What Price Victory?

America has not won a war since World War II. We have also not lost a war since then, which is all the more troubling.

Beginning with Korea, America entered the war on sound principle to repel the unprovoked North Korean invasion. Then, the first inkling of our tendency toward mission creep began. On reaching the 38th parallel, US/UN forces crossed the border and became an army of invasion rather than defense.

MacArthur saw a chance to push on into China, although officially it was a mopping-up operation of the North Korean Army. However, the Chinese had other ideas and began flooding North Korea with several hundred thousand Chinese soldiers.

MacArthur ignored intelligence reports about Chinese intervention, leading to one of the most horrific engagements in modern warfare, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. The 1st Marine Division, vastly outnumbered and surrounded, fought their way out with all their dead and wounded. The level of American courage and determination was unmatched. The heroism was astounding.

But was it necessary?

The Korean War is technically still going on under an Armistice without finality.

Just three short years after active combat in Korea ended, the first casualties of Vietnam occurred. Then, in 1965, Johnson escalated the war based on what was almost certainly a false report of an attack by North Vietnamese gunboats on the USS Maddox, a Navy destroyer operating in the Gulf of Tonkin.

The premise was to support the people of South Vietnam. The reality was to create a buffer against communist expansion into Southeast Asia. There was no clear path to victory. No definable goal. And no recognition that many of the Viet Cong fighters were embedded within the very people we claimed to be supporting.

57000 dead and hundreds of thousands of wounded Americans later—not to mention the millions of Vietnamese casualties—we left with no meaningful achievements to show for it.

Once again, the bravery, heroism, and fighting ability of the American military in Vietnam was unmatched. But, we’d spent nineteen years there and no one can define what we achieved.

Then came the first Gulf War. Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the US-led UN coalition pushed the Iraqis out of Kuwait in a masterfully executed battle plan. They entered Iraq and destroyed the Iraqi military. When it became clear that the battle had changed into a massacre of Iraqi troops, we stopped.

In this war, President George H. W. Bush, a veteran of World War II, had set a goal, accomplished the plan, and achieved victory. It would be the closest thing to finality in American combat history for more than thirty years.

Unfortunately, it would be a lesson his son, George W. Bush, would fail to heed.

On September 11, 2001, a non-state force harbored in Afghanistan by the Taliban government perpetrated an act of war against the United States of America. President George W. Bush ordered the military to war, rightfully so.

We attacked Afghanistan and obliterated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, forcing Osama Bin Laden into hiding. Then, for some inexplicable reason, when we knew with a high degree of certainty that Bin Laden was in Tora Bora, we choose not to put troops on the ground and finish him off. One of the main reasons we entered Afghanistan was to capture or kill Bin Laden, and we failed to do so.

It would take the rest of Bush’s time in office and into the Obama Presidency before we accomplished this stated purpose for invading Afghanistan.

But more troubling than that, while still engaged in combat in Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq based on flawed or fraudulent intelligence and started a whole new era of warfare.

And this is where the wheels came off American policy on fighting wars. It is why we find ourselves, twenty years after we first invaded Afghanistan, just now ending our involvement. It is why we still have several thousand troops in Iraq. Troops and personnel are hunkered down in the American compound in Iraq because it is too dangerous to travel throughout most of the country.

It is why we cannot know the price of victory when we cannot even define it.

President Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan was the right decision. There is little justification for remaining that bears any resemblance to our initial reason for being there. If we believe we have both the obligation and capability to use the military to change the many areas of the world where human rights abuses occur, we will need a much larger military.

And when faced with the reality of the very victims of human rights abuses at our own southern border, we choose to build walls and lock them in cages. The disingenuous nature of such behavior is appalling.

The execution of the plan to evacuate Afghanistan was rife with problems. But one must keep in mind the chaos that ensued on the streets of Kabul was inevitable. Once the first Afghan began leaving the country, chaos would inevitably arise.

Biden will have to answer for his handling of the withdrawal, and for the deaths of the thirteen Americans, but at least he won’t have to answer for any more needless deaths in Afghanistan. Doing the right thing poorly is better than perpetuating an error perfectly. Until we can define the goals of military intervention, we must be judicious in our willingness to deploy our troops in harm’s way.

