Thursday, December 7, 2006

Can we win a "civil" war?

Much of the news these days is preoccupied with calling the fighting in Iraq a Civil War in the sense that the Sunni and Shia are fighting it out between themselves. When I hear the term "civil war" I have much different thoughts.

I look at the way we have been fighting wars since Vietnam and think that we have become more and more squemish about fighting wars to win and instead want to fight in a "civil" manner. In other words, just kill the only guys that shot at us first, don't torture the enemy, give them all their civil rights when we capture them, etc.

One of my favorite movies is The Patriot. When I think back to that movie and watch how the British (especially Cornwalis) were determined to fight the war in a "civil" manner, I think of how we are trying to fight the wars of this century. I think the British lost that war because in many ways they were so intent on fighting by the "rules of war" of the 18th century. The hero of the movie, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), fought in a most uncivil manner. Thinking back to wars we have won decisively (the Civil War with Shermans march through the South, WWII with the firebombing of Germany and the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima), are wars where we did not fight with what today we call a "civil" manner.

Fast forward to the 21st century and we are fighting an insane group of fanatics holding ourselves to such a high standard that it is (I think) impossible to win. We use "surgical" airstrikes, won't shoot if we see civilians present or someone is shooting at us from a mosque and provide prisoners with a Koran handled with special gloves so we don't contaminate their sacred book. Meanwhile they use barbaric methods of killing (I dare you to just watch the Youtube video of Islamists beheading Nick Berg), use women and children as shields and send in their children as suicide bombers.

When I attended college the anti-war movement was in full blossom. I cast my first vote for the anti-war candidate George McGovern. As did everyone else, I thought we had lost Vietnam. Only in the last few years have I learned that the Tet offensive was a massive loss for the North Vietnamese. I often wonder, what if Walter Cronkite had not declared that we had lost in Vietnam - what would have really happened and how would it effect the way we fight wars today?

Digesting the 24 hours a day blitz of news coverage it's extremely difficult to maintain any perspective about the war against fascist Islamist. Many don't think Iraq has anything to do with it. Many believe that we can reason with them and they will leave us alone. One of my collegues who until this election has voted Republican recently told me that Kim Jong-ilis just crying for attention and will stop what he is doing if we just talk to him. I suppose Neville Chamberlin thought the same of Hitler.

I think that the terrorists think we are a "weak horse" and for the moment they are right. We cannot win a "civil" war against an uncivil enemy.

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