Thursday, May 26, 2011

Clausewitz and Current Events

The classic work 'On War' by the eighteenth centure military genius Carl von Clausewitz is rightly considered a classic. Although Clausewitz himself wrote based on his observations of the Napoleonic conflicts that wracked Europe for over twenty years, many of his comments can be equally applied to more current conflicts, including the asymmetrical one in which the Untied States is currently engaged. One such comment is to be found in Chapter Two, Volume One of his masterpiece. Clausewitz wrote,
The military power must be destroyed, that is, reduced to such a state as not to be able to prosecute the War. This is the sense in which we wish to be understood hereafter, whenever we use the expression "destruction of the enemy's military power."

The country must be conquered, for out of the country a new military force may be formed.

But even when both these things are done, still the War, that is, the hostile feeling and action of hostile agencies, cannot be considered as at an end as long as the will of the enemy is not subdued also; that is, its Government and its Allies must be forced into signing a peace, or the people into submission; for whilst we are in full occupation of the country, the War may break out afresh, either in the interior or through assistance given by Allies. No doubt, this may also take place after a peace, but that shows nothing more than that every War does not carry in itself the elements for a complete decision and final settlement.

Why our own leaders do not understand this simple concept is beyond me. When we went into Kosovo, so it was when we went into Iraq, Afghanistan, and now it is true again as we are engaged in Libya. It is imperative, when a nation-state is involved in an armed conflict, that the enemy's will to win be wiped out. We engaged in total war in World War II and when the respective peace treaties with the Axis countries were eventually signed, those nations knew they were beaten. The will of their governments and of their populations to continue waging war had been blunted and they had no more desire to take up arms again.

But in our current conflicts - at least since Vietnam - we have not engaged in this total war. Why we have not availed ourselves of one of our most powerful assets is not really a mystery however. I can think of several reasons why we have not engaged in total war since 1945. These are as follows:

  • The Unpatriots: Ever since the Communist revolutions of the early twentieth century, the United States, like Western Europe, has been home to a large, well-organized and strongly anti-American group of secret Communists. These are the folks who organized the SDS of the 1960s, who did their best to give away the atomic bomb to the Soviets, and who will gleefully repeat every anti-Americans screed that can possibly be imagined. their numbers include most of Hollywood, much of the popular music industry, the vast majority of the American Press, and virtually the entire membership of the collegiate professorial class. They are embittered by the knowledge that their social model has failed and they hate capitalism, even though few of them would prosper in an environment that they try to hard to create. They are vocal and they wield great power, as shown by their ability, even in their current weakened form, to so cleverly destroy any politicians they dislike. I refer here primarily to Sarah Palin, but virtually any Republican who takes aim at the socialist policies this group professes can become a target. Few survive them - Ronald Reagan is one of the very few conservatives they have been unable to demean or destroy. This group will always support any enemy of the UNited States and will do their best to prop it up even when they have been defeated on the ground. It is this group who really won the Vietnam War for the Communists. They are a serious obstacle

  • The Rivals: Communism may be discredited (except among the aforementioned Unpatriots) but China and Russia remain as formidable adversaries in the world of international politics. Russia may be much weakened but it is led by many of the same people who were our adversaries and they will do everything in their power to diminish the United States, including offering alliances to groups and nations they have little love for. This groups is also swelled by power-hungry ego-maniacs like Chavez in Venezuela and the Iranian mullahs who understand that the US is their primary obstacle in their respective quests for regional or world conquest. Russia and China also understand that the US is the primary obstacle preventing them from seizing world power. The UNited States in some of the conflicts would have had to fight with one or both of these hegemonies and has not wanted to engage in World War III over objectives that are not vital to our national interests. Thus the ridiculous situation in Korea. This is a more traditional obstacle as most Great Powers have faced similar difficulties. However, in the past our leaders were both better men and stronger leaders. I cannot see Reagan or Roosevelt shying away from confrontation with these dictators. But it is one reason why total war is not always an option.

  • Our Own LeadershipOur current President is an ignorant, arrogant empty suit who has little knowledge or expertise in much of anything. He has never managed anything and has never actually had to take a leadership position on anything and thus he is good only at trying to look good while doing not much of anything. Much of our diplomatic corps seems more interested in advancing other nations' interests in preference to our own and much of the political class have neither the skills nor the understanding to actually step up and lead. In addition, a half-century of steady demeaning of the US from the edicational establishment and te Press has left many Americans unsure what they ought to be proud of. The great feats of the previous centuries and the great men who led, such as Lincoln, Washington, Jackson, etc have been replaced in the schools with stories of Susan B. Anthony. Anthony is important in one aspect of American history, but as a historical actor, she comes nowhere close to any of the Presidents, Generals, Admirals and statesmen who built the country. So our leaders tend to be tentative and apologetic. They should instead be fiery and unapologetic. Has any other nation a better historical record? I would argue that the answer is no.

  • Moral Relativism: There should never be a comparison between the armed forced of the United States of America and medieval butchers who cut people's heads off, rape female prisoners and deliberately target women and children. Not to mention hiding behind said women and children when they fight. There should be no comparison between a religion that requires its adherents to go out and kill non-members and religions that do not make such demands. There should be no comparison between a culture that allows men to rape women and then kill them for 'honor' and one that offers women freedom. And there should be no comparison between a society that fought a bloody war to end its short experiment with slavery and a culture that acted as the world's slavemasters for almost a thousand years. And with which we fought a war BECAUSE of their slavery (th Barbary Wars). If the Unpatriots did not have such a loud megaphone, we would not even be having this discussion. But they have forced us to defend what should not need to be defended. And moral relativism is a deadly argument. When taken to its logical conclusion, it clearly shows that there is no difference between a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan where women are chattel and where unelected 'religious leaders' can condemn any man or women for any reason and a United States where no one can be condemned without a court trial.

There are other reasons as well, such as the reflexive greed, moral incompetence and reflexive anti_americanism in most international institutions. This is due to envy on the part of Europe and hatred on the part of everyone else. they want to come and live in America, but live like kings (See Dominique Strauss-Kahn) and continue to indulge as they try to force everyone else to give up more annd more so they can continue to indulge. But all of these reasons would be prey to a leader who understood both the unique position and the incredible strength that the correct use of the Armed Forces can bring.

It's time and past time to elect a President and a Congress that understand these concepts. People like Barney Frank, John Kerry, Trent Lott - these are professional politicians who will do and say anything to get elected. We need a leader who can cut through the specious arguments these weaklings bring to the table and take the actions that must be taken. Speaking to the English House of Commons in 1848, the great British Prime Minster Lord Palmerston once famously said,
Therefore I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.

We need a leader who understand that and who is not afraid to take the necessary steps, even when countries that claim to be our 'friends' complain. We need a President who understands that our future friends are in the Anglosphere - Australia, possibly Canada, possibly Great Britain and maybe a few others such as India, Japan, etc. These countries share many of our bedrock principles to one degree or another and these are the cultures with whom we should ally. We may have other allies of the moment, but we must find countries that are truly our friends, not our frenemies. Would that we could elect a leader who actually understand this.