America has not won a war since World War II. America has not lost a war since World War II. We keep substituting Pyrrhic victories for genuine success. In every war we’ve fought since World War II, the United States military has never been defeated on the battlefield. Yet this matters little if we cannot define victory.

We cannot continue to win every battle, yet lose precious American lives in ill-defined wars. If a never ending armistice in Korea, nineteen years in Vietnam, and twenty years in Afghanistan isn’t proof enough our policy needs to change, we are doomed to repeat our own foolish, and deadly, mistakes.

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JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

Not Another Vietnam

Afghanistan is not Vietnam. There are similarities, but major differences.

Vietnam had a thousand-year-long history as a country, at various times invaded by China, Korea, and Japan. But the Vietnamese were always one people with historical traditions, rich cultural heritage, and a primarily common language.

Afghanistan is a remnant of British colonialism and first arose as a modern nation in the late 18th century. The country was used as a buffer between British India and the Russian Empire, with the Durand Line formed in 1893. This artificial border, not recognized by any Afghan government, was a source of conflict with Pakistan once that country achieved independence.

One more battle in a long line of battles in Afghansistan

The most telling difference between Afghanistan and Vietnam is the motivation for us being there in the first place.

We started inserting military advisers into Vietnam in 1956 to assist the government installed by the allies after WWII to rule South Vietnam while North Vietnam—once again an artificial border set by outside forces at the 17th parallel—was supported and ruled by Communists.

Vietnam was a result of the cold war intended to stop the spread of communism. Our entry into Afghanistan was in response to a direct attack by forces harbored within the country. Herein lies one significant difference. One war resulted from the idea that communism would spread throughout Southeast Asia and continue to other areas. The other, from an unprovoked attack against the United States.

There is another similarity between the two wars—no clearly articulated goal. In Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, the enemy never won any major battle against US forces. The 1968 TET offensive in Vietnam—which many are using to compare the situation in Afghanistan—was a strategic disaster on the battlefield for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army. But it was a political victory in the media because of the outlandish predictions of the MAC-V (Military Assistance Command-Vietnam) about the military ability of the Viet Cong.

The most significant similarity lies in the on-field performance of the Afghan military and the similar performance of the South Vietnamese military once the bulk of American combat forces were withdrawn.

Absent American leadership and resources—primarily air support and logistics—both military forces collapsed. Within these organizations, many courageous soldiers, marines, and airmen fought for their country. Still, individual courage is no substitute for a sense of national identity worth defending. Command collapse always leads to battlefield failure, no matter the level of personal resiliency.

In the running up  of troop levels in Viet Nam, President Johnson—who privately was reluctant to escalate the war—once said, “If Vietnamese boys aren’t willing to die for their country, why should I send American boys to die for them?” Tragic that Johnson didn’t have the courage of his convictions and refuse to escalate the war. Perhaps it would have set a more meaningful and utilitarian precedent.

The war in Afghanistan stopped being justified the moment after we achieved some level of success twenty years ago. Unfortunately, since then, Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump failed to recognize the hopelessness of the situation.

Now it falls on Biden to make the hard choice. None of his options are good ones; getting American forces and civilians out of Afghanistan is the least worse. The images of American helicopters extracting personnel from the rooftops in Kabul are eerily similar to Saigon in 1975. Still, the geopolitical reality could not be more different.

Almost 3000 US service personnel died in the war in Afghanistan. We spent trillions of dollars trying to create a stable country. Our military dominance was never seriously challenged, but our political and nation-building track record over twenty years and four Presidential administrations is a disaster.

In Vietnam, we fought a war with an artificial line of demarcation called the DMZ behind which the enemy enjoyed full protection from American ground troops. In Afghanistan, while the US and Afghan forces controlled the major cities, the Taliban controlled the predominately rural rest of the country mostly immune from significant threats.

Neither situation is the way one wins a war, it is the way one maintains a stalemate. And, like in chess, when one resigns the other achieves a measure of victory without ever capturing the King.

A war without a clear measure of success is doomed to failure.

Unless Afghanistan once again poses a direct threat to the US, let those in Afghanistan fight for their own freedom. If we want to keep troops everywhere in the world that poses a potential threat to us, we’re going to need a much bigger military.

