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« Attack Dogs of Christendom | Main | Dark night of the soul »

August 29, 2007

Just War (Jus in Bello) Is Really Hard...

...which is why you only enter into it (jus ad bellum) as an absolutely last resort. Especially against Islamist terrorists, as Victor Davis Hanson points out:

Several governments have defeated Islamic insurgencies, but usually only after about ten years, and adopting policies of summary executions and carpet bombing or shelling.

The Algerians in the 1990s finally stopped the so-called Islamic Salvation Army. The Russians decimated Chechnyan separatists. Syria’s Hafez al-Assad brutally exterminated several groups loosely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, most infamously by the thousands at the town of Hama.

But so far, no recent military has succeeded in defeating a radical Muslim terrorist insurgency, while subject to a constitutional government and an absolutely free media.

Hanson further points out that this war, and the strategies we employ in it, are fundamentally different than those of our nation's past: 

In the Cold War, America justified supporting authoritarian regimes in Asia, South America, and the Middle East on the basis of their expressed and shared opposition to Soviet-sponsored global communism. We had some nasty SOBs on our side in the Shah, Pinochet, Somoza, and Papadopoulos. The U.S. apology was that elected socialist governments would inevitably devolve into Communist ones, either by intent or subversion. With 7,000 nukes pointed our way, we supposedly had no margin for utopianism. So America erred on the side of short-term assumed loyalty, stability, and security.

But well before the Cold War, the United States put realist concerns above principled idealism. That’s why we generously supplied a mass-murdering Soviet Union in its war against a mass-murdering Nazi Germany or didn’t restrict too much the methodology that Chiang Kai-shek employed against Japanese invaders.

The present war, however, is again qualitatively different: We are not seeking to quell the violence in Iraq or Afghanistan by the imposition or use of a brute. Instead we expend blood and treasure in the hopes that a consensual government can fight as well as a dictatorship — while at the same time ensuring freedom for its people.

Davis' conclusion?

Should Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker stabilize Iraq, it will demonstrate that the United States, under the most impossible of conditions, can still defeat Islamic terrorism while fostering constitutional reform that improves the security of the region and the world at large — and [do] so irrespective of a hostile world media and partisan politicking at home.

But if they cannot?

The ultimate irony: The seventh-century terrorists win — and those who habitually demonized American military operations will themselves lose as well.

Yes, yes, of course this is all true. But it is also true that -- if Petraeus and Crocker cannot stabilize Iraq -- it will should serve a reminder that historically and culturally informed realism must be employed on the front-end decision making process. Thinking about the war one will have to wage, and the likelihood of success therewith, must inform the decision as to whether or not to wage the war. The question of war is not merely: "Is this a righteous cause?"

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Comments

labrialumn

We must maintain ius in bello, and we must obey the Geneva Conventions. We must not be pulled down to their level.

We've already been defeated, the Infamous Act has gutted the Bill of Rights and subjected us to the surveillance society - the ideal prison of the panopticon.

There are other ways to win, starting with repealing the Infamous Act and electing a President who will keep his Constitutional Oath.

An armed citizenry, expelling non-citizen Muslims, defending our borders (else we are not a nation, by definition), being prepared to strike at any guerrillas who attack us, and their governing authorities.

In the last resort, there is weaponizing bacon grease. :-/

Roberto Rivera

My goodness: I am in almost complete agreement with Labrialumn! I even agree with his veiled reference to the Sepoy Rebellion. Mark this day on your calendars boys and girls, you may not see its like again.

labrialumn

Roberto, we agree far more often than you think.

For some perverse reason I don't tend to post "I agree"s very often.

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