Winning and Losing Wars

Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won. – Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Got into a little bit of a Twitter scrape with Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom). I’m afraid he took exception to a comment I made. The start of it was Nichols condemning Trump for his “we’ve lost our wars” comment. I put in that as a matter of fact, we haven’t won a war since World War Two.

I know, I know; I probably took that too far. I must repeat to myself again and again: never get into a Twitter argument as it is impossible to have an argument when you’re limited to 140 characters. And it can get a bit sticky if you say anything which can be construed as other than critical of Trump. Trump = bad. I dig that – and am in favor of that sentiment. I feel bad that I apparently angered Mr. Nichols as I hold him in high regard for his knowledge. But, still, a busted clock is right twice a day. To be fair to those who took exception to my comment, Grenada, Panama, the First Gulf War and Kosovo were victories. And the Iraq campaign until 2009 was also a victory. But Grenada, Panama and Kosovo are not the same scale of actions as, say, a Spanish-American War – even though that war was quite short and the loss of life was mercifully low. The First Gulf War was, in my view, an unfinished war – we did eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait (a worthwhile activity), but as long as Saddam was in power in Baghdad, a resumption of the war either in Kuwait or elsewhere was always in prospect. We could have compelled a complete surrender by Saddam, and we didn’t – we didn’t impose our political will on his regime in a permanent manner. As for the Iraq campaign – well, it was won, but then it was lost…it doesn’t matter that it was Obama who lost what Bush had won, it was still the United States losing.

In all of this, there has been nothing wrong with our military outside of the normal failures which can occur in any large, military force. In battle, we have almost uniformly beaten the enemy. There is no nation on Earth which the United States cannot meet in battle and defeat – and the nations of the world recognize this and thus tend to shy away from a direct confrontation with the American military. Enemy actors in the world prefer to rely on proxy forces, or exploit our unwillingness to apply the full measure of American power. And, of course, enemy actors have learned that when engaged in battle with the United States, the key to success is in propaganda – telling a story about Big, Bad United States and how cruel and rotten we are. Such stories gain ready acceptance around the world, and among many within the United States.

And therein lies what I mean by we haven’t won a war. I have no idea what Trump means, and I suspect he doesn’t, either. We won the Revolutionary War – we secured our independence. We won the War of 1812 – we forced Britain to fully recognize the American republic. We won the Mexican-American War – Mexico ceded about half it’s territory to us. We won the Civil War – the Confederacy was destroyed. We won the Spanish-American War – Spain surrendered it’s colonial empire in the Americas and in the Pacific. We won World War One – German imperial pretensions were brought low. We won World War Two – German, Italian and Japanese desires for conquest were ended. Take any of those wars and compare them to the military actions we’ve taken since World War Two and tell me where something we’ve done matches the results obtained in World War Two and before. A case can be made for Grenada, Panama, Kosovo and the First Gulf War, but I think such cases to be weak, as noted earlier – but even if we want to count them as wins, I don’t think they are wins in the same sense that, say, the Mexican-American War or World War One were wins.

When we expend the blood of our best and bravest – and the treasure of our people – I think it natural that we expect some good to come of it. World War Two started for us on December 7th, 1941 and ended (officially) on September 2nd, 1945. That isn’t even four years. In that time, we raised armies of millions, lavishly equipped them and sent them into battles as far apart as New Guinea and Morocco. In spite of initial defeats and many setbacks along the way, the general impulse was always forward for our forces as our enemies were continually defeated until crushed out of existence. Millions of people were freed from horrible tyranny by our efforts; as far as can be seen, any desire on the part of Germans, Japanese or Italians to disturb the peace of the world were permanently ended; American power reigned supreme on the oceans of the world and everyone knew that any attempt to challenge the United States in full-scale war was just a recipe for national suicide. That was a high return on what we spent to obtain it.

Now, on September 26th of this year, it will be 15 years for the United States in Afghanistan. The war was officially declared over in 2014, but we can see that the fighting still goes on, and there is increased risk that over the next couple years, the Taliban regime might re-impose itself on Afghanistan. The bottom line is that we’ve spent nearly four times the years in Afghanistan than we did in World War Two and decisive victory still eludes us; and even if the Taliban doesn’t return to power, most of what we can tell about the Afghan regime indicates that it is not exactly up to American standards on rule of law, democracy or respect for human rights. At best, we’ll get an Afghan regime which is barely tolerable; at worst, we’ll get an enemy just as bad as that we found in 2001.

