had allowed it to continue to fight on its own. Over the four years of Nixon's first term, I had cautiously engineered the withdrawal of the majority of our forces while building up South Vietnam's ability to defend itself. My colleague and friend Henry Kissinger, meanwhile, had negotiated a viable agreement between North and South Vietnam, which was signed in January 1973. It allowed for the United States to withdraw completely its few remaining troops and for the United States and the Soviet Union to continue funding their respective allies in the war at a specified level. Each superpower was permitted to pay for replacement arms and equipment. Documents released from North Vietnamese historical files in recent years have proved that the Soviets violated the treaty from the moment the ink was dry, continuing to send more than $1 billion a year to Hanoi. The United States barely stuck to the allowed amount of military aid for two years, and that was a mere fraction of the Soviet contribution.

Yet during those two years, South Vietnam held its own courageously and respectably against a better-bankrolled enemy. Peace talks continued between the North and the South until the day in 1975 when Congress cut off U.S. funding. The Communists walked out of the talks and never returned. Without U.S. funding, South Vietnam was quickly overrun. We saved a mere $297 million a year and in the process doomed South Vietnam, which had been ably fighting the war without our troops since 1973.

I believed then and still believe today that given enough outside resources, South Vietnam was capable of defending itself, just as I believe Iraq can do the same now. From the Tet offensive in 1968 up to the fall of Saigon in 1975, South Vietnam never lost a major battle. The Tet offensive itself was a victory for South Vietnam and devastated the North Vietnamese army, which lost 289,000 men in 1968 alone. Yet the overriding media portrayal of the Tet offensive and the war thereafter was that of defeat for the United States and the Saigon government. Just so, the overriding media portrayal of the Iraq war is one of failure and futility.

Vietnam gave the United States the reputation for not supporting its allies. The shame of Vietnam is not that we were there in the first place, but that we betrayed our ally in the end. It was Congress that turned its back on the promises of the Paris accord. The president, the secretary of state, and the secretary of defense must share the blame. In the end, they did not stand up for the commitments our nation had made to South Vietnam. Any president or cabinet officer who is turned down by Congress when he asks for funding for a matter of national security or defense simply has not tried hard enough. There is no excuse for that failure.

Santayana had it half right. Those who do not learn the lessons of history - or who continue to lie about them - doom others to repeat them. And as Victor Hanson so eloquently reminds us, without knowledge of our military history and traditions, how will future generations of Americans tell the counterfeit coin from the genuine? How will they know when they are being lied to, or given only half the story? How will they know, as with the American media's misleading characterization of the Tet offensive as a defeat for our side, history is repeating itself?

Try explaining to a college student that Tet was an American military victory. You’ll provoke not a counterargument—let alone an assent—but a blank stare: Who or what was Tet? Doing interviews about the recent hit movie 300, I encountered similar bewilderment from listeners and hosts. Not only did most of them not know who the 300 were or what Thermopylae was; they seemed clueless about the Persian Wars altogether.

It’s no surprise that civilian Americans tend to lack a basic understanding of military matters. Even when I was a graduate student, 30-some years ago, military history—understood broadly as the investigation of why one side wins and another loses a war, and encompassing reflections on magisterial or foolish generalship, technological stagnation or breakthrough, and the roles of discipline, bravery, national will, and culture in determining a conflict’s outcome and its consequences—had already become unfashionable on campus. Today, universities are even less receptive to the subject.

This state of affairs is profoundly troubling, for democratic citizenship requires knowledge of war—and now, in the age of weapons of mass annihilation, more than ever.

...Military history reminds us of important anomalies and paradoxes. When Sparta invaded Attica in the first spring of the Peloponnesian war, Thucydides recounts, it expected the Athenians to surrender after a few short seasons of ravaging. They didn’t—but a plague that broke out unexpectedly did more damage than thousands of Spartan ravagers did. Twenty-seven years later, a maritime Athens lost the war at sea to Sparta, an insular land power that started the conflict with scarcely a navy. The 2003 removal of Saddam refuted doom-and-gloom critics who predicted thousands of deaths and millions of refugees, just as the subsequent messy four-year reconstruction hasn’t evolved as anticipated into a quiet, stable democracy—to say the least.