There is a reason Afghanistan is called the “Graveyard of Empires.”

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JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

The Price of War

“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”

George Washington

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the United States has engaged in seven wars. There have been other minor skirmishes and short engagements (although they were hardly minor to those killed or wounded), but for my purposes, let us focus on the seven big ones and the cost in lives.

In two of these engagements, World War I and II, we had a clear and well-understood purpose; to defeat Germany and her allies. We achieved both missions, but the cost was high.

The number of Americans killed or wounded during the First World War was 320,518. During the Second World War, the number was 1,076, 245. Nevertheless, at least these wars had a defined goal.

Dwight David Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander during the war, had this to say of his experiences during both these wars.

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

The end of World War II brought with it atomic (soon followed by nuclear) weapons and the Cold War. Faced with a growing number of nuclear-armed nations, some under Communist or Socialist dictators such as Stalin and Mao, Americans taught their children to “duck and cover” and prayed the nuclear winter never came.

Nevertheless, we continued to build more weapons of increasingly devastating power. So powerful, man could destroy himself and the planet.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Albert Einstein


In Europe and America, there’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mister Khrushchev said, ‘We will bury you’
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
It’d be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too

How can I save my little boy
From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?
There is no monopoly of common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

Russians by Sting

Nevertheless, the threat of such powerful weapons did little to slow the often gleeful rush to war. Particularly when halting the spread of communism.

1950 brought us the North Korean invasion of South Korea. Two countries artificially created after the Second World War by the victors dividing the spoils. We rushed to aid our side in the south.

It would cost us 128,650 dead or wounded Americans. We fought the North Korean army to the Chosen Reservoir, where China, fearing US troops on her border, entered the war.

In thirty-degree below zero weather, 30,000 Marines, surrounded by 150,000 Chinese soldiers, fought their way to the coast taking all their dead and wounded. My father was one of those Marines. He earned three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star during his time in Korea.

He bore the physical scars with pride. The psychological scars remained buried, something for his family (and thousands of other families of veterans) to deal with alone.

That war is still officially in a state of truce. No one won. However, we had somewhat of a clear intent in entering the war, just no clear picture of how it would end. It was the beginning of a dangerous trend in foreign policy.

In August 1964, Congress passed one of the most significant, misunderstood, and troubling Joint Acts ever, The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Abdicating its Constitutional authority to declare war, Congress allowed the President to send troops into combat.

The act, predicated on the report of an attack on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin by forces of North Vietnam, started us down the routes of involvement in the war in Vietnam.

The attack never happened.

In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson privately confided in an aide, “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

Vietnam cost 211,454 Americans killed or wounded.

In 1973, after eighteen years of American military personnel assisting the South Vietnamese (1955-1973) and eight years of active combat, we declared victory and left.

The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong never won a significant battle against the American forces, achieved no measure of military success, yet when the smoke cleared, the North Vietnamese flag flew in Saigon.

Our purpose in entering the war was unclear, our goal undefined, and the results underscore the error of this policy.

Which brings us to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(1990-1991 First Gulf war Iraq) 1,143 dead or wounded Americans.

Afghanistan (2001- still there) 22,266 dead or wounded Americans.

Iraq (part II 2003-still there) 36,710 dead or wounded Americans.

One would be hard-pressed to define the goals in these conflicts.

One million, seven hundred ninety-six thousand, seven hundred, eighty-six (1,796,786) dead or wounded Americans in wars so far.

To put this in the crude terms of a sports record, we are

Two Wins

One Tie

One Forfeit

Two in never-ending overtime.

However, nothing is sporting or glorious about war.

The troubling part is that we made those decisions while being led by many who had experienced war upfront and personal. We are not in the same circumstances today and we live in a much different geopolitical environment.

One requiring more in-depth deliberation.

Asymmetric warfare, religious zealotry driving suicidal crusades, the proliferation of nuclear material, an immense world-wide arms industry eager to exploit any market all contribute to the complexity.

We have a President who loathes outside advice, operates on “gut” instinct, and has shown by his ADHD-like foreign policy efforts to be ill-equipped for the complexities of the moment.

No one would accuse Mr. Trump of in-depth anything except self-delusion.

