War and Peace in a Democracy

The American Marine Corps has a motto, “no better friend, no worse enemy” that could very well describe the nation as a whole. Americans have a tradition of being anti-war; through our history, we have been loath to maintain a standing army, have de-mobilized those armies that existed the instant that their need has been met, and avoided new military entanglements as much as possible. Yet, we have never lost a war; there is nothing as fearsome as a free people aroused.

 Foreign policy is a coin with two sides; on one side, we offer the opportunity to talk over our problems, and come to an equitable solution. On the other side, we offer the sword, if that solution is not possible. Unfortunately, many Americans see only one side of that coin, and not the other. There are some who see only the side of us that is righteously smiting our enemies. There are many others who see only our peaceful side, and reject any notions of strength through arms; they see our strength as a weakness, and so will do everything they can to keep that side of our national personality in check. They see war as the evil, and will do everything to stop our war efforts, even when we are winning…and they often have come close to losing wars that we were on the verge of winning.

 In 1864, the American people were involved in a great Civil War. The two sides in this war had been battling each other for four years, and the end did not seem any closer than it did when the war began.

 The Presidential elections were coming up, and one Democratic candidate arose to oppose the sitting Republican President, Abraham Lincoln. This opposition candidate was Brigadier General George Brinton McClellan, the former commander of the Northern ‘Army of the Potomac’ through the first two turbulent years of the war. The Democratic platform was that the war could not be won, and it was far better for the nation to end the bloodshed, and seek peace with the enemy Southern States.

 General McClellan had a large following in the war-weary North, tired of large casualty lists for no apparent purpose. In the month before November, the outcome looked so much in doubt that President Lincoln penned a statement to the effect that the Lincoln government would cooperate with the will of the people, should it lose, and begin negotiations with the South towards recognition of the Southern Confederacy. He insisted that each of his cabinet officers sign this statement.

 As it turned out, Lincoln won the election, helped in large part by the huge vote of the soldiers in the ranks, who knew that they were, in fact, winning this war, and by the appointment the previous March of a general who knew how to win wars, Ulysses S. Grant, as Supreme Commander of the Northern Armies…and, in fact, six months later, in April of 1865, the war was over, with a huge victory for the Northern Side.

 The important lesson to be learned from this is that the public is often unaware of the true status of wars in progress. Without a thorough grounding in the history of war, of strategy and of tactics, a war in which we are winning can often look like the verge of defeat. More serious, though, is the ability of people in a Democracy to express their inherent horror at the reality of war; while most wars begin with bands and flags, it is not long before casualty lists bring home to the public that there is a price to be paid for everything.

 There are parallels, in the above example, to what is happening domestically with the war in Iraq.  The Democrats are today, as in 1864, pushing for us to quit the fight, retreat and pull out before the war is over, forcing the Iraqis fend for themselves. Former Generals are suggesting that we cannot win this war, and at least  one Congressman, Representative John Murtha, is using this policy to further his political goals. Some Democrats want to wait longer before we pull out than other Democrats, but the Democratic Party is continuing a long tradition of not understanding the basic fundamentals of war, how it is fought, how it is won, and the ultimate cost of losing a war. For the sake of political advantage, many Democrats are willing to let us lose.  The continuing cacophany of defeatism can convince the public. The day after day news reports from Iraq serve to keep the reality of the war in people’s minds even moreso than in the 19th century.

 This has ominous implications for the future, because war clouds are gathering, and we are coming close to the time when the United States might have to commit all its heart and soul into both defending itself and the world, and to defeat a black scourge that is spreading throughout the planet. As Omar, from <a href=”http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2006/07/why-not-syria.html”>Iraq the Model </a> says:

 And if Zawahiri, Nesrallah, Ahmedinejad and Sadr are calling upon extremists whether, Sunni or Shia, from all over the world to put aside their differences and unite in this war against the free world and to establish the Empire of terror from “Afghanistan to Andalus” then this is more than enough reason for you in the free world and for us who are struggling for our freedom to put aside our differences and disagreements and unite, from Sydney to Mumbai to Baghdad to Paris and London all the way till California, all must stand against this evil that is trying to destroy our world

 Certainly, no sane person desires to live through a state of war. William Tecumsah Sherman, the great American Civil War general said, “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.” There is no better summary of the meaning of war, and this from the man who virtually invented the concept of total war against an enemy. Sane people do everything they can to avoid war, and that is what is happening all over the world, now, as diplomats attempt to somehow negotiate our way out of war with our enemies. We see the rather pathetic image of civilized people begging barbarians to choose some other course than the course upon which they are set, and the barbarians using this seeming weakness on the part of the civilized world to enhance their preparations for what they see as their ultimate victory. Of course, such barbarians always underestimate the strength of Democracy, and they stand a very good chance of losing, as totalitarians always do faced with the strength of a people united…but the possibility exists that they can cause a lot of damage before they are beaten, and they could win, and that is what worries me.

