So What Should The Next War Look Like?
Posted by KingShamus on March 3, 2011
That is the question AceofSpades raises here.
Back when Bush was running in 2000, conservatives were united, almost universally, behind the proposition that the nation-building of the Clinton years was a bad use of the military, using it for a purpose it was not designed for, putting troops into a bad spot as they were in a position to be shot by any illegal combatant hiding a gun beneath his robes. We all agreed on that, pretty much.
Somehow it happened that Bush reversed his belief on this, and we (and by we, I mean I, definitely) bought into the idea that nation-building per se wasn’t bad, a lot of times it was needed and morally required (Powell’s “you break it, you bought it” doctrine), and maybe we just needed to do it differently than Clinton did. Perhaps the complaint became just that Clinton used nation-building in situations not truly vital to the national interest (Haiti, Kosovo) and maybe we just needed to be careful about committing to such a large, ongoing proposition, restricting ourselves to only attempt this in situations where the national interest was directly implicated (Iraq, Afghanistan).
After eight years of pacifying Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m not at all sure we were right to depart from the basic idea that nation-building was a bad idea.
…I just don’t believe the country will undertake another Iraq or Afghanistan you-break-it-you-bought-it plan, at least not for a long time. So I think those who believe that warfare must always be a possible tool available to us (even if only occasionally used) must formulate a doctrine in which the post-war pacification campaign is specifically ruled out and our goals in the post-war scenario are achieved by means other than heavy presence of American troops as primary combatants.
First of all, it’s important you read the rest, as Ace makes a lot of interconnected points in his piece.
Ace is concerned about a possible future war with Iran, but he’s even more worried about how America deals with a post-war situation. I think there are many important policy questions going on here, but I think Ace gets a little ahead of himself. America’s post-war posture in the next conflict is critical. Even more pressing is how we deal with the enemy while the war is still playing itself out.
Afghanistan and Iraq have been various degrees of troublesome since we’ve engaged enemies in those nations. After major combat operations have ceased, we still find ourselves wrapped up in security/low-to-mid level fighting, especially in Afghanistan. The slow bleeding that America has done in those countries is painful on many levels. It is spiritually draining for families of the forces involved. The monetary costs of fighting these wars have been staggering. On a broad level, these occupations have been demoralizing to America as the fighting has dragged on long after the initial phase of the wars have drawn to a close.
From a political perspective, the insurgency in Iraq contributed to George Bush’s disastrous second term. The Sisyphean fighting we’re engaged in Afghanistan is a drain on Obama’s political capital as well. As Ace correctly notes, America has been very unhappy with the nation-building model of postwar operations. The US public will most likely reject a similar post-bellum strategy in the next war.
I hate to sound like a crusty old war-monger, but maybe it’s time to give the old ‘Rubble don’t make trouble’ strategy a second look.
Ponder the post-war situation in Germany and Japan after World War II. The reason why we could occupy those countries in relative peace is because we had pounded them with hellish ferocity for years. The wars we fought against Imperial Japan and the Nazi regime were brutal, bloody and often indiscriminate.
However, while the combat operations in the second World War were apocalyptic nightmares, the post-war era in both Germany and Japan were tranquil in comparison to the American occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Why is that? In large part because America had so thoroughly punished the enemy nations for making war that most Japanese and German people were too exhausted and too demoralized to continue fighting. Germany and Japan were in no position to put up much resistance to America–or anyone else for that matter–after we had turned vast swaths of their countries into smoldering piles of ash.
The approach we used in World War II could’ve been applied to Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. Imagine this scenario: American forces quickly surround Kabul and other Taliban strongholds with a massive ground troop build-up so that enemy forces could not readily escape. Cordon off the borders of Afghanistan as much as possible to prevent an influx of foreign fighters. Once that’s done, the Americans could then move to the second phase of fighting, which would involve turning every single city we suspected of having Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters into massive smoking craters. Not surgical strikes, not pinpoint bombing. No, these places should be utterly and completely destroyed. No more Kabul. No more Kandahar. No more Mazar-i-Sharif. Lather, rinse, repeat until the Afghans beg us to stop the incessant pounding.
Now, this might sound harsh to some folks. If it sounds like a brutal strategy, it’s because it is. There will be some who will recoil at the thought of such a course of action.
Looking at future American wars, the rubble don’t make trouble method has several distinct advantages. First, it is far more likely to pacify enemy forces and civilian populations. As we’ve seen, the line between bad guys and non-combatants is often blurry, so taking the wind out of the sails of the citizenry is crucial.
From an American military perspective, fighting this way has to be more tolerable than the remorseless drain we’ve been going through in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of thankless security operations surrounded by people who haven’t been punished for making war against us, a post-war occupation using the ground-n-pound methods laid out above would likely be far more manageable. Rubble don’t make trouble might mean heavier American casualties during the war. After the war, US forces would have a much easier occupation period.
In the end, it comes down to the best use of America troops. These men and women have volunteered to serve their nation. They sacrifice so much of themselves for us in the civilian world. We owe them–and their families–the best most effective strategies possible. Quite frankly, the approach we’ve employed in Iraq and Afghanistan has been too costly.
Instead let us fight wars of horrifying destruction against our enemies, so that we may end wars more effectively and save precious American lives.