Are we too nice in war?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by LineInTheSand, Mar 4, 2010.

  1. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I'm not sure if this has come up on this website or not. I know it's come up in discussion with friends, and even in college.


    Are we too nice in war? Reading military.com's most recent article about how the U.S. took needed risks in Iraq to avoid civilian casualties.

    I think back to the "scorched earth" tactics of York in the Civil War. And yet, somehow people in Atlanta don't scream for "Yankee blood".

    I think back to WWII, and carpet bombing German cities. German's are screaming for American blood.

    WWII again, and Japan, we drop 2 nuclear bombs on cities and some how Japan is one of our closest allies in the region.

    Are we too PC, to "safe" in the way we fight wars now? Are we too concerned to keeping the enemy (the guy trying to kill us) happy that we miss the basic idea, kill enough of them that they see more benefit in bowing to our wants and needs than continuing to fight us?

    What has changed since the 1940s, when carpet bombing was generally accepted to the 2000s, when one missed target in a war zone is an international incident?


    It generated some good conversation in class.
     
  2. America's Finest

    America's Finest USMA Cadet

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    By your two examples I would say it can all be summed up to "desperate times call for desperate measures".

    During the Civil War, our country's welfare was at stake. If we lost, we lost our nation.

    In WWII, the welfare of the world was at stake, if we lost, nobody would be able to stand up against the Axis Powers.

    The current wars are controlled wars against countries that pose no real threat to our nation. Obviously, they can harm it with actions such as 9/11 but they don't pose the same threat the previously mentioned wars did.

    I also don't think its ALL about keeping the enemy happy. Its about doing what is "morally right" and keeping in mind that the rest of the world is also watching and without a desperate time to justify such actions, we cannot be reckless now.
     
  3. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    IMHO, what has changed since the 1940's is not war itself as war has always had a degree of combatants hiding among civilians resulting in unintended casualties. By and large, the degree to which we are threatened by a situation has always dictated the degree to which we balance civilian casualties versus the risk to the mission. Trust me, if one of our drones ID'd Osama Bin Laden speaking in front of a crowded mosque and we thought we could recover enough DNA to prove the remains were his, I believe the CIA would tolerate several hundred civilian deaths and the destruction of a holy place to get that target.

    What has changed is the amount and way the story is being told from the battlefront. The whole concept of front-line journalism is an invention of the 1940's. Sure, before that people wrote and published their experiences of war, but typically this occurred well after the issue was settled and played no role in the actual event. The advent of video journalism as developed in WW II, allowed the first "real-time" (usually delayed from a week to a month as producing and transferring the media took time) information delivered that could actually affect the home front during the actual event. And even this stuff was culturally filtered and yes, censored, to deliver a message that was meant to uplift the home front. In effect, it was propaganda, as it was deliberately one-sided and intended to motivate.

    Moving forward through Viet Nam, (where the advent of same-day coverage became possible through more technically advanced communications) we learned that the filters imposed on the battle front (not just military censorship but the journalist ethics of doing thorough investigation before reporting) could be compromised in the competitive rush of covering the story as fast as your competitors could. The North Vietnamese began the first exploitation of their opponent's media by an opponent known to civilization (yes, I am discounting Tokyo Rose as she was not particularly effective).

    The military actions/wars of the 1980's and 1990's witnessed that the instigator of a brief military operation could use the advantage of surprise and speed (much like the military blitzkreig of WW II) to win the war before the opponent could get traction. Americans were as much the intended viewers of "shock and awe" as our opponents when it was brought into our living rooms within hours of an event.

    However in our current military operations, our opponents were given plenty of opportunity to prepare their media/propaganda operations in advance of the actual action and in the case of the Radical Islamist
    Extremists, the September 11th hijackings were a picture perfect piece of using the other side's media to rally their side. When you step back, I don't think anyone on either side ever thought that they would win a military war. They seek to be the first side to get a superior military to surrender by undermining its home support as the primary means. At least the North Vietnamese actually militarily took and held ground effectively. And in fact all of the parties who don't want us defending our interests have taken to the same strategy, staging trumped-up "civilian" casualities for the camera whether they are Al-Queda or just another corrupt tribal chief wanting to protect his empire.

    And we have let them do this to us. While our First Amendment is a wonderful thing, our lack of respect for the concept of abuses of it through allowing enemies of it to falsely cry "Yankee murderer", much like crying "fire" in a crowded theater has created a hazard to our ability to defend this concept around the world.

    If the under-educated masses don't quite understand that underfiltered (and manipulated) media is destroying the concept of free speech as envisioned by our forefathers this isn't news. Hitler managed to take a whole civilization down that path and almost destroyed a continent doing it.