 In battle, it is foolish to fight on a ground that gives the enemy the advantage and you the disadvantage. In order to optimize one’s chances of winning, one must choose the ground which gives the best opportunity to win, and which gives the enemy the least opportunity to win. In this situation, we are not doing this. We are following the mature course of seeking every possibility, no matter how remote, to avoid a conflict….as if our enemy were demonstrating even a modicum of desire to avoid that conflict. Iran has stated, over and over, that its goal is to develop nuclear weapons and destroy Israel. North Korea has broken every agreement it has made and, despite world-wide condemnation, has exploded a nuclear weapon, and is preparing new tests. There is no evidence that diplomacy will save us from this upcoming conflict.

 We are confronted by megalomaniacal madmen, whether it be President Ahmadinijad in Iran, Kim Jong Il in Korea, or the various Islamofascist madmen in the Middle East. There is no negotiation possible with a madman. We cannot hope for peace as long as these people are in power, and growing in that power. They get stronger the longer we wait.  We know where our enemies lie; Syria and Iran have stated openly their intentions of destroying us, and our allies and their supported lackeys, Hizbollah, Hamas, al Qaida, al Aksa, etc. have worked diligently towards that end. We know that they are implacable in their goals to destroy the Western Democracies.

 There is not a question, here, of whether war can be avoided. As our former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said, we ARE in a war; call it WWIII, or WWIV, we are facing an enemy who does not respect or even want diplomatic solutions to their policies. The Islamofascists have a stated goal of our destruction. To not listen to what they are actually saying is to ignore a threat that is evident before your eyes, as did those who ignored what Adolph Hitler was saying, before WWII. They are telling us what they wish to do, if they see it as possible. It is up to us to make that not possible, not to pretend that it will not happen.

 We must join with our only true ally in the Mideast, Israel, as well as our other true friends and allies, and aggressively go after our enemies, before they manage to find a position that can cause us serious harm. We must change the regimes of Syria and Iran, we must totally defeat their lackey militias, and we must impose a peace on the region that can not come into existence without the strong arm of the Western Democracies. While, as I said, no sane person desires war, the other side of that coin is that no sane person allows themselves to be killed, when they know they can defend themselves. If my neighbor says he is going to kill me, soon, I am not going to sit idly by and allow it to happen. To protect myself and my family, I am going to ensure that he will not and can not do what he says he is going to do. We, as a nation, and as a civilization, can do not less.

 We seem to feel that we cannot lose, and thus have the luxury and time to do everything possible to avoid the inevitable conflict. However, it would not take a large number of committed jihadists to significantly damage our nation. Seven bombs, carefully placed, could totally isolate the island of Manhattan, isolating our largest commercial center. A few hundred jihadists, snuck across our totally open Southern border, with guns, rockets and missiles, could throw our major population centers into total disarray. One or two radiation or biological terror bombs could send all of our cities into panic.

 This is not an unlikely scenario. In fact, except for the ability of our enforcement agencies, there is nothing to prevent it. I repeat, we cannot prevent this kind of aimless terror from disrupting our nation. That is what happens when one falls back to the defensive, and  allows the enemy to determine the battlefield; one gives them time to come up with a winning strategy.

 While it is quite possible that deft diplomacy can pull us from the brink of an inevitable conflict, we cannot put war in a secondary position to diplomacy. As Mao Zhe Dung said, war is an extension of politics; it always has to be a possibility that diplomats can use as part of their negotiation, or the diplomats lack credibility. In a world where power is the stock in trade of brutal megalomaniacs, diplomacy is our shield, but war is our sword. They both are needed, both are equal partners in our foreign policy.

  If war is necessary, as with any endeavor, we must throw ourselves into the endeavor as much as we throw ourselves into anything. War cannot be fought on a part-time basis. It cannot be fought in small escalations, Victory is won by putting everything one has into the fight, without hesitation, without reservation. If we do not believe in what we are doing, we might as well give up and go home…because the livcs lost will be wasted.

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 <small><i>&copy; 2006 Steve Haas, All Rights Reserved.  The author also has his own weblog, <a href=”http://amberandchaos.com/blog”>Amber</a>.</i></small>

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