I happen to think that decisive victory eludes us primarily because we don’t face just what we’re actually fighting in this war – we aren’t going after the source of our problem. One of the central supports of enemy activity against us is Iran and yet not only have we sworn off any possibility of military action against Iran, but we’ve concluded a deal which will de-facto have us helping to increase the power of the Iranian government. This is astonishingly stupid – it is laying up tears for our future. A stronger Iran is an Iran which will just cause us more trouble – and if we ever get to the sticking point of fighting the Iranian regime, then a stronger Iran means a longer, more costly war to get rid of that regime.

We did win the Cold War. In fact, we won it decisively. And we won it when we at last got a President – Reagan – who tackled the central issue: that there was a Communist regime in Moscow. All that happened in terms of war from 1945 to 1991 was because of this fact – that Communists ruled in Moscow. Had they not ruled in Moscow, we wouldn’t have fought in Korea. Wouldn’t have fought in Vietnam. Wouldn’t even have fought in Grenada. Wouldn’t have had to deal with revolutions that threatened our interests; wouldn’t have had to deal with the rise of State-sponsored terrorism as a political tool; wouldn’t have had to deal with an endless succession of guerilla wars; wouldn’t have had to maintain a massive military force; wouldn’t have had to have a draft. In short, a lot of things would have been a lot better if Churchill and Truman had met with Prince Lvov’s successor in Potsdam rather than Lenin’s. But, also, a lot of thing would have been better if between 1945 and 1981, one of the Presidents in office had decided to tackle the central issue.

To be sure, tackling the central issue was fraught with the gravest risks – including, after 1949, of a nuclear war. And it was this fact which inhibited us in our actions – why we decided not to press the issue in Korea, and decided from the get-go that our effort in Vietnam would be limited in nature (in Korea we at least had the idea, for a short while, of ending the Communist regime in North Korea – in Vietnam, we never envisioned a unified Vietnam under a non-Communist regime). But by refusing to deal with the central issue, we opened ourselves up to an endless series of challenges which the Communist regime in Moscow orchestrated against us. None of them, taken separately, a mortal threat to our nation but collectively threatening our existence. And made doubly bad for us with the use of clever propaganda to make it appear that our defense of freedom and decency was the exact opposite.

I’m no military expert. I’m just a guy who has read a lot about military affairs and has thought for a very long while on the subject. But I will assert without fear of contradiction that in war you must go for decisive victory. You must have some clear, quantifiable result in mind. Is there anyone living today who can tell me how we finish the fighting we’re currently engaged in? Suppose we eventually defeat ISIS as we defeated al Qaeda in Iraq – what does that get us? ISIS is, in large measure, a successor organization to al Qaeda in Iraq – what actions can we take against ISIS which will ensure there won’t be a successor to ISIS?

It is my view that the current war will not and cannot be won until we tackle the central issue – which is direct State sponsorship of enemy forces. On one hand by the Iranian regime, on the other via financial support for enemy actions/propaganda by elements in Saudi Arabia and some Gulf States. While Saudi Arabia and Iran are opposed on what sort of settlement they want in the Middle East, the end result of either getting their way would be detrimental to the United States, the world and, most especially, to the people of the Middle East. We actually have a built-in advantage that Iran and Saudi Arabia are opposed to each other; we can exploit that. But until we make a world where there is no State sponsorship for groups like ISIS or Hezbollah or Hamas, we can’t win. And getting rid of such State sponsorship means going after the States (and actors within States) doing the sponsoring.

Additionally, the longer we allow this thing to drag out, the harder it will get for us to develope the political will to win. You see, as long as the enemy is out there able to survive our half-hearted efforts (directed, in any case, against proxies rather than the actual enemy) and spin propaganda in favor of themselves and against us, the less will be the popular support for energetic and decisive actions. Such propaganda from the Soviet Union nearly ensured against vigorous American action against the USSR, after all. We were lucky that Reagan had the guts – and the communication ability – to stand up to that. Younger people might not know just how massive the anti-Reagan effort was in the United States and around the world. Reagan had to stick to his guns when nearly everyone – including many political supporters – were urging him to cave in to Soviet-inspired political pressure in the United States and Europe about confronting the USSR. This is a weakness of democracies and it can’t be escaped – any free people can be subjected to enemy propaganda, and the more clever it is, the more the free people in question will figure it is home-grown rather than enemy-inspired. The need to move as quickly as possible and put an end to things is just part of living in a democratic republic – as it turns out, this is a mercy because the faster you move, the shorter the war and thus the less suffering involved.

