With the capture of Fallujah by al-Qaeda-linked Islamists and the clear deterioration of Afghanistan, it is time we both admit these wars have been lost, and draw some conclusions about them.
1. Get out of the UN. It was set up to keep the peace; peace was broken less than two years after it was set up when India and Pakistan went to war. An organization to keep global peace which can’t stop a major war from happening is useless. All the UN does these days is add an extra layer of bureaucracy on to the world and hamper quick, decisive action. Kowtowing to the pretense that the UN can keep the peace just puts American policy in a bind. Before we can do anything with UN approval, we have to get our enemies in China and Russia to agree to it – and if you think the hard heads running those countries will ever operate altruistically then you are certifiable. When it suits them, they’ll foster wars, civil wars, insurrections, death, slaughter and disease – and prevent us from getting UN approval to stop it. Worthless organization. Corrupt and expensive, as well. Better to do away with it.
2. We must never hazard our armed forces in battle again except as a result of a declared state of war against a specific nation or group of nations. The fatal flaw in our post-9/11 operations – and for this Bush bears a great deal of responsibility – was the fact that we didn’t declare wars. We made terrorist groups and trivial individuals like bin Laden the primary enemy, rather than grappling with the real problem: all terrorist and Islamist activity is the result of State-sponsorship. The men who flew the planes in to the World Trade Center were not free agents – various nations had a hand in setting the stage. Even if they knew nothing of the pending attack, nations like Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia had provided money, weapons, training, safe havens and other services to the Islamist group(s) which planned and carried out the attacks. By making “terrorism” the thing to fight against and bin Laden the enemy, we essentially let the real enemy off the hook.
We know who the bad actors are in this – we know which nations routinely sponsor terrorism and Islamism. If we are attacked by Islamist terrorism, then we should go to war with the nations which cause the problem. Declared war – no “we’re not at war but we’re bombing the heck out of things” sort of quasi-war we’ve engaged in since Korea. There are diplomatic and economic reasons why we don’t declare war – I’m fully aware of that. Being at war poses a host of problem. But it also clarifies things. Let’s the enemy know our intentions are serious and they’d better get surrendering or at least making funeral arrangements.
3. Force the enemy to surrender – and the more humiliating the surrender, the better. Humble their pride, beat them to the ground. Hammer them with more power than they can well imagine, hold nothing back.
4. Be quick about it. Getting out of the UN will help in this – it was because we felt we had to diddle around with the UN that we didn’t go in to Iraq until 2003 rather than mid-2002. Don’t sit around trying to rebuild things after one nation or area of an enemy nation is conquered – other than maintaining the infrastructure we need for further military operations, the local population is on its own. And if the local population can’t be trusted, then kick them out of where we are. Don’t leave our troops at the mercy of people who want to plant road side bombs – once one goes off, everyone within 10 miles of that road is moved more than 10 miles away from it.
5. Once the enemy has surrendered, be sure we take things to compensate us for having to go through the trouble. Let the world know that not only will challenging the United States lead to massive death and destruction, but reparations payments and/or cession of territory to the United States. No more, “go ahead and fight us and we’ll not only be gentle in fighting back, but we’ll rebuild you once we’re done”.
6. And, thus, no nation-building. We go in, fight, force them to surrender, take what we want, and then we leave.
All of this might seem harsh, but I believe it is less harsh than ten-year-long, inconclusive military-economic-political operations which are hamstrung by politics. Had we declared war on the morrow of 9/11 upon Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya, the whole thing probably would have been over by 2004 with a complete American victory, our enemies surrendering to us, humiliated and paying us reparations until 2024. Probably fewer dead, overall – and us at peace for the last 10 years.