Sunday, April 09, 2006

America at War

Major Mike

Hugh Hewitt turned us on to the Chapman University symposium asking the question..."Are We At War?" To me this is a question that is unceccesary; the blind could see the answer . Then I had to ask myself...why is this question even being asked? While I was not able to participate in the symposium, it did get me to think ...less about whether we WERE at war?...and more about, how could we even think we were not at war?

Then it came to me...we are no longer used to being at war. In fact, in our history, we have usually been involved in very short wars. So I have come to believe that the general public, which has little understanding about how wars are actually fought, has a decreasing tolerance for the fighting of wars...no matter how inportant they are to our ultimate survival.

Our most protracted "successful" war was, indeed, our War for Indepencence. Even then, the war that set us on our eventual course of becoming the preeiminent political society that the world has ever known, there were wafflers, detractors, and traitors. Yet, the strength and beliefs of those in the field...enduring hardships unimmaginable today, is the only thing that kept us on course to win our democracy and our freedoms. Left to the public at large,the towel would have been tossed from the corner early in the conflict. It was the will of strong men, with strong beliefs that eventually carried the day...not the panderings of self-serving monarchists, nor the maneauverings of political "astute" apeasers who would have sold their souls for additional holdings granted from the king. It was the will of those in the field, fueled by their vision of the future, that carried the day.

How did that will become so diminished with so much at stake?

I think it is simple...we have come to take the capabilities of those that we send into combat for granted. We have come to expect that all wars, regardless of the obvious differences in their causes, required strategies, and desired outcome MUST be concluded within a very short period of time...whether it is strategically or tactically possible or not.

Evidence our own Civil War. With the future of the Republic at stake, Lincoln was reviled for his stubborness to stick with the execution of the war. Bloody war protests in the North highlighted our lack of tolerance and will...even when the very fabric or the the Republic was at stake. Hundreds of thousands were willing to sacrifice the Union to avoid the draft and splinter the Republic in favor of their own very limited, personal objections and objectives.

Even though that war, while not expertly fought, only lasted a shade over four years, the public had grown impatient of the effort, regardless of the ultimate objective. This is possibly the most instructive instance in our history...the impatient public was willing to sacrifice the Republic, and all its good, because four years was too much of an investment to make to preserve the democracy.

From WWI, a war where our participation lasted just over a year, we came to believe in our ability to influence the fight with only a modest commitment of our national resources and an even smaller investment in time and manpower.

From WWII we learned that our industrial might, our natural resources, our population, and our drive could end a "World War," and that we could do so in a little over three and a half years. We were not prepared for what came next.

We were late to understand war in the nuclear age, and could not grasp the counter-intuitive nature of "limited" war in Korea. Our greatest general had to be fired because he failed to fully understand the paradigm shift that had occured in four short years. Still we managed some impressive victories. But we continued to be fooled by the idea that our wars could always be short.

Then came Vietnam. All of our previous experiences set us up for our eventual withdrawl from Vietnam. A withdrawl that came without victory. A withdrawl which shamed the efforts of those that we had committed, and brought shame to those who had committed so much.

We withdrew because we lost our interest. We lost our focus. And most importantly, as a nation, we did not understand the nature of the war we were fighting. We belived if we used our same strategies we could win in a timely manner, and then go about our business...in three or four years. As a nation we did not understand the nautre of Nationalistic commitment. We did not understand the will of the Vietnamese. We did not understand the asymmetric nature of the war we were fighting. We did not understand the effort it would take to win, and as a nation we lost our will to continue.

With our short memories we have again come to believe that we can conquer vast expanses with our modern and well trained forces. We believe that our technological supremecy can shorten any war, regardless of its nature. We feel we are entitled to sweep our enemies aside, on our selfish timetables...regardless of the true nature of the fight and the pardigm shifts that have occured in the sixty years that have elapsed since the end of WWII. We have come to prove that we understand little about winning wars aside from fielding the troops to man the equipment we provide. We show ourselves to be ingorant of the true nature of the times in which we live.

To ask the question "Are We At War?" is evidence enough that we do not understand the nature of the conflict that we are in. With our lack of patience, and the misinterpretation of the lessons of war that we should have learned over the last sixty years, we are doomed to lose this war.

We are in a war. A war of wills against a patient enemy who will wait for us to grow weary of fighting them directly. We are fighting an asymmetric war; the type of war we have little patience for...the type of war we will walk away from because we lack the will to invest the time, effort, and the resources...material, political, and yes, human, to win. We are in the type of war we will lose, because we are willing to ultimately sacrifice the Republic simply to avoid the rigors of war. A course that will only accelerate the demise of our nation.

Win elections in 2006 and 2008 through political manueverings, Bush bashing and withdrwal timetables...they may be the last elections we enjoy.

To anwser the question...we are in a war. A long war. A war that may ultimately define us as a nation, but it will not be a short war. It will not be a war without casualties. It will not be a war we can win with our industrial might. It is a war that must ultimately be won with our will.

3 comments:

Alan Kellogg said...

Our longest successful war was The Cold War.

Major Mike said...

Great point, but we still relied on our industrial might and wealth to win that war...the casualities were few, so we had the stomach for it. If we had been losing 15 people a month in direct action...we would hve capitulated in 1960...thanks for the comments. MM

dueler88 said...

Great stuff, Mike.

I grow increasingly pessimistic about our will to maintain Liberty. All of my ancestors, if they could, would no doubt give me a long diatribe starting with "why, when I was your age . . ." if they ever had the opportunity to examine how I view my petty little life problems. The Medieval English Peasants, The Scottish Clansmen, The Revolutionary War veterans, the Civil War veterans, The Oregon Pioneers, etc. would all slap me upside the head for putting any energy in to worrying about my cable TV rates. They sacrificed so much for me to be who, where and what I am.

We are all limited in our understanding of the world by our own temporal perspective. In a world where the boundless fruits of liberty come without effort, it is difficult for all of us to remember the value of liberty. Only when it is taken from us will we truly value it. But how much are we willing to part with? And how much has our culture dilluted the real value of liberty?

Will we, and I, ever confront something worth killing or dying for?