President Trump boasts that Saudi Arabia is paying for the presence of our troops in their country. That has to be one of the most astoundingly idiotic things ever said by a President (a fantastic accomplishment), let alone the most indefensible use of the American military.

The American military’s sole purpose is to protect the interests and the people of the United States and our allies. They are not for rent. They never should defend or support the government of a country that funds extremist forms of Islam and motivates much of the unrest in the Middle East.

Remember nineteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi’s. They are not our friends. If we are energy independent, as the President claims we have become on his watch, why do we need Saudi oil?

The clamoring, almost joyful, call for war against Iran when considering our well-established history of wasting American lives in wars with no sense of purpose or goal, should sound a warning.

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore, all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

Voltaire

1,796,786 Americans killed or wounded in wars. We have spent trillions of dollars arming our country. Shattered families, shattered bodies, and shattered dreams are never a reasonable price to pay for the vainglorious pursuit of flawed policies wrapped in patriotic fervor to conceal the cowardly nature and history of the man in the Oval Office.

Southeast Asia Thoughts: Saigon, Cu Chi Tunnels, and the Reminders of War

Saigon, Vietnam, 2018

Since 1975 and the reunification of the country, the official name of Saigon is Ho Chi Minh city. For the locals, they use this as a way of separating the natives from those who came later.

If you refer to the city as Ho Chi Minh city, you are not native. As one travels through the country, the distinct cultural differences from the Mekong Delta to Hoi An to Hue and north are subtle but evident. The majority of the Vietnamese still have an intimate connection to the land and a self-sustaining lifestyle. From the fish traps on the Mekong to the rice paddies, much of their food is grown or caught.

What they don’t use, they sell. Every city, town, or small village has a night market. There are few grocery type stores, their food is bought daily if they cannot grow or catch what they need.

One has to stand in the middle of night market to appreciate it. The ones in the bigger cities are a spectacle. Try to imagine an open-air market, in some cases several city blocks wide, with every manner of familiar and unfamiliar vegetable, live and soon-not-to-be-live fowl, flopping fish, flying fish scales, rising and falling meat cleavers, displaced pig’s snouts, or feet, or some once functioning organ, roiling pots of soup, set to the soundtrack of animated negotiations over price and quality. All permeated with an aroma of coppery blood saturated with garlic and fish sauce, orchids and jasmine, sweat and motorcycle exhaust.  The walkways are slick with a mixture of melted ice, blood, oil, and who knows what else that makes dodging the motorbikes, who cruise through like an armored version of a pedestrian, a challenge.

And that’s just the food area. There are vendors selling everything. All of it genuine fakes with the occasional real thing that “fell off the truck.”

In the bigger cities, a more cosmopolitan world is taking hold. Foreign investment–Chinese, Japanese and South Korean-is altering Vietnamese society with fewer and fewer of the next generation following in their ancestors’ footsteps into the fields.

There is a price to pay for this capitalism within a Socialist government. Those who benefit most from the economic boom are the police, military, and government officials.; their hands out in exchange for favorable access to land, security, and business development.

The local traffic cops stake out prime areas for enforcing traffic using the “pay-on-the-spot” fine collection method. I use the term “traffic enforcement” as a joke, no one follows traffic laws so if you are stopped they consider it a nuisance road toll, pay the fine, and speed off. Usually the wrong way at a rotary.

The more “successful” cops are rewarded with prime posts to enhance their ability to “pay-it-forward” to the commanders.

Socialism indeed.

Corruption is rampant. As we drive by the more ostentatious houses, we are cautiously told the official positions of the owners. The socialist government imposes effective, albeit subtle, control over the general population. Much of their life, from required registration of cell phones with the owner’s picture on file to blocked sites on the internet, is controlled by the government.

The Vietnamese are circumspect in their criticism of officials, but they get the point across. Those in the south, below the old demilitarized zone (DMZ) have more experience with a free capitalist economy, and many openly express their wish that the Americans had never left.

For most, they are free to live their lives as they like while toeing the official line in the public view.

One of the most profoundly striking aspects of Viet Nam (despite our penchant for writing Vietnam, Viet Nam is the proper name) is the attitude toward the “American War.” Now I am not talking about the official government position but that of the everyday Vietnamese.