The size of armies doesn’t guarantee battlefield success: the victors at Salamis, Issos, Mexico City, and Lepanto were all outnumbered. War’s most savage moments—the Allied summer offensive of 1918, the Russian siege of Berlin in the spring of 1945, the Battle of the Bulge, Hiroshima—often unfold right before hostilities cease. And democratic leaders during war—think of Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Richard Nixon—often leave office either disgraced or unpopular.

It would be reassuring to think that the righteousness of a cause, or the bravery of an army, or the nobility of a sacrifice ensures public support for war. But military history shows that far more often the perception of winning is what matters. Citizens turn abruptly on any leaders deemed culpable for losing. “Public sentiment is everything,” wrote Abraham Lincoln. “With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds opinion is greater than he who enacts laws.” Lincoln knew that lesson well. Gettysburg and Vicksburg were brilliant Union victories that by summer 1863 had restored Lincoln’s previously shaky credibility. But a year later, after the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, and Cold Harbor battles—Cold Harbor claimed 7,000 Union lives in 20 minutes—the public reviled him. Neither Lincoln nor his policies had changed, but the Confederate ability to kill large numbers of Union soldiers had.

Ultimately, public opinion follows the ups and downs—including the perception of the ups and downs—of the battlefield, since victory excites the most ardent pacifist and defeat silences the most zealous zealot. After the defeat of France, the losses to Bomber Command, the U-boat rampage, and the fall of Greece, Singapore, and Dunkirk, Churchill took the blame for a war as seemingly lost as, a little later, it seemed won by the brilliant prime minister after victories in North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy. When the successful military action against Saddam Hussein ended in April 2003, over 70 percent of the American people backed it, with politicians and pundits alike elbowing each other aside to take credit for their prescient support. Four years of insurgency later, Americans oppose a now-orphaned war by the same margin. General George S. Patton may have been uncouth, but he wasn’t wrong when he bellowed, “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” The American public turned on the Iraq War not because of Cindy Sheehan or Michael Moore but because it felt that the battlefield news had turned uniformly bad and that the price in American lives and treasure for ensuring Iraqi reform was too dear.

Finally, military history has the moral purpose of educating us about past sacrifices that have secured our present freedom and security. If we know nothing of Shiloh, Belleau Wood, Tarawa, and Chosun, the crosses in our military cemeteries are just pleasant white stones on lush green lawns. They no longer serve as reminders that thousands endured pain and hardship for our right to listen to what we wish on our iPods and to shop at Wal-Mart in safety—or that they expected future generations, links in this great chain of obligation, to do the same for those not yet born. The United States was born through war, reunited by war, and saved from destruction by war. No future generation, however comfortable and affluent, should escape that terrible knowledge.

He is right. No future generation should. But this generation is, and has. And future generations are learning even less than we did. And the price, the terrible price, is becoming evident in the charlatans who masquerade as lovers of peace, but who are really nothing more than appeasers and apologists for tyranny. They will sell our children into slavery, and we will be in no position to lift a finger:

For the Peace Racket, to kill innocents in cold blood is to buy the right to dialogue, negotiation, concessions—and power. So students learn to identify “insurgent” or “militant” groups with the populations they purport to represent. A few years ago, a peace organization called Transcend equated the demands of the Basque terrorist group ETA with “the desires of the Basque people”—as if a “people” were a monolithic group for whom a band of murderous thugs could presume to speak. The complaints that Transcend made about the Spanish government’s “blockade positions”—its refusal to cave to terrorist demands—and the Spanish media’s lack of “objectivity”—their refusal to take a middle position between Spanish society and ETA terrorists—are standard Peace Racket fare. Similarly, during Saddam’s dictatorship, “peace scholars” wrote as if Iraq were equivalent to Saddam and the Baath party, entirely removing from the picture the Shiites and Kurds whom Saddam’s regime subjugated, tortured, and slaughtered.

The recipes for peace that flow from such thinking seem designed not only to buttress oppression but to create more of it. For if democracies consistently followed the Peace Racket’s recommendations, what they’d eventually reap would be the kind of peace found today in Havana or Pyongyang.

