Thursday, January 11, 2007

The art of going to war

There is a right and a wrong way to go to war.  No, this is not a commentary on the present situation in Iraq.

You should never, ever start a war unless you intend on never, ever fighting that war again.  If your intent with regards to going to war is a small, incremental gain then there is no point in mobilizing in the first place.  Either crush your opponent, or don’t bother.

For example, WWI never ended.  We signed a cease fire and went right back to war in WWII.  WWII ended with absolute surrenders and we have not had to go back and refight that war.  It was a brutal exercise that involved carpet bombing, fire bombing, targeting civilian populations, nuclear weaponry, and flat out barbarity.  Today our moral sensitivities won’t allow for that.  In a more barbaric time in order to subdue a city you would simply burn it down and kill everyone as they fled. 

No more problem city.  No more problem citizens.  You will never, ever have to fight that war again.

The problem with fighting a war the right way is that it is so absolutely barbaric.  I worry for and about anyone who is ever excited about the prospect of going to war.  Even professional soldiers aren’t excited about the tasks they, as soldiers, perform.  It is simply a job and they do it.  Old soldiers from WWII are proud of their service, but generally their deeds still haunt them.  That is the nature of war.

It is brutal.

It is horrific.

But only if done right.

The ironic thing is that in order to “improve” warfare we have sanitized it and made it more morally acceptable by removing the most horrific of weapons and increasing the distance at which the weapons we do have are lethal.  Airmen may never see their targets with they eyes God gave them.  Soldiers may never see the whites of the eyes of their enemies.

It has been scrubbed of anything offensive and boiled down into a video game where there are targets, but not people.  Our soldiers are not expected to stay out in the field for longer than several months and then when the current rotation is over they’re not expected to go back in the field for some time.  When their home time is cut short, or their assignments lengthened, it is a tragic event.

A drone will fly overhead and “eliminate an objective” and we are not left to consider that the objective woke up, brushed his teeth, kissed his child, and then was blown to smithereens by a faceless and nameless adversary.

The ironic thing about making it more sanitized and easier on our conscience is that it is so much easier to go to war today than ever before.  As brutal as the effects of war are, the act of waging war has become little more than plugging in a video game—except, of course, for the soldiers actually involved in urban combat.

The problem with “improving” warfare is that the new and improved warfare is far, far too easy to enter into because it is perceived as far, far less brutal an event than it used to be.


War is hell.

Unfortunately, sanitized war is even more hellish than mere war.


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