They take great pride in the reunification of the country. The Vietnamese see Ho Chi Minh as a national hero is the same light as we view Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson. The declaration of independence made by Ho Chi Minh on September 2, 1945, is modeled on our own of 1776.

Yet they harbor no ill-feelings over our time there. There are differences, of course, between the north and south. In the south, they would have preferred us to stick to the original commitment made after World War II and let the Vietnamese determine their own course. In the north, they are a bit less embracing of the newly evolved capitalism driven by tourism and outside investment but see their victory in the south as their manifest destiny.

To the Vietnamese, we are their British.

We tried to prevent self-determination, and they fought to win it. But in this predominantly Buddhist country, the people do not cling to the past. The war is over, and now we can live and let live.

There is another difference between the north, near Hanoi, and the south, near Saigon, that underscores the benefit of an “open” society.

In Hanoi, the streets are dark and dank. People gather in sidewalks, alleyways, and various other locations to cook and eat meals. We think it is a combination of limited space and the heat inside their apartments.  The long-term effect of communism in the north contrasts dramatically with the more vibrant Saigon and the south.

Cu Chi tunnels and the American War

We had the opportunity to tour the Cu Chi tunnels. To say it was troubling is an understatement.

We were warned that the story is told from the perspective of the Viet Cong and their victory over the South. During our visit, a busload of former Viet Cong and NVA military veterans visited the area. A Vietnamese version of the honor flight.

It was difficult to hear the recounting of valor in battle where the soldiers were awarded medals called American Killer Heroes. But such is the fact that victors write history. While the point is often made that the North Vietnamese Army or the Viet Cong never defeated American forces on the battlefield, as a North Vietnamese army officer once said, “that is true and it is also irrelevant.”

Displayed was the shell of a US Army M-48 tank. All of the salvageable pieces were stripped away. Some of the tourists chose to climb on for a picture op. I declined. While I can understand the point of view of those Vietnamese who fought here and destroyed that tank, I chose to honor the memory of the young Americans who likely died there.

It is this failure to recall the horrors and cost of war that drives us to repeat this mistake over and over.

For many Americans, the mention of Vietnam invokes memories of war and the protests against it. Body bags, casualty lists, draft dodgers, and war heroes. The loyalties of the shattered bodies in a body bag or on a battlefield are as irrelevant as who won. 

The dead neither celebrate victory nor rest in defeat. Often the worst casualties of war are those who survive.

War is always the consequences of human frailties. No matter how we justify the need to end it with force, the start of it is always a failure of reason.

There is little nobility on a casualty-strewn battlefield. Severed limbs and shortened lives are not the best of humanity.

One cannot measure past decisions with the standards of the present, but you can use them to illustrate why we failed. And, more importantly, how we need learn from it.

The way to convince young men and women to kill the enemy-often other young men and women themselves-is to dehumanize them.

Turn them into demons and devils beneath human considerations.

To name them gooks, slopes, and chinks.

These are the faces of a gook

IMG_6181

An 88-year-old woman, once the secretary to a military commander during the war, she rides her bike a mile each day to care for a centuries-old temple

 

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2018-04-19 08.58.54

Girls.jpg

20180429082844_IMG_4632

20180429094255_IMG_4658

Combat is a mutual experience where each side demonizes the enemy and tries to kill them. Ideologies are irrelevant to bullets and bombs, and heroes are defined by the victors. It’s easy to kill an epithet, hard to kill a smiling boy named Nguyen, or John, or Le, or Joe.

What I have taken away from all these travels in Southeast Asia is that our misplaced focus on surface differences deters us from seeking commonality. Sitting in a restaurant in Saigon, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Hue, or Hanoi, looking out at the street, it appeared like many of the cities and towns of America as long as you focused on the shared human activity; taking kids to school, carrying home groceries, sipping beer with friends, kids playing in a park. If all you see are differences, you’ve missed the opportunity to see yourself in those very same people.

We are shaped by the geography of our birth yet still share the commonality of our humanity.

Our time in Viet Nam was a lost opportunity. Not caused by those who fought there, but by intolerance, hatred, and insensitivity of those there and in the US whose actions sent us on a collision course.

If anything, we should learn we don’t need to send B-52s or machine guns to free a people. Send tourists with fistfuls of dollars. Let countries and people make their own choices, then wave the flag of the entrepreneur.