...Warblogger Frank Martin described his visit to the military cemetery at Arnhem, in the Netherlands, where a teenage guide said that the Allied soldiers “were fighting for bridges; how silly that they would all fight for something like that.” Martin was outraged: “I tried to explain that they weren’t fighting for bridges, but for his and his families’ freedom.” That teenager articulated precisely the kind of thinking that peace professors seek to instill in their students—that freedom is at best an overvalued asset that can hinder peacemaking, and at worst a lie, and that those who harp on it are either American propagandists or dupes who’ve fallen for the propaganda. In March, Yusra Moshtat, an associate of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, and Jan Oberg, director of the foundation, wrote that “words like democracy and freedom are deceptive, cover-ups or Unspeak.” And in a 1997 speech at a Texas peace foundation, Oscar Arias, ex-president of Costa Rica and founder of his own peace foundation, described the American preoccupation with freedom versus tyranny as “obsolete,” “oversimplified,” and above all “dangerous,” because it could lead to war. In other words, if you want to ensure peace, worry less about freedom. Appease tyranny, accept it, embrace it—and there’ll be no more war.

Time and technology may change, but human nature is one thing we can be reasonably sure will remain disappointingly constant. In fact, advances in technology makes the defects in human nature even harder to deal with as they lessen the protective effects of borders, distances between unfriendly nations, and even the most stringent of security measures. Add to this the fluid nature of travel and immigration, which bring people of increasingly disparate cultures and beliefs into close contact, and you increase - not decrease - the potential for violent conflict.

Why, then, do some people persist in the naive belief that we can talk our way out of conflicts with people who resolve their political differences by strapping bombs to suicidal maniacs? Is it really logical to think we can avoid war by burying our heads in the sand and pretending violent people don't exist? Do we avoid crime by dispensing with police and ignoring (or engaging in dialog with) criminals?

Of course we don't.

No one wants war, least of all the men and women who volunteer to fight it. In fact, if you don't support this war, you may be surprised to know that some of us who do hate war just as much as you do. But we don't want our children to have to fight. And having read history, knowing the lessons of Vietnam - not the lessons of a man who only spent 4 months of a 12 month tour there and to this day tells people no massive bloodbath occurred after we left, but the lessons of men who stayed long enough to see what was really going on - we are saddened, and grateful, and angry as hell. And we don't ever want to make that mistake again.

No, not the one you think. The mistake of asking too many men to die for a cause that America ends up turning her back on. Because that is just too much to ask of our armed forces. When we ask them to fight and die, they need to believe that it will accomplish something. They need to believe their sacrifice was for a reason.

They don't need to be told, after they've lost an arm or a leg,

"Nevermind. We weren't serious, after all. We can't afford this." When America goes to war, we had damned well better mean it.

Posted by Cassandra at August 31, 2007 07:26 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Great post.

Posted by: Stix at August 31, 2007 10:10 AM

Yes...and I was blessed to have a Scots grandmother. At the ripe old age of 77, she and her stepdaughter, my beloved aunt, took their granddaughters (yours truly included) up to my aunt's cabin for a week. NO running water, a double seater for 'the convenience', a wood burning stove and NO electricity and the closest store was fifteen miles away in Cedar City, Utah.

We hauled water, chopped wood, learned how to preserve food without refrigeration, lived off the land and clean out mouse and rat traps.

It was the best week of my 15th year. And it was just 'us girls.' In the morning, we went fishing, in the afternoons we hunted for wild foods of the vegan variety...and I am surprised that two old ladies dared to take on six teenage
girls for a week.

They kept us so busy we didn't have time to cause trouble. I even learned how to bake bread in a woodburning stove.


Posted by: Cricket at August 31, 2007 10:31 AM

I won't belabor you with another round of stories about living in my beloved cabin on Burnt Mountain. I'll just say that, aside from the fact that we had indoor plumbing, it was like Cricket's week only moreso -- except for two wonderful years. :)

I used to love hiking the groceries in over the mountain in the winter, when the roads were impassable because of the snow. You knew you were doing something that mattered, that your family really did depend on you. That's the kind of thing that makes you love your life.

Posted by: Grim at August 31, 2007 11:17 AM

At age 12, I *inherited* my great-uncle's beehives.

