Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Toughness Is Not a Policy

 

IMG_0280.JPGWhen it comes to questions of America waging war, the conversation rarely gets past whether or not we should intervene. On the occasions that it does, it’s usually about how much we should, as if it’s a straight-line, single-dimension matter with appeasement on one end — followed by indifference, sanctions, drone strikes, and a limited air war — and a ground invasion on the other.

Stipulating that a political survey is probably not the best place to look for strategic insight, consider yesterday’s Pew Research Center poll showing that 63% of Americans now support the campaign against the Islamic State (up from 57% in October) and that support for a ground invasion has also increased to 47% (up from 39% in October). Among other questions, the poll also asked whether the greater danger is applying too little or too much force, and whether “overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism around the world.”

Fine, but what does that actually mean? To delve into just one possible line of questioning, should our objective be to punish the Islamic State and deter those who would try again — whether with or without ground forces — or should we re-occupy the place and resume the Marshall Plan-like project President George W. Bush started? Put another way, is it in the United States’ interest to try to clean up the world’s messes after defeating belligerents, or is it sometimes best to adopt a “more rubble, less trouble” attitude that doesn’t obligate us to fix what we break? Which strategy would be best in the event of a nuclear Iran? Note that these are less questions of how much force to apply, but of what kind of force and to what ends (and even these questions are hardly exhaustive on those subjects).

As the presidential election revs up, the Republican candidates could do themselves and their nation a service by delving a little deeper into these questions than the media requires. Resolve and moral courage are prerequisites for effectively dealing with those who wish us and our allies harm — but they shouldn’t be the only ones.

There are 13 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    IMHO, prior to 2003 there were four options: 1) regime change, 2) annihilation, 3) containment, 4) capitulation.

    I think the argument of Democrats on Iraq prior to 2003 was that containment was working. This argument may have been arguable, but I think it was also defensible. Nevertheless, the decision was made to pursue regime change.

    Now, has any other strategy for regime change other than the model exemplified by the Marshall Plan ever been demonstrated to be feasible? I’d love to hear some successful examples from history.

    If not, then as soon as the decision to pursue regime change was implemented, the options became more limited: a) Marshall Plan, b) capitulation.

    President Obama seems to be trying to implement a third option, which is entirely about his domestic audience and nothing to do with what sort of regime actually develops in that part of the world: c) Token Activity.

    In other words, he seems to be trying to capitulate without looking like he’s capitulating.

    • #1
    • February 25, 2015, at 10:04 AM PST
    • Like
  2. The Reticulator Member

    Like

    • #2
    • February 25, 2015, at 10:12 AM PST
    • Like
  3. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    I’m all over the place on this. A military victory seems the best way to handle the immediate threat, but who and what do we send in? O’Reilly talks of a small force, maybe 50,000 troops (which is a small force given the territory it would have to cover). I’m not strategist, but I’ve read that for every combat soldier you need 2 support troops to provide logistic support (food, fulel ammo–the list is long). He then says we need a combined force of NATO and Islamic nations troops. It seems to me that that would take years to put together. He would want the troops pulled out quickly after IS is defeated, but then have a mercenary force ready to hand when the next uprising occurs. That means a paid force. He seems oblivious to the fact that such troops work for money and are thus inclined to work for the highest bidder.

    It’s ludicrous to think we can go in and come out then leave the battlefield. As a purely practical matter we would have little choice but to keep a base in the area if we are to continue to respond with haste.

    Vietnam is still a good comparison. We sent in 500,000 troops eventually. We did win the war (the Tet offensive was a disaster for the North Vietnamese Army), but then we made a relatively quick withdrawal and left no troops behind. In a matter of just 1.5 years the NVA took over. Nixon had promised to provide the SVA with everything it needed should the North rise up, but Congress refused pleas from Pres. Ford.

    I don’t know what the answer is (job program? Head Start? Vacations in Hawaii?), but it doesn’t take a West Point education to see that no easy and lasting victory is in sight.

    • #3
    • February 25, 2015, at 11:15 AM PST
    • Like
  4. Profile Photo Member

    Lets not forget one other thing. Polls say one thing now, they will say something different once troops are on the ground. That was one of the lessons I learned from 2003-2006.

    It annoys me that Republican candidates are going to be harassed by the media to provide detailed plans and responses to hypotheticals they haven’t asked the present administration to do for 6 years.

    • #4
    • February 25, 2015, at 11:42 AM PST
    • Like
  5. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Mike Rapkoch:I don’t know what the answer is (job program? Head Start? Vacations in Hawaii?), but it doesn’t take a West Point education to see that no easy and lasting victory is in sight.

    Then we shouldn’t go in in the first place.