I’ve said in the past I favor two course of action:

1. Get the heck out of there.

2. Go all the way in.

The reason I back “get the heck out” is because I believe that our mistakes have already set up a situation where decisive military action is not politically feasible. The national unity and determination fueled by 9/11 has long since evaporated. Part of this I do blame on President Bush’s actions, but mostly I lay the blame on partisan, political actors in the United States who cynically decided that scoring points against Bush was more vital than ensuring American victory. Be that as it may, we simply do not have the political will at the moment to do what will be necessary to win. So, get out. And then wait for it – because the enemy we face will strike us again, thus rekindling national unity and the will to victory.

And that leads us to “all the way in”. If we are to fight, we must fight right down to the ground. No half measures. No limited campaigns. No “overseas contingency operations” via a denounced “authorization to use force”. War. Declared war. War until the enemy is suing for peace on our terms. You know, like the Germans and Japanese did. It can be done – and when done, it is rather done for good.

I know some will object at this point that the Germans and French fought an endless series of wars; that there was no end to Franco-German wars as each of them just lead to another until a world divided into US and Soviet camps under the shadow of nuclear destruction forced an end to such conflicts. That is fine, except for one small fact: it wasn’t like that, at all. The French and Germans – as France and Germany – fought three wars, and only one was exclusively Germany against France (the Franco-Prussian War of 1870). A lot of people probably don’t know that Germany wasn’t a unified nation until that war in 1870 – and various parts of Germany fought alongside or against France (and a host of other nations) as circumstances seemed to warrant for centuries (the Bavarians, for instance, were allied with France against the German Holy Roman Empire – of which Bavaria was a member, by the way – and England in the War of the Spanish Succession).

Some wars do end in an inconclusive manner and thus invite a resumption – such as the War of the Austrian Succession pretty much ensuring that the Seven Years War would happen (and, of course, the unfinished nature of Gulf War I setting the stage for our 2003 Iraq campaign). But usually that sequel is very quick. When a war ends in a decisive manner, then that particular reason for war is usually done for good. The Prussians fought France in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo and in 1870 at Sedan – but the issues which brought French and Prussian armies to fight were entirely different. Prussia in 1815 was fighting to prevent a resumption of Napoleon I‘s rule in France – Prussia in 1870 was fighting (at Bismarck‘s direction) to cement German national unity under Prussia, and Bismarck didn’t give a darn what happened to Napoleon III as a result of the effort. Just because the combatants are the same – or similar – doesn’t mean that one war is an outgrowth of a previous war.

A lot of people hold to the opinion that because Bismarck’s new Germany took Alsace and Lorraine from France, World War One was inevitable. I can’t see any evidence of that. The two provinces did provide a bone of contention between the two nations, but I’ve yet to find any indication that any French military or political leader was contemplating a French offensive stroke to recover the lost provinces. The French military plans all through the period 1870-1914 supposed a German attack and a French riposte. That France hoped such action would result in German defeat and a return of the lost provinces is natural – but it’s a massively far step from a hope of victory in defensive war to a plan for offensive war. Maybe if things in 1914 had gone differently – you know, like Franz Ferdinand’s driver not taking a wrong turn – then France and Germany would have just come to blows over some other issue at some later date. We’ll never know. But absent a German attack on France, there would be no French war to reconquer the lost provinces as far as we can see from the evidence of the time.

I bring that up because I want to firmly point out that decisive victory tends to settle matters – at least as far as human affairs can ever be settled (which means, not at all, really – but if we can rest assured that for the next 40 years, there will be no war over the issue we just settled, then we did our job right). France and Germany didn’t go to war in 1914 because of a crisis over Alsace and Lorraine – there was no French demand for a return of the provinces followed by German refusal and then war. War started because a peculiar set of circumstances convinced German military and political leaders that an offensive war could be conducted against the Franco-Russian alliance with swift victory as the result (German calculations were heavily influenced by revolutionary ferment in Russia and the fact that Britain was within an ace of Civil War over the Irish Home Rule issue). The result of the 1870 war played no role; the fact that Germany held Alsace and Lorraine played no role. France, herself, might not have gone to war had not the Germans invaded, even supposing Germany went to war against Russia over Serbia (that Franco-Russia alliance, like most alliances, was defensive in nature…and it wasn’t clear that if Germany rose to Austria’s defense against Russian attack that France was treaty-bound to go to war against Russia…they might well have, but there is room for doubt that they would). Also little noticed is how fluid the whole political situation in Europe was just a few years before World War One – we’re mentally used to the idea of France, Britain and Russia being allied against Germany, but there was a real chance that Britain would have been allied with Germany against France and Russia. It could have happened had the Germans, well, not been so German about things.