    So while we (and other nations) allow and protect the spread of this unverified and unfiltered propaganda and allow it to dominate sectors of the world's communications, we hamper our ability to win this war against the Islamist Extremists.

    If we are truly serious about winning this war, we must shut down their media (internet included) and infiltrate and disrupt the houses of worship where mullahs preaching suicide bombing as a method for social change. We must not only win the battle on the ground, but the battle on both homefronts to ensure a lasting change to the way the civilizations relate to each other.

    To answer your question, it isn't whether we are too nice on the battlefield or not, it is are we too lenient in the control of manipulative media by our enemies.

    Sorry for the long rant...
     
  4. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Well- in fact for >50 years after the Civil War much of the south did in fact scream out for "yankee blood" and the economics of the region were stunted for generations as a result of the Civil War. I also question whether "carpet bombing" was morally acceptable in 1944 - it certainly generated a great swell of outrage when the Germans bombed Coventry in 1940 and not long after the war there was a significant divergence of opinion within the US and the west over the morality of the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg. Finally is there any equivalence between a war fought against opponents who either would have broken our country apart permanently or in WW2 annihilated entire civilizations ( which is certainly what happened to the Jews in Europe and the Poles and Slavs were similarly fated; The rape of Nanking et al certainly shows that the Japanese were no respectors of the rights of civilian populations) and the wars fought since ? One of the guiding principals of wars fought by democratic countries in the western world anyway is "Just War" theory of Thomas Aquinas- the primary component of which is essentially that wars, war aims and their methods need to be proportional and justified to the minimum destruction needed to accomplish the justified aim . Political rhetoric aside- is the life of our country and our civilization really in imminent danger of wholesale destruction?

    On top of that there was and is a great debate over the effectiveness of these kind of tactics - the US Strategic Bombing Survey in 1946 called into question whether the bombing tactics in Germany shortened or even affected the length of the war at all.
    So morale issues aside- In the wars we are fighting now- would we gain one scintilla of advantage by the mass or unconstrained destruction of the civilization or innocent civilians? No we would not - in fact it would only serve to increase the resistance of the populations that we are seeking to gain the support of- in essence we would be turning a campfire into a forest fire. You don't win insurgencies by alienating the population- you win them by convincing them that they have a shared enemy and a shared interest and that the greater long term safety and economic interest for them and their families is with your side. This isn't "PC anything"- it's a straight forward calculation that we gain far more by acting with control and restraint than if we act totally without regard to the well being of the innocent population.
     
  5. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Just as a little correction, war time journalism, as well as war coorespondents have been around far longer than WWII. It wasn't until after WWII that the U.S. military did not exert a great deal of control over the "products".
     
  6. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    I'm one of those who believes that if you're going to do something, do it right.

    This whole BS during the Iraq insurgency where the bad guys would shoot from mosques and we in turn had to ask permission to shoot back was nuts. My opinion is if the enemy is firing at us from somewhere, you decimate them and anything you have to destroy on the way to them, pronto.

    People like to whine about the Geneva Conventions, but those specifically mention that if an enemy is utilizing an otherwise protected area to engage in military operations (i.e. - placing an anti-aircraft battery on top of a hospital), then the area loses its protected status and becomes a military target.

    Too many armchair warrior-lawyers have popped up to claim that terrorists (i.e. - saboteurs not in uniform) have Geneva rights when they specifically DON'T, or have Constitutional rights when they are trying to DESTROY the Constitution. They've also seen too many movies where weapons are rediculously accurate, technology inerrant, and intelligence flawless.

    War is an ugly thing, which is why it must be fought with maximum fury in order to ensure a quick and conclusive ending. Doing things half-assed results in messes like Iraq and Vietnam. The slaughter doesn't need to be indescriminate, but if flattening cities is what's needed to bring an enemy to heel, then pass the ordnance!
     
  7. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    True enough, but for the most part, the journalism that did make its way out of the front lines was very limited greatly delayed (months) and thereby insignificant in the impact on the homefront. The content was also shaped by its sponsors (think William Randolph Hearst) more to sell newspapers than to alter the course of events.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2010
  8. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    ...and back then, journalism didn't require a foaming-at-the-mouth hatred of your own country as a prerequisite requirement for employment.
     
  9. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    The media has found that selling out your country and civilization is a great way to make money and therefore employs those who would do so whether they realize it or not.
     
  10. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Somewhat a matter of opinion. The calculation is not made in a vacuum. The media, international bodies, nongovernmental institutions are all part of that calculation.

    Certainly Sherman's scorch earth policy brought the south to its knees. It was ruthless, and it was absolute, but the war did end. Under 200 years later, I feel no threat from my southern neighbors in Tennessee despite their undestanding that I'm a northerner.

