Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Futility of Modern Warfare

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iraq war have raised questions about the efficacy of using conventional methods of warfare to occupy territory and counter insurgencies. Dedicated enemies that are willing to die for a cause apparently don’t fear shock and awe as much as the deliverers envision. And, the cost of conventional wars is becoming astronomical. It seems possible that a dedicated group, using stealth and the cover of local populations can bleed the resources of major powers using conventional forces until they either are seriously impacted by the disparity in economics of the two types of warfare, or their will to continue is defeated.

In Iraq, we have fielded a half million troops over a period of four year to sustain a force of 120,000, spent a half trillion dollars, lost 2,500 lives, 15,000 injured, 8,000 seriously and 20,000 suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. And with the help of over 200,000 Iraq troops we have not been able to achieve a decisive victory over a few thousand insurgents. I think we have demonstrated that force alone will not achieve our ends.

In Israel, a country we have subsidizing to the tune of two to four billion dollars a year for several decades, and which has devoted a large portion of its resources to defense, has not been able to control an insurgency of ill equipped, impoverished Palestinians with no end in sight. If there is a cause which is supported by donors from without, it is quite clear that an insurgency can be sustained perpetually.

Modern western nations have attempted to stigmatize the means used by insurgents to wage insurgencies by giving them the label, terror, because the blood and gore is visibly apparent, and civilians are casualties. Modern warfare has become more like a video arcade game, where missiles are fired from aircraft or bunkers far away to completely destroy targets or people with no evidence of the blood and gore attendant to it, and where the loss of civilian life is sanitized by calling it collateral damage. Such propaganda has been somewhat successful in convincing the populations of modern countries that their actions are just, while those of the insurgents are not. But, it has not been successful in convincing the insurgents and their sympathizers of this. In reality, war is war, the violent and cruel destruction of human and material resources as a substitute for communication and common understanding that should be limited to the defense of homelands from dictators with diabolical intentions and megalomaniac visions. Its use as a tool to spread democracy or to successfully occupy territory over a long period appears to be counterproductive and a net drain on the resources of those who employ it.

The conclusion to be reached is that the tools of war and the reasons to go to war need to be reevaluated to suit our times. Strong countries can be more successful in defending what they have developed by assisting weak countries in their development. Rogue nations are more likely to decay and fail when left alone to fend for themselves, rather than when they are threatened, blockaded or sanctioned. Any external threat tends to bring a nation together to defend its sovereignty. When left alone to decay, an insurrection of a disaffected population is more likely, and as we have illustrated here military might is only a temporary solution to controlling a population that becomes more and more dedicated to a cause it perceives as just.

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