If you want a shorter rebuilding process, then we're going to have to wage less humane wars. The enemy -- as well as innocent civilians -- must be bombed into quivering terror. Otherwise, we displace aggression but don't destroy it.And in one of the columns two or three best laugh lines, Ann wrote:
Americans are weaker for having seen that kind of carnage in World War II. ... If we're going to have humane wars, they are going to take a little bit longer. That wouldn't be so bad, except that it gives fifth columnists more time to demoralize Americans and convince them that we are losing a war in the paramount struggle of our time.
Also this week, we celebrate a fast-track to freedom that doesn't require 40 years in the desert, but as I recall, the suggestion that we convert Muslims to Christianity was shot down early on in this war.If you're going to insist on fighting low-casualty wars, you will actually have long drawn-out quagmires and high-casualty wars because conclusive and unquestioned victory become difficult. This paradox, one might call it the "less-blood = less-blood fallacy," is of course self-evident nonsense if one thinks as natural-law idealists do (with their implicit teleological models of movement, objective justice and universal good). They believe in some natural relationship between one side's bad things and the other's (this is nonsense in a world of conflict and value plurality). They also believe that stigmatizing something as immoral, even successfully, means one won't do it. But the world of conflict (which is not the world of cooperation and the surest sign of a fool is his not distinguishing the two) is almost the opposite -- saying "we'll never do X" is the surest way of finding yourself forced to do X, because you give an enemy determined to defeat you an overwhelming incentive to push you toward that Hobson's choice -- "defeat or X."
There is plenty of historical precedent to make nonsense of the notion that wartime kindness makes things better. After all, which World War and subsequent peace was harsher on Germany? No question about that. In World War 2, Germany was bombed into oblivion and completely overrun, civilians were killed by the millions, the country was divided de-facto-in-perpetuity (which turned out to be 45 years), Germans throughout Eastern Europe were ethnically cleansed and dumped into (mostly) West Germany, and the political culture was totally reoriented (in two different directions in its East and West, no less) by the occupying conquerors who themselves had a falling out and planned Germany as the site for the next war.
But which peace proved more durable? The peace of 1919 or of 1945? If you look at the world through rational moralistic lenses based on the objective details beforehand, you will of course give the wrong answer.
Versailles was at one and the same time too harsh and not harsh enough (another paradox that escapes as "a contradiction" those who think foreign policy is about applying the "golden rule" or natural-law moral categories). Versailles was a national humiliation that angered Germany without rendering it harmless. Especially humiliating was the "war-guilt" clauses by the very moral-minded and highly religioise Woodrow Wilson. Though here again, whatever might be said about that, it hardly compared culturally to the post-WW2 shaming. Which is the more-potent symbol of evil in the world today -- the Prussian Eagle or the swastika? Verdun or Auschwitz?
If cruelty or brutality produced bad results like some law of human behavior (and quoting an epigrammatic Chesterton assertion doesn't impress me), then World War I would have produced the more durable peace. But it didn't. That's why there even WAS a "World War Two." So start at the drawing board. Without moralistic preconceptions.
If you're not prepared to do some bad shit at the start, you may find yourself forced to do worse shit later. Or leave the field to those who will do really worse shit later still (this was the reason I have never taken seriously the "ius in bello" complaints about the Iraq war -- well, that and the utterly ahistorical perspective they inevitably melted into). I'm not sure anything short of genocide would reliably pacify Iraq now. And I'm equally confident both that America will not do that and that Iraq is not short of people who will if the US should leave.
As always, Machiavelli said it best, in The Prince, Ch. 17:
Coming now to the other qualities mentioned above, I say that every prince ought to desire to be considered clement and not cruel. Nevertheless he ought to take care not to misuse this clemency. Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. And if this be rightly considered, he will be seen to have been much more merciful than the Florentine people, who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty, permitted Pistoia to be destroyed.* Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only.A future Machiavelli could write the Iraq War epitaph as "the Americans who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty,¹ permitted Iraq to be destroyed ... by allowing disorders to arise through too much mercy ... that were wont to injure the whole Iraqi people."
* During the rioting between the Cancellieri and Panciatichi factions in 1502 and 1503.
Indeed, the one part of the liberal critique of the war that is accurate is essentially this ... that the US went in with too few troops to establish ourselves as boss and guarantee beyond question a secure post-war environment.² Americans don't instinctively understand another fact about war that is counterintuitive -- the point of war is to break the other guy's will to resist and so it isn't over when they winner claims victory (much less according to some rationalistic standard) but when the loser acknowledges defeat. We can conquer Baghdad and rout an organized army, but that doesn't count unless it wins cultural acquiescence, and a quick relatively bloodless rout by a small-but-vastly-superior force won't achieve that. To use a sports analogy, the Rumsfeld-"transformed" American Army fought as if it were high-school wrestling and first-to-score-a-pin wins (and it is unbeatable on that particular mat). But war, or at least a war with an essentially pre-modern honor culture, is really more like ancient Greek pankration where you fight to break the other's will and force him into the dishonor of surrender.
¹ Unsuccessfully, BTW, though not for objective reasons. As Torq notes below with the "But you lynch Negroes" bit of history (which I always knew but didn't realize had now entered East European languages in irony) -- the charge of "America has sinned and so is unworthy to [whatever]" will be said by those anti-Americans determined to say it -- the Guardian, the New York Times, Iran, Mark Shea, etc. -- regardless of what we actually do. Even if the US acts the Blessed Virgin Mary herself until the end of time, "but you lynched Negroes" will still be true. And spare the "cry me a river" act about Abu Ghraib or Maher Arar. By world-historical comparative standards of war brutality, the US in Iraq doesn't even register. Fallujah still exists; Carthage does not; Hama does not; Lidice does not; Thebes does not.
² Not that squeamish "peace and love" liberals would have actually done what would have been needed, mind you. They get the vapors over four hippies at Kent State. Putting down Sunni rioters? Tis to laugh.