By age 14 (and after nursing several tens of thousands of the inhabitants of five hives through a couple of nasty winters), I
-- became sole supplier of honey to the quaint-and-expensive B&B in town,
-- was convinced that capitalism works (as long as you keep the worker-bees happy), and
-- received approximately fifty injections of bee venom *gratis* and am now immune to rheumatism.

Don't get me started on the joy of building a tree fort fifteen feet higher up the tree than Dad recommended...

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 11:18 AM

As an interesting aside, during the years following the fall of Saigon, possession of a VC flag was punishable by death. No exceptions, no excuses.

These days, they're mass-producing them and selling them as "genuine war relics"...

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 11:22 AM

That bit about freedom making people cause more wars was the same point I made on the comment section of Neo-Neocon when she had loads of people complaining about Vietnam being inevitable and what not. I copied and pasted one such comment here, actually.

“The argument being made by me and others who disagree with you is that it was that abandonment that led to the fall of the South to the North in 1975.”

Ok, one last time Neo.

Read your own posts. Each one illustrates the fact that the South COULD’NT stand on it’s own.

We had been supplying the South since the late 50’s. We had hundreds of thousands of troops fighting and dying so that the South could take over the war (sound familiar)

Listen, I know you jumped from one end of the ideological spectrum to the other. This “process” is very important to you.

That’s Great. Personally I don’t care.

You place the fall of Vietnam on our shoulders. You say they were betrayed by “The Left”, whatever that is. The South fell because it could’nt stand.-DK

# Occam's Beard Says: August 27th, 2007 at 8:46 pm
The curious thing is DK’s implicit assumption that might makes right.
If one country cannot stand against another, to hell with them, they don’t deserve continued existence.
By that standard, we’d save an awful lot of time on UN roll calls. Europe would be speaking German and/or Russian, and most of Asia would be speaking Japanese. Most of SE Asia would be speaking Vietnamese…unless, of course, we vaporized them, which would be fine, since might makes right. Correct?

My personal response here

Essentially I said the same thing as the article. That nihilism is the belief that there is nothing worth fighting, dying, or killing for. Based upon that, wouldn't you then logically realize that freedom, because it is so valued, would cause millions upon millions to fight, die, and kill for? Killing off freedom as a cause then would be a logically good proposition to stave off wars and given that the US is the deposit of the most liberty, the US must fall as well.

They, the Left and other nihilists, believe that they are creating a better world. A world in which they will continue to benefit from American liberty while using every means, faction, favor, and power in their grasp to ensure that other sub-human individuals will never have freedom, will never see freedom as something worthy, and will never have the liberty to understand what was taken from them.

As we all know, that is not sustainable. The revolutionary intellectual leaders are the first to be executed when the new Regime comes into power. True for Cuba. True for Iran. True for every Leftist revolution.

If only they had studied the rise of the true Nazis, rather than the Bush Hitler Nazis they were told had existed. If they did, they would have realized that it was the National Socialist party and that they got into power through Leftist revolutionary means as well as the support of the Left. When the Left no longer was useful because they were too weak to do what was necessary, then Hitler replaced the Left. Sounds so much neater to "purge".

The students and Leftist groups clamoring against the Shah of Iran about secret police and unjust arrests, brought to power a greater devil. And they said "oops" just before their heads came off their heads.

Oops, my bad. Guess history was worth something after all. If only to non-idiots.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 31, 2007 01:06 PM

oops, I made a sort of mace handle or something.

The stuff above the link in block is all Occam's. The stuff below, mine.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 31, 2007 01:08 PM

The South fell because it could’nt stand.

A hyper-oversimplification. The South fell because it couldn't stand *unsupported* against the North, which *was* supported -- by the USSR and the PRC and any WarPac nation with freighters.

Once the ARVN fired off its last TOW missile, the T-54s were free to roll. The Hungarians had already demonstrated that rocks and courage won't even chip a tank's paint, let alone halt an armored division...

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 01:27 PM

I've been told I have an unhealthy obsession with war.

There's a war on.

Or would they just prefer that you cease highlighting the antics of the Alternative-Reality Based Party?