And in that I’d like to point out that the biggest mistake anyone can make about history is to assume that because it happened the way it did it must necessarily have happened that way. Any one of a million variables working out differently could have caused a complete shake up of events. You know, like Franz’ driver – but in a larger sense, suppose General Stopford hadn’t dawdled at Suvla Bay and had energetically pushed inland? We can’t know what would have happened – but just that failure to move quickly probably doomed forever the British effort at Gallipoli in World War One. Had Stopford moved fast, the Gallipoli campaign might have ended in a decisive British victory – Turkey out of the war, easy communications with Russia re-established, the Austro-German alliance forced, at the least, to send massive reinforcements to the Balkans, thus weakening their forces in France and against Russia…the world might have been a massively different place today. World War One might have ended in 1916 with an allied victory before the Russian Revolution…and perhaps no German revolution which opened the path to Hitler. As I said, we don’t know what would have happened…but it is good to keep in mind on how things can turn on a dime. Just because things that happened since 1945 went as they did doesn’t mean they had to – and just because someone can call an event between 1945 and today a success doesn’t mean it was the sort of success we could have had.

I’ll close here by saying that while I’m always in favor of a large Navy and Air Force (because they keep enemies at a respectful distance from the United States), I’d much prefer to live in an America with a small army. And I’d also like it if our troops were at home, rather than scattered all over the world, live trip-wires for enemies to attack. I’d like it very much if we weren’t committed to come rushing to the defense of other nations. I know that in 2016 we need a large army and need our troops overseas and that we must commit ourselves to defending other nations – but I would have it otherwise, if I could. But the key to getting anywhere close to full peace – meaning, a situation where the prospect of war is not immediate – is to win the war (or wars, if you prefer) we’ve currently got (even if we don’t want to call it a war). And winning the war means identifying clearly who the enemy is, working out a plan for that enemy’s undoing and then energetically carrying it out. I can’t for the life of me imagine at the moment how we get from here to there – as I said, I think the political will to win is simply not extant at the moment – but unless we get there, we won’t get anywhere.

15 thoughts on “Winning and Losing Wars

  1. Amazona July 1, 2016 / 10:26 am

    Excellent post, Mark. Your grasp of military history is far greater than mine, and covers a much larger scope of history.

    I agree, it makes sense to just walk away from Afghanistan, though it is heartbreaking to have held out even a hint of hope for its women and children only to snatch it away. This, however, comes back to the hard cold and brutal fact that Islam is a hard,cold and brutal system which demands reform, and until it has done this it will continue to victimize the innocent and it will be nearly impossible to save them.

    You say “I’d like it very much if we weren’t committed to come rushing to the defense of other nations. ..” and here I disagree. I think if we have the size and power of the standing army we need in today’s world, we have to keep it busy and sharp and prepared and trained, and I also believe that relations with other nations who share similar views of humanity and governance require our defense of those nations when they are under attack. Going farther, I think we should be “..committed to come rushing to the defense of PEOPLE.” I can’t think of a better calling for a powerful and moral nation than that of defense of the helpless against oppression.

    I am not talking about political oppression from an established government, but from the kinds of oppression we see in Sudan, for example. An analogy might be that of pursuing success and wealth in business—the goal of, say, being worth a billion dollars is met—then what? Then the question is, are you going to just sit on that money or are you going to do something worthwhile with it? I think the same kind of equation would apply to building a big and strong military. Then what? Just have it sit around in case we need it to defend the nation?

    So I would send military forces to make sure that aid sent to starving and suffering people gets to its intended recipients, and to crush violent oppressors such as Janjaweed and the various tribal chiefs who prey upon the weak. I am not talking about imposing any form of government or religion or philosophy, but merely crushing violence and oppression and genocide.

    One reason, of course, is simply humanity toward our fellow peoples. But one is the opportunity to develop and foster understanding in our own people of the reality of life outside the United States, and one is to build respect and affection for the United States.

