Monday, January 08, 2007


Your cries have been echoing across the Internet for almost four years now. I won't bother to quote them, link to them, or even name names; you know who you are. Iraq is a quagmire! Iraq is Deja Nam! The anti-war Left have raised these rallying cries for two primary reasons: their unreasoning, intransigent opposition to anything favored by President George W. Bush, and a belief, held almost as deeply, that Western culture is inherently flawed. Since they see our culture as imperfect, any attempt to spread it is an act of evil.

These same leftists have been very right about Iraq, but only because they misunderstand war.

War is not simply the opposite of peace, nor its absence. War is not simply "diplomacy by other means". War's purpose is not to bully the other side into letting you have your way, to create vassal states or puppet regimes, or to build nations. Neither is it war's end to remove the enemy's means of enforcing his objectives. The purpose of war is Victory, which I hold to be quite different from any of the above.

While Peace is a good thing, Peace is loathsome without Justice, Freedom, or Honor. To accept Peace without Justice is to force rage below the surface. Denied our final vengeance, we exact terms; unconvinced of his error, our terms cause rage in our foe which will rise when we expect it least. To accept Peace without Freedom is as contrary to Liberality now as in 1776. To accept Peace without Honor is to accept a prize which we have not ourselves won, and will not love.

The purpose of war is to extract a sincere apology. The enemy must be so thoroughly defeated that he understands his defeat not merely as poor luck or unfortunate circumstances; he must understand it as a measure of the value of his ideas. His loss must cause him to disavow his reason for fighting.

In the early Nineteenth century, the converse was taught to Napoleon Bonaparte by some Spaniards whom he had thought defeated. Taking to the countryside, these men fought on. Unable to face down the huge Grand Army of the Napoleonic Empire, the Spaniards in their "little warfare" harassed and annoyed Napoleon badly enough that the British were able to turn him back from Spain. Ever since then, the Spanish word guerrilla has been used for the tactics employed by armies which are too small to fight conventionally, but which have not been brought to heel.

When Napoleon was later defeated by the combined armies of Britain, Russia, and the rest of Europe, it was because France learned it could not do what Napoleon said it could do. France fought for the personal cult of Napolean, and after a first defeat he went into exile on Elba. He retained his life and some personal property, and while some troops remained loyal, he was forced to renounce the right of succession. It took an escape from Elba and another defeat before all of France was finally done with him.

Consider also the American Civil War, in which victory by the North caused the Confederate States to realize that the Union, not just the Union Army, was their master. No more would States be allowed to challenge Federal authority. The end of slavery was a happy byproduct of that more fundamental and perhaps less fortunate change.

After World War I, Germany was allowed to negotiate an armistice, or cease fire. To the Germans, what should have been seen as a defeat was merely seen as a setback. Without the epiphany of utter defeat, the reparations imposed on them caused rage to bubble under the surface. The dream of at least symbolically reviving the Holy Roman Empire lived on. It took another war, and millions of lives, to drive the lesson home.

The purpose of war is to have a defeated foe say, "We are sorry. You were right to oppose our wicked ways." Victory is incomplete until the loser internalizes the outcome.

It is a mistake to stop merely because the enemy no longer has the means of opposition. As Napoleon, the guerrillas, and the Germans in 1933 demonstrate, where there is will and hope, the means will appear.

Which brings us back to Iraq. Our mission in Iraq did look like Deja Nam, and it did have the makings of a quagmire, but it looked that way and had those makings because we were not willing to bring the enemy to a thorough repudiation of his prior position. We left Saddam's loyalists in the field, hoping that they would come to understand his thorough political and moral bankruptcy, but we declared victory before the enemy aplogized. Retaining will and hope, the means have arisen from Iran, Syria, and other islamoterrorism funders eager to control Iraq and to oppose the United States.

The shape of victory in Iraq is left as an exercise for the reader.

Sphere: Related Content


KnightErrant said...

Yet, if you cannot define "Victory" how will you know if you have achieved it? Indeed, how can we know if we have achieved victory if we can't adequately identify our enemy?

One of the many problems with the Iraq War is our inability to tell our friends from our enemies. If Al-Sadr is an enemy, how can his ally, Al-Maliki be our friend? If we are fighting against Sunni extremists then our natural ally is the Shi'ite militias. But, we are fighting against them too. Who is the enemy? Who isn't?

"Victory" is none of what you described in your piece. Victory is achieving your goals. Our goals in this war began as a moving target and have devolved into single definitionless word, "victory." The question you leave to the imagination of your readers is the only question worth asking, "What is victory?"

Until we know that, every death in Iraq is wasted.

Loren Heal said...

I understand your confusion, but you're working too hard.

The problem isn't defining "victory"; the problem is defining the enemy. That is what has changed: the enemy is no longer the former government of Saddam Hussein; the enemy is now sectarianism, fueled partially by jihad, partially by oil greed.

Al-Sadr is not our friend, and (to a possibly lesser extent) neither is Al-Maliki. What I left to the reader was the name of the enemy, and the goal that enemy needed to repudiate for our victory to be achieved. At this point, the people of Iraq (including the government, the militias, and the clerics) need to repudiate religious control of government. If that doesn't happen, we will not have won, and it may even be termed a defeat.

But no death in Iraq or anywhere else is "wasted". It may be misspent, though perhaps I'm just chafing at the insulting connotation of "waste".

Tlacolotl said...

"The enemy must be so thoroughly defeated that he understands his defeat not merely as poor luck or unfortunate circumstances; he must understand it as a measure of the value of his ideas. "

That is why force cannot ever bring peace. If an enemy is defeated by arms instead of by reason, he will rise again to present his point more forcefully the next time. If he is defeated with reason, he is converted to your side and peace ensues.

Needless to say, if we, in turn are defeated with reason, it is their side that we must join. The side of reason, truth, and justice, which any rational person will admit we are fully capable of not being on, being human beings and all.

But what you suggest -- that those with superior strength are by definition on the side of righteousness -- is nothing more than un-American brutishness. Our country was founded on Reason, not Power.

Loren Heal said...


I understand the difference between brute force and politics, and can see how you might think I would eschew information warfare (mass diplomacy), but such is not the case.

Force cannot bring peace? Your logic leads to a self-evident error, and is therefore unsound. It may be the peace of the empty battlefield, but peace it is. Was it reason that convinced Lee to sign at Appomattox, that defeated the Nazis, and caused Japan to surrender? No. It was the application of force, leading to utter defeat and a discredited cause.

Moreover, reason and force are only enemies when counterposed. For us, I hope they would always be inseparable allies.

And finally, it is always the case that both sides in a war value reason; they simply start with different premises and thus can arrive at different conclusions. My point is that utter defeat has a way of changing the loser's outlook.

Brian H said...

Well answered.

There are levels and layers of victory. It can be local, with wider fields of danger remaining, as here.

Iraq as a victorious battlefield in the War on Irhabist Triumphalism has provided the opportunity to disrupt its forces. Iraq has its own survival motivating it now to work and fight hard in that continuing war.

Blog stats

Add to Technorati Favorites