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 01:35 PM

Or would they just prefer that you cease highlighting the antics of the Alternative-Reality Based Party?

In the case of the person who has said that the most frequently, I suspect that may have something to do with it. But then I'm obsessed with war to an unhealthy degree so my judgment is probably skewed.


Posted by: Cassandra at August 31, 2007 01:37 PM

O, the *price* one pays for carrying the flag for jackbooted fascist impressionism.

Cubism, si! Yanqui, no!

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 01:42 PM

There are two basic principles of war that explains why insurgencies often fail and why often the numerically superior enemy loses. The latter is one reason why the cries from Democrats and Generals for more troops were unconvincing and a red herring to me. They never answered what they would use more troops for, other than that "numbers" and a bigger hammer would be enough.

The first principle for insurgencies is that any armed force needs leadership, bases, money, food, and logistics. They often lose becaue before the Soviets and the Americans got into the business of proxy warfare, most civil wars and rebellions could only utilize the resources of the territory they controlled. An insurgency that controlled NO territory, sort of like AQ in Iraq, could easily be crushed by the occupation forces because the occupation forces are occupying the key logistical points as well as the source of resources. (money, food, etc)

It has become easier for rebellions to succede because of the Soviet surplus arms being sold off by the Russian mob, the Russian government, and various other corrupt military procurement officers. This is in addition to other cheap weapons like the ones used in the American Revolution. It has also become easier because the world is more wealthy and that means you can make more money illegally or legally, money that can be used to buy weapons and support. This was far harder to accomplish in peasant and serf economies. What is a serf leader going to do to raise money? Where is the serf leader going to acquire the arms and weapons assuming he had the money?

Insurgencies therefore fail when their logistics run out. Even now with the fact that AQ has foreign sources of investment and what not, they will still fail in time. Because AQ's sources are drying up, if only one country or terrorist or province at a time, while America's economy is still growing. They may be able to acquire more allies or their allies may funnel more resources, but there are a lot of problems that can result in this not occuring. Not least of all acquiring the image of losing Iraq to the Americans and infidels. Problems I would recommend the US create.

Arabs, like most humans, no more like losing than anyone else. They also don't like losers which is sort of why they don't like themselves and have to take the mad out on someone weaker than they.

The second principle concerning numerically superior forces has to do with the counter-part to physical resources, which is the psychology of the individuals in a unit. A unit that believes itself lost and unable to win, will shatter and run with a safety margin based upon on how long their discipline and chain of command holds out. To individuals and units, it doesn't matter if they can intellectually realize that they outnumber the enemy. Since psychology in war isn't centered around what you think so much as what you believe, given that in battle there is not much time to think. If you believe you are surrounded by many more enemies than you are surrounded by allies, like say if your unit got flanked, then you and your buddies start panicking. Therefore when one unit breaks away, a crack forms in the whole army and the panic may then spread as more and more units are outflanked as the units that were supposed to protect them are no longer there. A rout starts systematically from one unit to another, like a wave. Often feigned routs begin all at once, as if in obedience to an order, and they also don't drop their weapons; but that is another topic.

This is how a numerically inferior enemy can defeat a numerically superior enemy. Via creating psychological terror, which is essentially done with the tools of deception and illusion. The enemy creates the illusion that you are outnumbered and in trouble, and thereby your belief creates the reality. That is why there is the dual school of thought on battles as contests of will and battles as contests of strategy, tactics, maneuvers, etc. In a sense, battles are both and neither.

It's a little bit different when applied against unconventional warfare. Because then the target isn't so much the individual soldiers on either side, so much as the civilians on the sidelines, the countries around the battle site, and the politicians back home that gives orders to the soldiers.

The US's primary disadvantage is that after having achieved supreme master level in conventional warfare, they were unable to think as guerillas and insurgents. (with the exception of the SF in Afghanistan) Psychological terror as a weapon of war, whether to break enemy morale or do something else, is chiefly the weapon of small elite forces up against numerically superior but qualitatively inferior forces. A General such as Belisarius must be crafty and think in angles or circles within circles, whereas the Consuls with a quantitatively superior force facing Hannibal Barca thought in clear straight lines of charge, crash, and etc.