    I believe that the experience of crushing violent predators and bringing food and medicine to the suffering will develop character in young people whose lives, up until that point, have probably been defined by luxury, excess and pampering. Even the best of our young, those dedicated to the concepts of Protect and Serve, have probably grown up in nice homes with all the mod cons, driving cars around on well paved streets in safe neighborhoods to shop for any kind of food they want at well-stocked grocery stores. Even someone who has grown up in a gang-ravaged and violent neighborhood has had it better than so many people around the world. I am a firm believer that exposure to other cultures and other ways of life is a very important experience, and if our young people can not only see for themselves how incredibly immensely superior their own ways of life have been but offer a little help to the less fortunate, by protecting them from predation by other human beings and making it possible for them to receive food and medicine and whatever it takes to alleviate their suffering, if they can learn for themselves that we are all human beings no matter what our circumstance, I think we will be building better people and citizens. And we will be building goodwill among people all over the world.

    I have written about a man I knew who, when he was six, saw his little village leveled by a massive earthquake. One of his first memories as a child was that of waking up the next morning to find the whole area covered with military and volunteers from the United States. He said eventually other nations offered help, but the US was there first, left last, and did the most for the people. That formed a lifelong love for the United States, and he was finally able to find his way here. It helped motivate his pursuit of a college degree and finding a job that let him come here, and he got his green card and was pursuing citizenship when he died. When he was having trouble with Immigration because of a typo on the birth certificate of his mother and someone joked that it would be easier to just go to Mexico and walk across the border, he was very indignant and said “I don’t want to come to this country to break its laws.”

    These are the kinds of attitudes toward the United States we could foster by using our military to help people, also using these events as training exercises. All of this as a side benefit of having the best military force in the world,

  2. Amazona July 1, 2016 / 10:42 am

    For the last couple of months I have been thinking, and writing, of the concept that we are wrong when we use the term “radical Islam” to describe terrorists, that in fact these violent people do not represent “radical” interpretation of Islam but reflect Islam itself, as it was created, as it was written, as it is instructed, and in its truest form. It is those who do not ascribe to the ugliness and violence who are the radicals because they are rebelling, albeit quite quietly and passively, against the harsher strictures of the movement.

    I have also thought, and said, for quite some time that Islam must undergo some form of reform, and that if it will not do so on its own it has to be imposed upon it by legislation defining it as a political movement more than a true religion. We can’t keep offering what is essentially a violent political movement dedicated to our own destruction the protections offered to religions which are based only on salvation and redemption and a closer relationship with a Supreme Being. We can, and I am convinced should, offer a choice—to align with true Islam as seen in the Koran, and therefore be part of a political movement which only has elements of religion, or identify with a purely religious form of Islam which not only does not include elements of violence, killing, world domination and so on but rejects them and is exclusively about developing a personal relationship with Allah in the pursuit of salvation of the soul.

    Last week I listened to an audio book by Brad Thor which said pretty much the same thing. It mostly talked about the misdirection of calling true Islamists the “radicals” when it is those who do not follow all of the teachings of Islam who are truly radical, and it touched a little on the need for reform within the religion. Then, after the airport attacks in Turkey, I suddenly heard the word “reform” over and over again.

    (And BTW, I think the misdirection is purposeful, much like that of “workplace violence” but more malignant and destructive in intent and nature, and sadly more pervasive. Its intent is that of constantly referring to Islam as a “religion of peace”—-an effort to whitewash the movement and give it cover.)

    I think it is an idea whose time has come, if it is bubbling up in so many places in so many minds which do not communicate with each other.

  3. Bob Eisenhower July 1, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    Sorry for being dense, but what, exactly, is being proposed here? Declaration of War against Iran and Saudi Arabia? Against others?

    • Amazona July 1, 2016 / 1:27 pm

      You got it in one, Bob. Laser focus, no flies on you!

    • Bob Eisenhower July 1, 2016 / 2:04 pm

      OK, and let’s say we win and they surrender. What are the conditions of surrender?

      Make Wahabbism illegal? Historically, things don’t go well repressing a religion.

      Take out the leadership? Recent history has shown things don’t go well in the Mideast when a vacuum happens in leadership.

      My problem is I don’t see realistic goals out of such a war, not to mention all the complications that would come from allies (theirs, notably Russia and China, and our own, like NATO/UN condemnation/interference) and budgets and etc.

      It is a good idea, Mark, I would love nothing more than to unleash the full power of the U.S. military on that part of the world, but I don’t see unilateral open war with two or the players as a solution.

      • Amazona July 1, 2016 / 2:45 pm

        Instead of projecting a possible future war, go back to Iraq. We took out the old regime. We enabled voting for a new regime. We offered military support for the people while they rebuilt their police forces and military. So far, so good.

        Then we walked away. Those who had supported us (that is, trusted us) were targeted for retaliation. No one else was willing to stand up for what we had started, or at least very few.

        What could we have done to stabilize that initial victory? Just plain old-fashioned followthrough.