    Having been to Germany, I felt no threat from my host family, despite out actions there. They sure were fans of Gen. Marshall.

    What happened in those examples? Reconstruction? The resistance crushed, physically and mentally. The Union/United States whipe the slate clean, and then went about buidling it back up.

    I have questioned where "playing it safe" got us in Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, etc.

    Absolute war is a subject that is touchy at best. The discussions, and near arguments (ok, real arguments) it generated in class was great...interesting comments from both sides.

    People will bring up the Geneva Convention, and I would question the last time nations agreeing to the teams in the Convention actually fought each other. Enemy combatants, terrorists....they aren't pulling out your CAC card and reading the Geneva Convention level on the back and then complying with it.

    We have continued to tie our hands more and more while our enemies because looser, all the time.
     
  11. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    Actually, there are a few areas in Tennessee I would as a non-native feel unwelcome in. Yes, they are outliers, but the wounds of war heal in terms of a half-life - never truly healing, just becoming less and less detectable over time. IMHO, the longer and more severe the war, the longer the half-life of the wounds.

    I do think the extent a victor seeks to rebuild a defeated society will shorten the half-life of the wounds. The Germans and Japanese have healed from our wounds much faster than the wounds between the Turks and Armenians.
     
  12. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    Preach it, brother.

    The enemy is decapitating people on TV, but our troops are told not to fly their own flag from their tanks to avoid offending people.

    Hell of a way to fight wars. :confused:
     
  13. Kero

    Kero Member

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    Go to GA and mention Gen Sherman, if you don't get beat up, you'll at least get some choice words.

    And I grew up in the DC area and we are still taught of the northern atrocities in school.
     
  14. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    My Father was in line to be deployed for the invasion of the Home Islands during WWII. Thank you Mr. Truman. Okinawa was the first test of the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. US casualties 50,000 (including Ernie Pyle) and one quarter of the civiliian population killed by combat or suicide. Casualty estimates for a full invasion were drasticaly increased after Okinawa. You fight to win not to make friends and influence people. Someone once said "there is no substitute for victory". You can look him up. I think he has a statue overlooking the Hudson. As with "The Divine Wind" (Kamikaze) we are facing an enemy with only one purpose.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2010
  15. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    There's also no substitute for a decent tailor. :shake:

    Hell, at least the Kamikaze were fighting to defend their homeland and were coming out to fight the military of their enemy. They weren't flying their planes into the skyscrapers of Seattle.

    That sort of thing was left to the Imperial Army and the Kampetai in China.... :mad:
     
  16. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    If nothing else MacArthur always had a good tailor:thumb: Even going ashore. And great PR. Always loved the sun glasses and pipe with the forty mission crush.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2010
  17. BeatNavy

    BeatNavy USMA Cadet

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    I think our current wars have somewhat different circumstances. In Afghanistan, it is crucial for us to earn the trust and support of the local population in order to eliminate the taliban and Al queada from the region. We need the Afghan government to play its role, and we also need to earn the trust and support of local tribal leaders. If that means relying less on air support and artillery to reduce collateral damage, then that is the best way to accomplish our goals in the region.

    "During the Civil War, our country's welfare was at stake. If we lost, we lost our nation."
    Burning civilian areas of Atlanta to the ground and destroying the railroads and infrastructure of the South after the war was already tactically decided accomplished nothing but high levels of resentment in the South that made the reconstruction process even more difficult.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2010
  18. Sandbar

    Sandbar Member

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    I agree with Zaphod. I don't like fighting a "Politically Correct" war.
    The people who are concerned about "Political Correctness" aren't doing the fighting.
    Vietnam has some similarities to today's conflicts ( as far as politics) but I believe what we ask the American Serviceman to do today is unjustified.

    We have to play by a whole set of rules and the enemy play by none.
    In reality the only rules in war are no rules. We should kill as many of the enemy as we can with whatever means we have

    The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.
    George S. Patton
     
  19. America's Finest

    America's Finest USMA Cadet

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    It prevented the enemies from using the destroyed areas and brought to war to the people since they realized they weren't just fighting an army but the people themselves and needed to end their will to fight.

    Whether it accomplished the task or not, that was the purpose or at least one of them.
     
  20. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    It certainly ended the war quicker.

    As for resentment, who gives a damn? They hate us enough to kill us in our own country. Bring them to their knees in abject terror of us, THEN build them up.

    Good grief, we had to nuke the Japanese, TWICE, to get them to see the light, and by that time there was ZERO chance that they were going to win anyway.

    If you're going to fight, FIGHT. The only rule at that point is WIN. If you're not willing to do that, then don't fight at all.
     

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