Essentially, the smaller your army the more tricky you have to be. And thus the larger the enemy, the slower and more inflexible your generals get. A weird relationship, but it does exist.

However, the other side of the coin is that even large armies and nations may learn from defeat. As Rome showed in the 2nd and 3rd Punic Wars. Which is what I think is happening with US forces in Iraq and what almost happened with US forces in Vietnam.

The problem with large armies was that it was very hard to mobilize these forces to strike at the weaknesses of your enemy. Having a larger army than Hannibal didn't matter if you could only catch Hannibal in places Hannibal wanted you to catch him in. The same with having nuclear weapons. If you have nuclear weapons and AQ doesn't, then the fact that you don't know where to apply the nuclear weapons means essentially that your nukes are useless. It therefore evens the balance of power between terrorists and the US.

Theoretically, if the US could think like a "bandit" or a terrorist, then the US would win very soon given the over-abundance of materials and construction advantage that the US has over just about everyone, combined even. But the US doesn't think like a bandit or a burglar. No, the US goes to the UN and talks for 6+ months. Which is thinking like a lawyer, not a burglar. And I think the chief reason for this is because the US Army in 2003 was designed to fight Cold War Russia.

Generals are often said to always be fighting the last war, for better or worse.

To go back to what Cass said at the top, that is the reason why I sometimes refer to the Mass Sepsis Mind as psychologically torturing defenseless Americans. Because that is essentially what they are doing. Not by reporting bad news, but by purposefully inducing depression in their target audience. You have all seen people give bad news, who either tried to compound the misery or lessen it. And you've seen people who don't give a damn as well. (Kerry)

It would be because I hate and fear it so.

Those that are the most afraid of violence and cruelty, often are the best at violence and cruelty. Whether because of preparation or motivation or something else. Pacifists often become one of the most warlike people you've ever seen when their very destruction is at hand and they are forced to fight. Course, this might not be true anymore given the world wide indoctrination program going on. But it certainly is still true for democracies and republics like America.

Blonde curls and rosy cheeks notwithstanding, I am in charge of everything; a miniature She Who Must Be Obeyed ready to take on imaginary monsters, wayward puppies and anything else that requires a gentle but firm talking to. But all my bottled up sassiness was just an act.

She Who Must Not Be Named ; ) Of course, Bill might wish to challenge the sassiness being an act part.

Motivation is a relevant topic given how it reflects upon whether people wish to know about military history not. The greatest motivation is the sense of personal safety and survival. If a person believes that there is a threat, then that person will likely prepare for such a threat.

Forty five years later I still recall running from the room to hide on the stairs with my hands over my ears, because I never could bear to hear that anyone had been hurt.

Those individuals, often classical liberals, that cannot tolerate the idea of violence inflicted upon innocents often are the ones most prepared against such. Both because of their personal abhorence, and thus motivation, as well as their belief in human dignity and rights as well as personal initiative and independence.

However, there is another method by which one may abhor violence. And that is the repression of the very idea that there can be such a threat. Denial in essence. Or projection and displacement even. A person may control his mind or his mind may control and protect that person for the person's own good, if the person feels unsuitable to protecting his own fragile psyche.

That is what psychological defense mechanisms are, really. The mind protecting you because you can't protect yourself or it.

Blonde curls

Hey. Didn't you tell me not to mention "blonde" around Bill? Has he been taking tranquilizers, is that why you aren't worried?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 31, 2007 02:01 PM

Reality is over-rated. That is why we have Hollywood and the media.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 31, 2007 02:21 PM

Which is what I think is happening with US forces in Iraq and what almost happened with US forces in Vietnam.

We were actually damn' *good* at "out-Charlie-ing Charlie" at the small unit level. The breakdown occurred (as you observed) at the higher echelons, when they studied the after-action reports but never glanced at the unit war diaries. The AARs gave them the Big Picture -- the war diaries would have told them how it got painted.

Has he been taking tranquilizers, is that why you aren't worried?

No, she's not worried because she *knows* me...

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 03:33 PM

But I am not a blonde anymore, and 3 year old blondes are not the kind I worry about with Bill :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 31, 2007 03:34 PM

...and what a big softie I really am...

