At War With...?

Obama declares war on What Shall Not Be Named.

It seems that, once again, "the war drums are beating along the Potomac."  On both sides of the aisle - indeed, on both sides of the Atlantic - movers and shakers are looking in horror at the bloodbath in Syria and Iraq.  In a rare example of bipartisanship, politicians on all sides are demanding that the U.S. and the world use military force to put an end to the inhuman barbarities going on there.  The TV pictures of thousands of starving women and children hiding on a barren, remote mountain peak in northern Iraq are enough to shake anyone, as is news of the forced conversion of Yazidis at the point of the sword.  So far as we are aware, it's the first time the word "Yazidi" has been spoken in American news, ever.

So a few far-sighted politicians are realizing that there's a battle to be fought against evil forces.  But against who or what exactly?  Ah, that no-one can say.  Barack Obama, with all the news sources at his command, still can't make up his mind whether the enemy in Iraq is "ISIS" or "ISIL" or something else, much less what that acronym stands for.  Even if we could agree on the name, that name wouldn't explain the same behaviors a thousand miles away in Libya.  Although our media offer no serious discussion of what motivates these barbarians beyond the usual human lust for power, there's something different about the latest barbarian hordes.  While there have been countless conquerors throughout history, very few go to such trouble to wipe out and destroy the lives of conquered civilians instead of taxing them.  Usually, victors find defeated people to be a useful resource to help them prepare for the next battle with whomever's up the road.

Looking back at history and into the archives of military strategy, it should be obvious that we're missing something vitally important.  Thousands of years ago, the great military strategist Sun Tzu wrote:

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

America has the most competent, best trained, and by far the best equipped and most mobile military the world has ever seen.  Despite all those advantages, somehow we haven't managed to truly win a war in living memory.  If our problem is not the bravery and skill of our soldiers, nor of the weapons with which they are equipped, it would seem that the problem is more fundamental - and it's hard to find a more fundamental requirement than knowing your enemy.  This vital responsibility is precisely what our Commander in Chief and every other opinion maker the world around has failed to do - or more accurately, wilfully refused to do.  We're fortunate that ISIS, or whomever they are, is so barbaric that even our most fervent forces of cultural equivalence are beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, some cultures might, but only might, mind you, be better than others.

Are we to endure yet another vastly expensive and draining war that, at the end of the day, accomplishes nothing?  If we don't know what we're fighting against we'll never know when we've defeated it, or more likely we'll just get tired and go home without finishing the job.  America has been protected from much of the world's violence by two large oceans.  We've got used to the luxury of being able to retreat behind our sea-walls.  Can we still rely on that when the world's worst hellholes are a half-day's flight away, and when our majority party has been wholly committed for half a century to importing people from everywhere else without the slightest regard for their character or beliefs?

Maybe we're fated to keep boxing in the dark against we known not what.  Or maybe, as Scragged has said over and over, the identity of the enemy is staring us in the face but our leaders simply refuse to see it.  Perhaps our Gentle Readers are more perceptive than they?

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

Funny thing about War. (and we have been over complicating it since the conclusion of WWII - in my opinion)

While it is also known as the "Last Argument of Kings" it is also one of those states which could be entered without the ascent of the other party. (The other side only stands to lose, if they simply do not commit)

With that said, it is clear that we are already the recipients of such a declaration. (The die has been cast, like it or not) The problem here is; our politicians...who refuse to also understand what war is...a Last argument of Kings. War is not meant to be lead by politicians, it is to be led by Generals. (Since the political way out of a conflict, has long since past, since the shooting began.) It is meant to settle the argument by the simple idea of "Who ever is left standing, wins (or correct)"

We can have the best of every advantage to any armed conflict, and still come up with a less than satisfactory result (complete and utter victory...their inability, and unwillingness to continue the conflict) if we continue to allow our politicians to pretend that they are Generals, and our Generals to be pretend that they are politicians.

We will never win, till those 3 things are understood
1) War is not mutually entered (like say a treaty) - it is unilateral
2) Politicians are not Generals
3) Generals are not politicians

August 29, 2014 5:31 PM
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