ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

War Is Hell

"War is hell," said General William T. Sherman, and there is much to be learned from what he said and meant, especially in view of the now obviously dim results in Iraq.

What did Sherman mean? He meant that war is to be fought brutally and with maximum force in order to bring it to an end as rapidly as possible. War, Sherman thought, should be fought to break as many things as and kill as many of the enemy as possible until they give up. In conducting war in this fashion, he argued, the total loss of life is kept to a minimum as the enemy surrenders sooner and the people are reduced to a submissive state with no thought of resistance.

We fought World War II as Sherman thought war should be fought. The Japanese in particular were on the receiving end of Shermanesque warfare. The final and most devastating blows being the atomic attacks that were within days followed by the Japanese surrender.

How does that apply to where we find ourselves today in Iraq?

It seems to me that we are paying the price for not following Sherman's lead. "Shock and Awe" were called for but not delivered. Rather, we followed a minimalist approach to this war.

Rumsfeld and Bush were not military leaders or thinkers and they did not follow military advice. They knew better than the experts, or so they thought. The result, if not a disaster, is a mess. The Secretary of State, Colin Powell, warned them to use more force, and when they did not do so, it was then he opposed the plan. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs warned them to the same effect and he was fired. John McCain called for more force. Many other voices spoke up if not quite so publicly as the three more famous cases. Their advice was that if we were not going to do it right then don't do it at all.

We did not do it right, and four years later we and the Iraqi's are paying a terrible price.

The administration needs to be held accountable, not as the liberal moonbats would have it, for being too brutal, but for not being brutal enough at the outset. The end result has been a shedding of blood that could have been avoided. The present situation is a disgrace.

Is it too late to salvage the situation? Sadly the answer is probably "yes." We can bring a measure of stability, but we will now never be revered in Iraq as Douglas MacArthur came to be in a properous and democratic post-war Japan.

What a shame.

And now what do we do? One can only hope there are some serious folks giving that question their serious attention. Further, one can only hope that at this stage of the game there is the political will left in the country to finish the job as best we can, i.e. the moonbat left does not take this mess and turn it into a cataclysm.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Comments (7)
George said...


You are not a military leader either. It is in the training and upbringing of military leaders that they apply maximum force against the enemy. General Norman Schwartzkopf called focusing a lot of military power against key enemy points of resistance "economy of force." It's not a new concept.

I will agree that the Bush Administration hasn't pursued the war in Iraq with enough vigor; however, I am inclined to blame the folks over at Foggy Bottom as much as anyone. L. Paul Bremmer was in over his head, among others. Diplomats should be required to wait until the smoke clears before being allowed anywhere near a battle field.

Neither you nor I have any way of knowing who had the bright idea of having a "light footprint" in Iraq. General John Abizaid certainly seemed to appy the concept with conviction. He is gone now.

Being a veteran of the war in Southeast Asia (it was never just about Vietnam) what bothers me the most about the war in Iraq is that we are once again allowing the enemy sanctuary in places like Iran, Syria, and Pakistan. Again, the diplomats are as much responsible for that sorry state as anyone.

St Wendeler said...

MJ & George - I think I agree with both of you.

First, overwhelming force applied to enemy resistance is key. In the case of Iraq, Powell said, "If you break it, you own it." Unfortunately, we did not "break" Iraq... as forces moved towards Baghdad, they let combatants melt away... I remember video of a guy with an AK on the side of the road... he dropped the weapon and the US soldier on top of the tank waved him away...

Second, Bremer & Foggy Bottom are to blame for much of what transpired post-war. They did not replicate the Afghanistan model of installing a native regime friendly to the US... instead, Bremer wanted to play occupation government for a while. He also disastrously disbanded the military, leaving that guy who dropped his AK unemployed and angry.

With regard to whether we can fix the situation or not, I think that there is a hope. However, the prospects for a positive outcome are not as probable as they were just prior to Bremer's arrival in Baghdad. Unfortunately, we have to push for success, since the alternative would be disastrous for Iraqis and the American people (whether they recognize it or not).

St Wendeler said...

Check out this post RE the recommendations from Cpt. Travis Patriquin, who was killed in Iraq before he could see his strategy employed successfully.

His insight is still useful..

Desert Rat said...

I suspect one of the problems is that we conducted ourselves as liberators in Iraq rather than occupiers. We couldn't wait to turn things over to an interim government rather than run the show ourselves.

That didn't happen in Germany and Japan following the Second World War. We took our time and did what was necessary.

France and the Philippines were liberated--Germany and Japan were occupied. There is a huge difference. We forgot that lesson.

Monterey John said...

George, did I claim to be a military leader? I must have missed that in what I wrote. I'll take another look :)

However, I am a historian. It does not take a PhD in military history to do some comparing and contrasting. Our effort in Iraq looks pathetic compared to what some figures from the past might have done, men like Caesar, Alexander, Darius, Patton, Lemay, Abrams,MacArthur, Nimitz, Grant, Sherman, Napoleon, Guderian and not to mention a bunch of Russians. They would all cringe at what we did in Iraq.

The misadventure is reminicient of nothing so much as the Russians in Afghanistan.

As for who's fault this is, Harry Truman had it right: "The Buck Stops Here."

George said...

Well, MJ, I think you offered that impression with your analysis. Also, as far as I can tell, you misquoted General William T. Sherman's observations on war -- or at least as far as I can tell from about 145 years after the fact. BTW, one of my great great grandfathers made the trek across the South with Sherman.

Sherman had the task of destroying the South's war-making capability, and he recoginzed that war-making capability resides in the general population. Thus his ruthlessness. The American Civil War has been called the first of the 20th Century wars. Likewise our ruthless dealing with the Axis powers during WWII.

Iraq is different. What would be the point of laying waste to Iraq ala Uncle Billy Sherman? It may not have looked much like "shock and awe" to the untrained eye, but the aerial assault on Baghdad was exactly that. There was also a lot of the assault portion of that war that didn't make the evening news; that was the part in which the Iraqi army was demoralized with attacks they couldn't even see coming, let alone defend against.

The big mistake in Iraq lay with the diplomats. Military decisions played a role too; there should have been a stronger effort at attacking the holdouts and insurgents in their nests rather than letting them infiltrate back into Iraq. Part of that problem stemmed from the fact that Turkey wouldn't allow the 4-ID to launch an attack from its soil. If that had been allowed we might not be where we are today, but, as Rummy said, and I can attest to, you go with what you have and not with what you want to have.

St Wendeler said...

The 4th ID being stuck in Turkey!!!

Many people forget about this little snafu. Another of Colin Powell's wonderful "accomplishments!"