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 03:47 PM

...and how I can't access my photo archives over here...

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 03:48 PM

...and 3 year old blondes are not the kind I worry about with Bill.

It's the three-year old *picture* of the blonde she's panicky about.

Grumpf. You're safe for at least a couple of weeks, yet...

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 03:52 PM

I was shot down and wounded the Eastertide Offensive on 28 April 1972. As we walked out to our F4E, we knew we would likely not survive and said so.

I you want the details, see Old War Dogs


Posted by: arch at August 31, 2007 06:50 PM

Arch, you would have felt right at home flying CAs in Hueys. We felt like that on *most* days, not just during the multimonth "campaigns"...

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 07:24 PM

Of course, Bill might wish to challenge the sassiness being an act part.

Mmmmmmmmnnnnnnnn -- nope.

Posted by: BillT at August 31, 2007 07:27 PM

I can't remember but were the NVA using Soviet supplied MIGs, the ones that outflew and outgunned (.50 caliber) American jets? Or was that Korea?

It surprised me, after hearing all about the vaunted and unmatched American air power blowing little people up with abandon from Hollywood and the media, that the United States once did not have air supremacy.

Course that didn't stop the Left talking about the US bombing folks out of hand, neither back then or now.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 31, 2007 09:39 PM

But I am not a blonde anymore, and 3 year old blondes are not the kind I worry about with Bill :p

That's definitely a point, Cass.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 31, 2007 09:41 PM

Ymar - In Korea, the MiG-15 was a big shockeroo -- it was faster, more maneuverable and had heavier armament than the WWII vintage F-4Us we sent over originally. Which is what you'd expect from a jet, but the Air Force wasn't expecting to fight jets. So they fielded the F-86, which was designed specifically to counter the MiG-15. But they stuck six .50 cals in it; the MiG-15 was armed with cannons -- two 23mm and one 37mm. Shorter range, but more punch.

Which brings us to Vietnam, in which the Air Force wasn't expecting to fight against jets with guns, so they didn't put guns on their jets.

The NVAF had a mixed bag of Korean-vintage MiG-15s, post-Korean MiG-17s, and (at the time) top-of-the-line MiG-21s -- MiG-21s are still staples in a lot of air forces worldwide. We didn't have anything in its class except for the F-4. And we didn't have any fighters armed with guns. The MacNamara crowd had decided that guns on an airplane were icky and warlike, but missiles (fitting their enamoration with hi-tech) were not icky, even if they were still warlike. It would have worked, if engagement ranges were measured in miles rather than meters and -- ummmmm -- if the *missiles* had worked in the first place.

The idiots in DC sent our first fighters into combat armed with the Sparrow, a first-generation radar-guided spear which had a history of not being able to lock onto a moving target and, if it *did* lock on, not exploding when it got there...

Posted by: BillT at September 1, 2007 12:06 AM

...and don't get me started on the Rules of Engagement.

Posted by: BillT at September 1, 2007 12:08 AM

It's a good thing we have a "broken" military now, eh?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 1, 2007 10:45 AM

Here's a propaganda movie that if showed during Vietnam, might have raised morale to resist the almost suicidal depression caused by the media.

10 minute dogfight

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 1, 2007 10:50 AM

...might have raised morale to resist the almost suicidal depression caused by the media.

At home or over where we were?

We didn't get suicidally depressed. We just figured everybody at home was smoking dope...

Posted by: BillT at September 1, 2007 07:40 PM

It's a good thing we have a "broken" military now, eh?

Let's have the courtesy of a keyboard alert when you do that, okay?

Darn. Coffee all over my almost-clean shirt...

Posted by: BillT at September 1, 2007 07:43 PM

At home or over where we were?

At home. Depression may be fought off by doing something, whether mental exercise or physical exercise. Those sitting in front of the brain tube could do little to nothing, except protest and therefore protest they did. Either that or go insane. Though some went both ways.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 2, 2007 10:56 AM

Bill, I found Kaplan's article on the Vietnam war very interesting. Especially since the Vietnam vets figured out a way to do what we are doing in Iraq, yet it took years for us to conduct the same strategy with thousands rather than handfuls.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 2, 2007 11:16 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)