Is This De Ja Vous All Over Again?
Most people may not remember it now, but the invasion of Iraq also began in March. I remember it well because the college basketball tournament was under way, and the frenzy generated by fans of various teams is collectively known as “March Madness!” Back then, when I watched the military analyst with their charts, maps, projection screens and pointers gleefully explaining the destructive power of our weaponry, I thought:”This is madness!” I then sat down and wrote a commentary, titling it “March Madness!” I get the same feeling as I watch the present parade of military “experts” prattle on ad-nauseum about America’s military might. De Ja Vous?
The parade of retired military officers approaches the Libyan invasion with the usual air of authority and esprit de core, and they appear to be experiencing something of a collective orgasm as they immerse themselves in the pornography of war. From the ecstatic look on his face I swear I thought one of these dudes was busting a nut when he described the smart targeting abilities of a Tomahawk missile; which, by the way, cost a million and a half dollar to fire! These hyped up military mouthpieces speak in grandiose terms about the expected outcome of America’s latest military action; but I continue to think of “Shock and Awe!”
Shock and Awe!
Televised in real time and living color, the attack was quite a show of America’s deadly fireworks…. but despite the hoopla it didn’t achieve its stated goals. We are still fighting there eight years after George II pronounced victory! And I have my doubts whether the present mission will succeed it its objectives, or turn out to be as quick and tidy an affair as the President has promised. The video footage and print reports from the front testify to the military successes of the US led coalition forces, but that’s the easy part.
Until we are sure just what America’s broader objectives are, there is no standard by which we can measure the success or failure of this mission. And the ambiguity about objectives can lead to what the generals call “mission creep,” which means the objectives keep changing and the war expands beyond the original mission. It is clear from the chatter around Washington that there is a real danger the Libyan mission could expand. In view of this possibility, it is instructive to take a look at the consequences of past military expeditions of this sort.
The history of American interventions in third world conflicts is one of dismal failures. This is largely because after World War II the nature of warfare changed from stationary battles between armies in a defined theater of combat, to protracted peoples wars where the enemy is elusive – often indistinguishable from the civilian populace. And the generals were prepared to fight the last war. However they were faced with a new kind of war where the enemy is hard to distinguish from friends…or just innocent bystanders going about their business. “A revolutionary must swim among the people like a fish in the sea” says Mao Tse Tung, whose treatise “On Protracted War” is the bible of insurgents everywhere. But Ralph McGhee – one of the first CIA operatives on the ground in Vietnam – tells us in his classic expose “Deadly Deceits: My 25 years in the CIA,” the generals hadn’t read Mao and were clueless as to how the Asian revolutionaries had organized their people for protracted war.
Since US military doctrine is based on Von Clausewitz’s axiom “war is an extension of politics,” military objectives are difficult to define . And nobody has come up with a strategy to defeat a protracted people’s war. We lost in Korea, where we first encountered that strategy, and we lost in Vietnam where it was applied in one of the most impressive demonstrations of the art and science of protracted war that we have yet seen. And we are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan! With a record like this, I see no reason for optimism in our newest war.
American Eagles Command The Sky!
Harlem, new York
March 21, 2011