        I spoke with an officer who had served in Iraq about starting a movement here in the US to have various communities choose and support a school in Iraq. A simple fundraiser every year, to provide a few thousand dollars for books and pencil cases and so on would have done wonders to start young Iraqis having a good opinion of the US. This fell apart when we tucked tail and ran, for craven political gain. I still think it would have been a good thing.

        “Take out the leadership? Recent history has shown things don’t go well in the Mideast when a vacuum happens in leadership.” Which is why there has to be a stabilizing presence until that vacuum is filled. Sorry, but that is a big “DUH” as it has been abundantly clear for years now that it was our removal of that stabilizing structure that allowed the bad guys to flood in and take over.

        Even five more years of suppressing terrorists and supporting Iraq as it rebuilt, even five more years of getting schools established where children could learn real skills and real history and (as I had hoped) learn to think of Americans as friends and allies, and the picture would have been very different.

        Go back and look at what happened in Japan after we won WW II. We imposed a wholly alien economic structure on the country, and within 20 or so years it had evolved from basically a feudal society to one equipped to function in a modern world.

        “Make Wahabbism illegal? Historically, things don’t go well repressing a religion.”

        However, repressing a vicious totalitarian mindset can “go well”. Once we separate the religions aspects of Islam from its predominately political aspects then yes, we CAN outlaw the political parts while encouraging the aspects that are based on spiritual awakening and advancement, redemption and salvation.

        Sedition is illegal in pretty much every country. Once the part of Islam that is based on overthrow of secular governments is isolated from the simple choice of how to approach God and worship Him (or Gaia or whoever or whatever) then yes, Wahabbism CAN be outlawed, as is every other form of sedition. Perhaps it would be necessary to impose a restriction similar to our 1st Amendment, that the state cannot establish a religion nor officially support a religion, along with a redefining of some political movements operating under the flag of religion.

        As for your dreaded “…NATO/UN condemnation …” to hell with them. They use our own money to interfere with us, condemn us, etc. while they support terrorist regimes, corruption, and so on. I think we should kick the UN out of NYC and drop out completely, forming a new group if we just belong to one but one that reflects the stated goals of the old, original UN back in the day. I don’t see the UN existing as more than a shell organization of losers and third world bullies without the US, and no doubt Europe and South American would follow us.

        What we encountered in the US, vis-a-vis Iraq, was the absolutely disgusting abandonment of decency in favor of political expediency, so when George W. Bush said the obvious—that to succeed, we had to “stay the course”, he was attacked, vilified, and generally ridiculed. Now that the inevitable result of failure to follow through is turning on us, at great cost, there is a mad scramble to find some other reason for it, but it all comes back to Leftist abandonment of decency in the pursuit of power.

      • Bob Eisenhower July 1, 2016 / 3:49 pm

        I don’t think pointing to Iraq’s elections as evidence we – and by “we,” I mean any foreign party – are capable of putting in place a sound government. The government that came about was corrupt and incompetent and inflamed the already-flaming secular divisions.

        The only long-term success in that region has been wen we installed a despot loyal to the U.S. Things were great (for us, at least) during the Shah’s reign. Saddam was a monster but we now understand we needed that monster. This is not such a “duh” point if you give it a bit of thought.

        As for separating religion from politics you are simply ignoring reality. Religion is almost always inextricably ties to politics, which is why the founding fathers worked hard to separate them. Wahabbism IS the government in Saudi Arabia.

        Mark is better at history and me but I do not think you can name a single time in history that a foreign entity successfully got a nation to long-term, ditch their religion. Sure, we got the Japanese to recognize the Emperor was not a deity, but the religion continued. The Romans destroyed all facets of Judaism and yet, it remains.

        Wahabbism – which is the heart of the Islamist movement – will not go away until a more popular Islamic movement supersedes it.

      • Amazona July 1, 2016 / 7:34 pm

        It would be the height of foolishness to assume, or expect, an immediate turnaround in any nation. Sure the people elected in the first Iraqi election were “..corrupt and incompetent and inflamed the already-flaming secular divisions…” So they didn’t get it right the first time around. That is why it is so important to stick around, provide stability, and let people unused to self-government make their mistakes and learn from them.

        “Saddam was a monster but we now understand we needed that monster.” I am so tired of hearing this worn-out and ridiculous mantra. Yes, he was a monster. No, we did not “need” him. What we needed was a clear concept of what to do and how to do it and the fortitude to stick with it even when it was boring, expensive, or not satisfying a need for immediate gratification.

