bitter sanity

Wake up and smell the grjklbrxwg, earth beings.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

[posted by jaed at 2:44 PM]
Levels of warfare
Donald Sensing posts on what we might do in response to a nuclear strike (responding to a Dean Esmay post on the subject):
...let us accept Dean's first premise, that an American city might suffer a catastrophic strike by al Qaeda that would kill many, many thousands of citizens. Imagine an atomic truck bomb in an American metropolis. Imagine 30,0000 dead and 60,000 injured, or more.

What should America do in response?

I reject a nuclear response that seeks simply to lash out at presumed enemies and make Arabs suffer for suffering's sake. Killing just to kill would not be warranted even under such grievous circumstances.

Such an attack must evoke a severe American response, but the first question is whether al Qaeda's attack would mean that we should change our basic strategic aims , the foundation upon which everything else depends:
... to inculcate far-reaching reforms within Arab societies themselves that will depress the causes of radical, violent Islamism. This task shall take a generation, at least; President Bush has said on multiple occasions that the fight against terror will occupy more presidencies than his own.
I say that a K-strike against America would make this objective more urgent, not negate it ("K-strike" being shorthand for "catastrophic strike," borrowing from old military abbreviations).
This prompted some ruminations on levels and ways of waging total war.

  1. The first and oldest is the simplest: destroy the enemy. Kill all of them. Level or take their cities. Don't leave even one alive, and solve the entire problem that way: no enemy, no war. (I take this to be what Donald believes Dean is advocating, although I think Dean is actually advocating something else.)

  2. The second is the one the Romans practiced famously with Carthage: you don't need to kill all the enemy if you kill their civilization. Tear down the cities, transport the entire population far away and scatter them (selling into slavery is optional, but it prevents them from regrouping), sow the ground with salt to make sure no one can even settle in that land again.

    War is something fought by a civilization, not individuals: destroy the civilization, and make it impossible for the individuals to reconsitute that civilization, and the war is over for good.

  3. The third is the one we practiced against Germany and Japan in WWII: wreak havoc upon the enemy, fight them with dreadful weapons, bring home to them the fact that they are defeated utterly and at your mercy, accept nothing short of unconditional surrender; then reconstitute and rebuild their civilization, preserving everything you can, but making sure that it's incapable of continuing the war.

  4. The fourth is what we're attempting incompletely in Iraq (I say "incompletely" because I think that to have a chance of working, such an attempt ultimately needs to encompass all of Arabia, not just Iraq): make a distinction between the leaders and the people, defeat the former while doing your best not to damage or kill the latter; then bring goodies to build their civic infrastructure up to reasonable levels while creating new governmental structures.

    The idea here is that without the enemy leadership, the enemy will not want to continue the war, and the problem will be solved that way.

These four methods of war-waging appear in historical order. They are also ordered by how damaging they are to the enemy population. What may not be as evident is that they are in reverse order by how complicated they are to execute and how risky they are.

In commenting on Donald's post, first I should say that I do not agree that his formulation is quite basic enough. My idea of a basic goal (and no doubt Donald's) is "win the war"; the strategy he describes is one way to do so, the way we are pursuing. But what if it becomes evident that this strategy is one that cannot succeed? Or, even, that it is too risky and will cost us too many lives?

I see the warnings about nuclear response to nuclear attack as statements that, in the case of nuclear attack, the costs and risks of pursuing method #4 will have grown too great, and we must revert to, at best, method #3 (a la WWII), fought with nuclear weapons in the cities because that is the fastest way to inflict a defeat of the kind the method calls for.

This method of warfare does have some advantages against an enemy driven by ideology, because the sensation of certain defeat discredits the ideology that has led people down that road. The Jihadist ideology does seem to incorporate a certainty of victory against the kufr - earthly, military victory, not merely spiritual victory - so a military defeat that is sufficiently tangible would indeed help discredit it in the eyes of Arabs. But a "tangible military defeat" necessarily involves many deaths, much destruction. It's not preferable, unless we find we cannot win the war with any less-destructive method.

I've written briefly before about the fear that, if we don't deal with this now, eventually the attacks will ramp up to the point where genocide becomes an option. It is a possibility. It could be accomplished in days if someone decides to do it. It may be necessary to understand that this is one in the sheaf of possibilities to be willing to make war in the first place, as a means to avoid the even worse catastrophe.

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