Victory is certain.

Until you stand in the Viet Nam of  2018 you can never see how deep the tragedy of the Viet Nam of 1964-1975 really was.

Go there, you will not regret it.

Born in the USA: The Bright Shining Lie of Uninformed Patriotism

Last night we went to the first of six Pawtucket Red Sox games which feature a themed firework display after the game. (I know this may seem like heresy from a Yankee fan, but it is a nice place to watch a game despite the Red Sox aura.)

For the Memorial Day Weekend, the theme was a patriotic one. Commemorating the lives of those who served in the military and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, defending the freedom of this country and others around the world.

There is much for which this country should be proud. We’ve been willing to sacrifice our young men and women for our ideals.  In the words of President John F. Kennedy, we’ve been willing to,

“pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

We survived and thrived because we valued dedication, intelligence, and determination in pursuit of these ideals. We haven’t always been perfect, no nation or people are, but we have always been willing to learn from our mistakes.

I wonder where that brilliance has gone.

One song chosen to accompany the spectacular and inspiring display was the Bruce Springsteen song, “Born in America.”

Odd how an anti-war, anti-military-industrial complex song critical of the way we treat veterans has somehow become a rousing “hurray for America” theme. It strikes me as an indictment of our inability to think things through anymore. Our failure to find solutions to problems. Favoring slogans to rouse emotions over doing the difficult things.

To quote the lines I found most troubling amid the applause and cheers of the crowd,

“Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the yellow man”

I couldn’t help but notice the families of many Southeast Asians in the crowd. I wonder what they’d think if they knew the lyrics?

This underscores the rising rampant dangerous nationalism within this country that screams for a “target of opportunity.”  Today’s target is Islam.

But our failing to even bother to understand the meaning of these songs we use as a soundtrack to patriotic displays underscores our failure to understand the nature of warfare today.

In World War I and II we helped defeat a military-supported government seeking to impose themselves on others. One can debate the many reasons behind how these wars started, but the goal was clear.

Today is a different world.  Today is a world of asymmetric warfare requiring asymmetric thinking. We face any enemy of ideas, not divisions and tanks.

We must fight the genesis of these concepts of twisted jihad with intelligence and thoughtful policies, not B-1 stealth bombers and cruise missiles.

Weapons such as these have their purpose, make no doubt about it, but we could double the stockpile of weapons and it would have no effect on the enemy. Calling for the leveling of Mecca or Medina may make for rousing sound bites but would be a wasteful, inhumane, and ineffective policy.

Perhaps we should think about the ideas behind Springsteen’s lyrics.

Wars are started by ambitious politicians but fought by young men and women.

Wars are won and lost by these same politicians. (See Vietnam as an example.)

Our enemies today are enemies of everyone who opposes their ideas. We must bring the world together to fight these insidious twisted 14th-century concepts, not push ourselves into an America first isolationism.

Before entering into both World Wars, we sought to stay out of the “European” problem. That was the world where most people never traveled more than fifty miles from where they were born. Where communications between countries took weeks.

That is not today’s world.

The time of unleashing “Ole’ Blood and Guts” military leaders of Patton, Eisenhower, Marshall, and MacArthur is over. Now, more than ever, we need intelligent policies that utilize the selective application of military power to compliment our once formidable determination.

It is the only way to change the conditions that breed these terrorists.

We have the big stick, we need to remember to walk softly.

I doubt I’ll see it in my lifetime, but I hope for a day when we celebrate the passing of the last veteran. For when that day comes, all the sacrifices of every veteran will be worth it.

Russian Hacking, Spokesman Lacking

The Russians hacked and attempted to influence an election. Those who find this troubling consider this a threat to our democracy, some call it an act of war. Those in the Trump camp, who find it inconvenient to their position, call it “alleged” hacking.

I think the evidence presented by the President is compelling. It is laughable to think President Obama would use his last few weeks in office to create a fraudulent international crisis with the Russians, then walk away. That is beyond any rational thinking.

The lack of rationality part is the problem.