        “Religion is almost always inextricably ties to politics, which is why the founding fathers worked hard to separate them” Yeah…..except they didn’t. Another tired old mantra with no basis in fact. What they DID was say that the government could ESTABLISH no religion, nor interfere with the exercise of any religion. The only “separation” that concerned them or was even considered by them was the refusal to allow a state religion or a requirement to belong to any particular religion. There was never, ever, any Founder statement that the government needed to be separate from religion, nor any effort to make it separate from religion.

        “Wahabbism IS the government in Saudi Arabia.” As I don’t think we are talking about invading Saudi Arabia, I don’t think that is relevant. However, if it is exported as a political philosophy into a nation which we have had to conquer for a good reason, and which we are trying to stabilize, we would have every right to ban the elements of it that interfere with or contradict or threaten whatever we are trying to establish—just as we could ban it here if we only had the backbone to address it as more political than religious in nature and therefore not protected as a religion.

        “…I do not think you can name a single time in history that a foreign entity successfully got a nation to long-term, ditch their religion. …” which is why no one has or would recommend trying to do this. If you bothered to read anything I have said about reforming Islam it has always been about respecting the truly religious teachings and renouncing only the aspects that are violent and political in nature. There is a difference, a crucial difference but not hard to recognize in anything I have said.

        “Sure, we got the Japanese to recognize the Emperor was not a deity, but the religion continued. “ Yep, it sure did. Of course there was never any effort or desire to eliminate that religion. Our efforts were wholly political and economic, and never intended to interfere with the spiritual lives of the Japanese.

        “The Romans destroyed all facets of Judaism and yet, it remains.” Except no, they didn’t. That is a silly statement. The only objection the Romans had to Judaism was where it was seen as a threat to the political structure of Rome. There were cultural biases against Jews, as there have been in so many cultures, but no real effort to eliminate the religion except in Nazi Germany.

        “Wahabbism – which is the heart of the Islamist movement – will not go away until a more popular Islamic movement supersedes it.” Exactly, though I am starting to wonder about your definition of “wahabbism”. Nothing this major and significant could possibly be accomplished overnight, or quickly. I have always talked about this being a multi-generational change. I’m pretty sure I have mentioned that.

        The first step is to offer Muslims a choice, which they do not have right now. That choice would be to align, formally and publicly, with either a reform version of Islam or the traditional, current and historical, political-movement version. The effect of this, over time, would be to force people to examine their hearts, their true religious beliefs, and whether or not the violence and hatred are essential parts of their pursuit of a personal relationship with Allah and their personal salvation. Over time, the negatives of being associated legally and socially with the ugly side of Islam would start to have an impact. Many who choose one side will eventually move to the other side.

        The next step would be to give societal approval of Reform Islam, rewarding it if you like by treating it with the respect and acceptance Muslims say they want. Coupled with this would be stern and even Draconian action against the political arm of Islam, traditional Islam, the source of hatred and violence and terror. These mosques would no longer have the protection of religion, they could be monitored and their attendees could be monitored, they could be put under surveillance, and no one would have to tiptoe around them for fear of crossing some First Amendment line. They could and would be treated the same way we treat white supremacist groups, for example. They are what they are but not sheltered under the umbrella of religion so we can keep an eye on them, infiltrate them, wiretap them if we have reasonable cause, and so on.

        Over time, probably over generations, more and more Muslims would be more and more comfortable being accepted and respected as good people who merely have a different path to redemption, free of the stigma of terrorism and hatred and genocide, and over time the violent segments would be, to put it bluntly, either killed off or isolated. This, I believe, would be the “..more popular Islamic movement…” that would end up superseding Islam as we know it now.

        But you have to start somewhere, and the problem is so massive and so threatening that it has to be widespread and started in different places using different tactics.

      • Bob Eisenhower July 2, 2016 / 2:05 pm


        So, I guess this is going to be another “up is down” discussion.

        Amazona: “I don’t think we are talking about invading Saudi Arabia”

        When I asked at the beginning, “Declaration of War against Iran and Saudi Arabia? and you answered “You got it in one, Bob. Laser focus, no flies on you!” Perhaps there are, indeed, flies on me because it sounds to me like you flat-out said this was about war with Saudi Arabia and Iran, which necessitates invasion.

        Amazona: “‘The Romans destroyed all facets of Judaism and yet, it remains.’ Except no, they didn’t. That is a silly statement.”