    • #5
    • February 25, 2015, at 11:43 AM PST
    • Like
  6. DocJay Inactive

    1) Don’t go

    2) If we do go then remember the words of Spartacus(in Blood and Sand) wife to him,”Kill them all”. This means we need to be in such a serious situation that our ludicrous ROE can be suspended.

    • #6
    • February 25, 2015, at 1:25 PM PST
    • Like
  7. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Franco:Lets not forget one other thing. Polls say one thing now, they will say something different once troops are on the ground. That was one of the lessons I learned from 2003-2006.

    It annoys me that Republican candidates are going to be harassed by the media to provide detailed plans and responses to hypotheticals they haven’t asked the present administration to do for 6 years.

    Exactly. Toughness is not a policy, but weakness is.

    • #7
    • February 25, 2015, at 2:25 PM PST
    • Like
  8. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Misthiocracy:Now, has any other strategy for regime change other than the model exemplified by the Marshall Plan ever been demonstrated to be feasible? I’d love to hear some successful examples from history.

    If not, then as soon as the decision to pursue regime change was implemented, the options became more limited: a) Marshall Plan, b) capitulation.

    If we restricting combat to regime change, then probably not.

    What we haven’t done in an extremely long time is an invasion based solely on the idea of punishing an aggression and deterring others from trying something similar. The difficultly is that you need to have a high tolerance for civilian casualties and the campaign needs to be in response to a specific, clear misstep on the enemy’s behalf.

    I’m not advocating that we go “full Roman” all the time, but I think something along those lines might have worked out better than what we’re going to end up with in either of these situations.

    That or unabashed imperialism.

    • #8
    • February 25, 2015, at 3:29 PM PST
    • Like
  9. EHerring Coolidge

    I think it is the great moral crime that we allow the inhumanity to persist – and an even greater immorality to ask an underfunded, undermanned military to risk its life when total annihilation of the enemy is off the table and the ROE prohibits victory. What the US vacuum gives the world? Evil rising. We are a morally weak country – it will take years to erase the shame of it.

    • #9
    • February 25, 2015, at 4:12 PM PST
    • Like
  10. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If you are perceived as weak a terrible and bloody war will be visited upon you. If you are perceived as strong opponents will go out of their way to avoid incurring your ire. So strength is the key policy decision to be made. Since we are now perceived as weak the only option we have is to fight. Capitulation isn’t really an option because there is no logical stopping point to it. Our opponents will keep pressing until the capitulation option is untenable and unthinkable. Additionally since we are now perceived to be weak we will have to respond in a truly terrible manner. What pacifists seldom realize is that sudden limited violence spares much more blood than it spills. Unfortunately all Obama and his supporters have ensured is that the butcher’s bill will be frightfully high when it comes due.

    • #10
    • February 25, 2015, at 9:09 PM PST
    • Like
  11. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Raxxalan What pacifists seldom realize is that sudden limited violence spares much more blood than it spills.

    Every once in a while, you have to kill a chicken in front of the monkeys.

    • #11
    • February 25, 2015, at 9:23 PM PST
    • Like
  12. jetstream Inactive

    Raxxalan:What pacifists seldom realize is that sudden limited violence spares much more blood than it spills.Unfortunately all Obama and his supporters have ensured is that the butcher’s bill will be frightfully high when it comes due.

    Good points. I would argue that limited should be replaced with massive. One of the few times I have agreed with Collin Powell was his statement that Dessert Storm would be “sudden, massive and decisive”.

    • #12
    • February 26, 2015, at 5:49 AM PST
    • Like
  13. GrannyDude Member

    Any president (or pundit) who would take us into a war should have the honesty/cojones to say the following:

    My fellow Americans,

    Based on a realistic and humble reading of all our nation’s armed conflicts (not just World War Two), I can, with considerable confidence, assure you of the following:
    a.) This is NOT going to be a cakewalk.

    b.) It is possible, even probable, that the war will last two or three (or ten) times as long as our worst-case estimate

    c.) it is possible, even probable, that there will be two or three (or ten) times as many American casualties as our worst-case estimate

    d.) and two or three (or ten) times as many civilian casualties… including (heads up, Pro-Lifers!) a lot of innocent babies

    e.) it will cost much, much more than our worst-case estimate, and we will still be paying for it fifty years from now—even though we are going to raise your taxes today to pay for it.

    f.) it is possible, even probable that victory, when it comes, will seem morally, politically and strategically ambiguous at best, and disastrous at worst. It may even not look like a victory at all.

    g.) there will be unintended consequences, some of them very bad

    h.) some of our troops—most of whom would never have harmed anyone in civilian life—will commit atrocities…and all of them will be accused of doing so

    i.) and with all that said, this war is still worth waging.

    • #13
    • February 26, 2015, at 7:10 AM PST
    • Like

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.