Sean Spicer, the incoming White House spokesman, had this to say,

“Nobody by any way or shape is suggesting that that’s acceptable behavior,” Spicer said. “But I don’t believe once I’ve ever seen an interview where anyone at the DNC was ever asked a question about whether they take any responsibility for what clearly appears to be a lax effort on them to protect their own networks.”

So, if I understand his argument, he’s saying the Democrats are at fault for the Russian hacking. At least he’s not denying it happened. But his argument is like blaming the way a woman dressed for her being raped. She is responsible for letting the crime happen.

I mean, come on. Look at her. She was asking for it.

So was the DNC, apparently.

If that’s the argument the future White House spokesman is making, this is going to be an interesting year. Spicer sounds more like a spin doctor for the Russians. Maybe we should see who is signing his paycheck? If it wasn’t so serious, it would be hysterical.

 

Better Way of War: Learning from Star Trek

As I predicted in an earlier piece, (https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2015/11/14/roots-of-evil/),
France has responded in kind to the attacks in Paris. They’ve launched a two-pronged assault, using Law Enforcement to arrest and seize terrorists within their borders and using the might of their military on targets in Syria.

The use of the police to investigate and arrest those responsible I applaud. I hope it results in the dismantling of the terrorist cells. The use of the military I understand, but I have less hope for the effectiveness of such tactics.

I have no doubt of the efficiency of the French attacks, or the effectiveness of the weapons. I am sure they managed to kill a number of ISIS members and those that support them.

The failure lies in they cannot succeed in killing the ideas (as warped as they may seem) that encourage and inspire people to commit such acts through military force alone.

Over the course of the last century, our ideas and abilities regarding warfare have changed. Militarily (meaning all those with sophisticated military hardware and capabilities) have exponentially improved our ability to reach out and kill someone.

We can do it from the relative safely of an Air Force base in Nevada, remotely piloting UAV equipped with HARM missiles to destroy targets on the other side of the world with the push of a button.

The violence and gore of death mitigated by watching it on a screen rather than smelling the blood and stepping over the body parts.

Since the War to End all Wars (WWI) upwards of 80 million people have died (and perhaps more) in war.  Yet we continue down this path.  And we do it because we’ve become better at the advertising that sells this approach.

In December of 1941 President Roosevelt announced we were at war with Japan and Germany. He called on all Americans to dedicate themselves to victory. To commit themselves to battle. To be willing to sacrifice themselves in a noble cause, even at the price of their own lives.

In September of 2001, President Bush told us to go shopping. Yes, we were at war with terrorists. Yes, we would use our military might to smite our enemies. Those enemies that hate us because of our freedom (and shopping malls apparently) and we would hunt them down and kill them.

Between 1941 and 2001 our wars went from all-out calls for the commitment and blood of Americans to the “Police action” of Korea, to the “Assistance” of the Democratic Government of South Viet Nam.

Just a kinder and gentler way of selling war to the world.

So how can we learn from Star Trek? There was an episode wherein Kirk and crew encounter two planets at war. But there are no weapons being fired, no bodies being exploded or shot, no horribly wounded sent home without limbs to recover.

It was a “civilized” way of warfare. Virtual weapons were fired back and forth. Computers randomly selected the “casualties” and dutiful citizens so selected reported to the chambers to be “eliminated” without the horrors of real war.

It worked well at eliminating the horrors of war, without eliminating the motivation of war. No one on either planet could explain the reason they were at war, that had faded into the past.

Kirk, as he always did, violated the Prime Directive and interfered. He gave them back the horrors and reality of war. The two planets chose to negotiate. Happy ending all around.

Perhaps we can learn something here. Either find a willingness to solve the problems that motivate a people to choose to kill another people by virtue of a difference of beliefs, or adapt a more “civilized” way to war.

Think of it. Eliminate the horrors of the wounded, both civilian and military. Eliminate the effect of war on children (they would be ineligible for selection until their 21st birthday.) Redirect the resources of the military into more productive activities.

Let the computers fight the war.

The reality is it wouldn’t work. Until we as a species learn to extend tolerance as much as seek it for ourselves, war will remain with us.

I find it amazing that those that scream the loudest for the path to war, are almost always those that don’t go to war. It seems to me that those who have never seen the effect of a bullet on a human body in person are the first to hand someone else a weapon, identify the target, and send them off to fight. Staying safely behind.