        Perhaps you need to read a little history, because that is exactly what they did. The Jewish faith/nation was Temple-based, meaning a devout Jew could only seek God’s attention through sacrifices and prayer at the Great Temple. By destroying the Temple and banishing Jews from Jerusalem, the Romans literally tried to destroy the religion to stop zealots from inspiring the crowds to revolt. Of course, history shows the Jews developed the idea of local temples, which gave way to Christian churches and Christianity ended up conquering Rome.

        So, let me come back to my original question, seeing as I was too dense to understand your answer, Mark seems to be recommending war with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and perhaps others, to weed out the negative influence of Islam.

        Do you agree this is a good idea?

      • Bob Eisenhower July 2, 2016 / 2:11 pm

        Amazona: “I am starting to wonder about your definition of ‘wahabbism'”

        Ummm, according to multiple dictionary sites: Wahhabism – a conservative and intolerant form of Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia, whose tenets include a religious priority over politics and interpretation of Koranic Law as though from Mohammed’s era.

        Guess I’ve been misspelling it.

      • Amazona July 2, 2016 / 4:59 pm

        So sorry, Bob—my snark/sarc key didn’t work on that “got it in one” reply. It was intended, in fact, to be sarcastic and dismissive, as I thought what you said was silly. The “no flies on you” was, I thought, a pretty good tipoff. Because an attack on Saudi Arabia was not mentioned, hinted at, or supported or implied by anything going on in the world, your leap struck me as just plan goofy, and it reminded me of the old Casper days when someone would say one thing and he would respond with “SO, what you are saying is…..” and then come up with something completely different.

        My tolerance for such silliness and Leftist-style rhetoric ranges from very very thin to nonexistent, therefore the snarky response that was a version of “Yeah, right, Bob, good catch there” which also would have been sarcastic.

      • Bob Eisenhower July 2, 2016 / 5:35 pm

        Oh, I get it now. I’m so obtuse.

        When I directly ask Mark to clarify a point in an article written about decisive war victory solving the overall Islam issue, you felt it your obligation to chime in with a jackass confirmation. And you did this out of fear I was using a tactic of a different poster, one with which I have argued before…

        I’ve been wasting time thinking you have meaningful words in your 10,000 word replies, but I was too obtuse to realize. I guess I shouldn’t waste any more time reading your voluminous-yes-valueless commentary.

        Thank you.

      • Amazona July 2, 2016 / 6:31 pm

        OK. Got it. For Bob, short posts, short words, no humor. Never disagree.

        Don’t feel bad. Not everybody can keep up.

    • M. Noonan July 1, 2016 / 11:25 pm

      The source of the trouble is in Iran’s government and in various elements of the Saudi and some Gulf governments. The various Islamist groups causing the trouble are only able to do so because of such support. If we want to win, we have to get at the source – which might require outright war against the sources, and might not. Reagan managed to destroy the source of our troubles 1945-1991 without war, so it can be done that way…but the source still must be destroyed. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be left alone. It must be destroyed. That is, if we want to win.

      As it turns out, we’ve already blown two opportunities to destroy Iran – back in the 2006-2007 time frame when a mere series of limited attacks on some of Iran’s highly vulnerable infrastructure probably would have brought down the regime and in 2009, when Obama allowed the Iranian government to crush an incipient Iranian revolution. Now the Iran problem is much more difficult as Iran’s government is much more powerful – and likely to get even more powerful over the next few years as they invest the cash we’re handing them. I begin to suspect that only full-scale war will solve the Iran problem – but other things can come up to do the trick.

      One thing I am certain about is that playing whack-a-mole with Islamist groups won’t win the war – as long as there is a source of arms, funds and inspiration which is off limits to our power, other groups will just rise up on the ashes of the latest group we destroyed.

  4. Amazona July 2, 2016 / 11:13 am

    Here is a perfect example of an opportunity to demand a choice between Reformed Islam, which does allow for allegiance to an authority other than Allah and which renounces the violent, jihad elements of Islam, and traditional Islam (which we now coyly refer to as “Radical Islam”). No one who is Muslim who does not choose the religious, or Reform, branch of Islam would be eligible tor any public office, or at least for a judgeship.

    If she lies and this is borne out by subsequent rulings or statements, she is automatically shifted to the Trad Is side of the ledger, with a notation that she lied.

    And BTW, this is proof that we need some sort of official legislation that no form of law other than American law (phrased better than that) is allowed authority in this country. Meaning, of course, Sharia has no authority. We can’t do that right now, because Islam in its totality is protected as a religion. We have to separate the political aspect of Islam before we can address any of its components in a rational and constitutional way.

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