Monday, April 25, 2011
Limited War: an attractive concept... leads to death
Joe: for some reason I woke up over the weekend thinking about those American soldiers who have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. I suppose because my daughter has friends in the military and It pains me to see the young faces in the obituaries. Death, being on my mind I began to think about what it is that keeps America going in this direction of war? I’m becoming more certain it is the concept of an addiction to “limited war”. The promise of “surgical air strikes” and even the LA Times today is actually a cheerleader today on the front page for the expanded use of drones, mainly for “psychological” reasons, these things help sell war in that we don’t have to actually put troops on the ground. As you know Bush was villified for the use of drones and GITMO. The reporters are very clear to admit the drones aren’t key to success. In Libya, if we do have to put troops on the ground then it will be for a “limited” period of time or a “limited” purpose - attractive... Anymore I am beginning to think we need to go in big or not go in at all, it may be the case that limited war will continue because of the threat of nuclear weapons and other reasons. Some interesting links below. –Bob
By Ned Parker and Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
The decision to unleash the unmanned Predators in Misurata delights rebels fighting to topple Moammar Kadafi. But few believe the aircraft will be the key to victory.
Does limited war ever work?
The entire history of air power was written the very first time that a bomb was dropped out of an airplane in warfare. The occasion was a small colonial war between Italy and Turkey, the date was 1911, and the place, curiously enough, was Libya. On November 1 an Italian pilot took off from the desert, flew over the Turkish lines, and dropped four small bombs — grenades, really, weighing about five pounds apiece that the pilot had to yank a pin out of with his teeth before lobbing them from the cockpit. The next day Italian newspapers declared the triumph of this new mode of warfare:
AVIATOR LT. GAVOTTI THROWS BOMB ON ENEMY CAMP
TERRORIZED TURKS SCATTER UPON UNEXPECTED CELESTIAL ASSAULT
It was a ridiculous exaggeration, of course, and the Turks for their part rather more cannily announced that the Italian air assault had hit a hospital.
By Tony Karon Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will be remembered more for his epic achievement in brokering an end to the war in Bosnia, than for the frustration of his final mission in the conflict theater designated "Afghanistan-Pakistan" in Washington. As the Administration completes its scheduled review of Afghanistan strategy this week, officials are struggling to put an optimistic face on a grim reality: nine years after invading Afghanistan — and despite the best efforts of Holbrooke and countless American diplomats, aid officials and soldiers — the U.S. is spinning its wheels in a country that styles itself as "the graveyard of empires."
Judah Grunstein, Mar 2011
One of the reasons it usually takes a lengthy campaign of heightened rhetoric and demonization to sell a war to the American people is that, contrary to global stereotypes, Americans are far less bellicose than their global security role would suggest. Americans need to convince themselves their cause is just before committing themselves to war, which often entails painting the enemy as the incarnation of evil. This need for moral clarity, however, often makes America's commitment to war total, even when the war itself and the strategic interests involved are limited. After all, Americans don't negotiate with evil. They defeat it.
One of the biggest hot-button issues in strategy today is limited war. The degree of restraint and the amount of force that can be employed without jeopardizing the mission is both an ethical and operational controversy in counterinsurgency theory and practice. There’s also a growing frustration over the way that the West has been constrained in utilizing force against irregulars and rogue states that do not play by the rules. Shelby Steele’s June 21 op-ed, “The Surrender of the West” typifies a certain kind of reaction to this feeling of futility. The problem, however, is that we have been living in an era of what might broadly can be called “limited warfare” for over sixty years. And this limit may be structural.
To be sure, talk of “limits” are relative. Clausewitz instructs us that the concept of “absolute war” exists mostly in theory. And even wars fought under limitations or limited political objectives can be horribly destructive. In 1991, we fought a (somewhat unsuccessful) battle of annihilation against the Iraqi Army that while failing to completely eliminate Saddam Hussein’s forces certainly devastated them and routed them. And the “clear” phase of the Surge was, by all accounts, rougher than many imagine. But there is a common thread going back from the beginning of the Cold War of steadily increasing limitations on action.