April 07, 2003

The United States has no stomach for casualties.

The people of the United States are so naive they insist no innocents be killed in war, and in war there are of course no innocents.

The United States can be relied on to use airpower alone, and airpower alone is easy to circumvent.

Vietnam proved that the United Stateís own citizens can be manipulated to the advantage of their adversary.

Mogadishu proved that if you hit their military hard enough, even once, the United States will fold and run.

The soldiers of the United States insist on air conditioning and television, hot coffee and cold beer. They know nothing of hardship, and are too soft to fight.

Surprise attacks, even spectacular surprise attacks, happen all over the world every day. It's been more than a year now, the people of the United States need to move on, and it just shows how decadent and weak they are that they haven't.

This is what the world believed about us. In the richly decorated halls of countless governments, in the dark hearts of temples and mosques, and in the ivory towers of academia this is what was known about us. With unflinching reassurance the lives of tens of thousands were wagered on bets made with these odds by old, mean, ignorant men.

There will be many good lessons learned from this conflict. Unfortunately because people are, well, people, there will also be many bad lessons learned. However, without a doubt these are lessons that should be learned:

The citizens of the United States do not enjoy having their soldiers come home in boxes, this is true. However, our nation's history is one steeped in the valor of sacrifice, and the religion of our founders teaches us that such sacrifice is not only good, but sometimes required for success. We understand that in war soldiers die, just as well as anyone else in the world. What we will not tolerate is the sacrifice of our soldiers for causes we do not understand, over time periods which have no clear ending, in places where we have no clear interest.

The citizens of the United States strongly believe in the concept of the blood of the innocents. We want justice, even victory, not destruction, and never slaughter. We have spent trillions of dollars over the past sixty years creating weapons so accurate that nowadays we sometimes don't even bother to attach explosives to them. A quarter-ton lump of concrete dropped from 25,000 feet has enough inertia to quite handily crush an antiaircraft battery, APC, or tank, and leave an adjacent house standing, as long as you can put that rock right down the tube of the gun. We can, and so the "concrete bomb" is a real, effective, weapon.

Vietnam did in fact prove that the US is chock-full of "useless idiots", even powerful ones, and the citizenry of America was eventually manipulated to the advantage of the enemy because of them. Such anti-war protests may have in fact resulted in the end of an unjust, badly run, and brutal conflict, but it also resulted in the barbaric treatment of young men who quite literally were given no choice but to participate.

From this distance it all looks like one long tie-dyed drug-addled rock concert, but people who lived through that time know the country came closer to tearing itself apart over Vietnam than it had since the civil war. Rightly or wrongly, this torment has been laid at the feet of those who protested, and ever since (as any modern protestor can assure you) a majority of Americans suspect protestors of at best giving aid and comfort to our enemies, at worst outright sedition. We shall not be manipulated into spitting on our own soldiers again.

Mogadishu proved several things, but none of them have anything to do about our inability to absorb a shock. It proved that the American people have no tolerance for our soldiers being killed and humiliated over an explicitly humanitarian mission. It proved that if a foreign land wishes to descend into anarchy and is willing to kill anyone trying to help them out of it, we are quite willing to let them cut open each other's babies until there are no more left.

Most importantly, it proved that if cornered Americans fight with unbelievable efficiency and lethality. What is never emphasized enough is that in Mogadishu an entire city attempted to destroy just a few units of American special forces. A few dozen men isolated and outnumbered more than 100 to 1 not just surrounded but encapsulated by enemy forces were not exterminated, not even routed, but survived as units and got out losing exactly 18 of their own. Nobody even bothered to count how many of Mogadishu's citizens bled their last into those city streets that day, but rest assured the city's dogs were well fed long after.

American forces are no stranger to adversity, and can accept deprivation that at times surprises even themselves. "All the comforts of not-quite-home" does not represent decadence, it represents efficiency. "Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics" is never more true than in the way we support our wars. We give our soldiers the occasional creature comfort not because they cannot fight without them, but because it costs the war effort nothing to provide them. America has at least since the civil war been an absolute master at logistics. We do not out maneuver, out think, or out fight our foes, we out manage them. In WWII the Japanese could either build bases or build airplanes, but not both, while we had so much gasoline available we were washing our airplanes in it to get an extra 10 miles per hour in the air. We've only gotten better at it since then.

Finally, no one has the right to tell anyone else how long they must mourn. Only the egregiously arrogant or the hopelessly ignorant would ever even dare the attempt. The United States has been surprised, attacked, and defeated on its own soil only twice in the past two hundred years. We are not, cannot, and will not get used to it.

Want to know how long 9-11 will be on this nation's mind? We brought the world to the brink of nuclear war because of our paranoia over surprise attack, more than twenty years after Pearl Harbor happened. Mine is perhaps the last generation to hear adults talk frequently about the shock and implications of December 7th, and at that point it was thirty-five years in the past. The west in general has a very, very long memory for such events. To this day a trumpet is cut off mid note on a tower in a church in Krakow, Poland, a symbolic memorial commemorating the alarm for an invasion that ocurred seven centuries ago.

We are not dictators. We have no wish for empire. The constant bleating from far corners otherwise merely shows the blinkered ignorance of people quite patently being manipulated by forces far beyond their understanding or control.

In 174 B.C. the King of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes, invaded Egypt, threatening the stability of the region and a supply of grain Rome was becoming increasingly reliant on. Instead of sending legions to destroy both him and his country, Rome instead sent a single man, Gaius Popillius Laenas, as a representative of the Senate. Meeting the king near Alexandria, Laenas presented him with an official decree, demanding his immediate withdrawl from Egypt. Antiochus asked for time so he could consider. Laenas agreed, but used his staff to draw a circle in the sand around the king, and told him he must give an answer before he stepped out of it.

Antiochusís response, and the consequences to him because of it, was most instructive.

Posted by scott at April 07, 2003 06:28 PM

eMail this entry!

lol! saw the first few sentences on the main page and was about to rip into you and then delete this bookmark. good thing i kept reading, that was very good ;)

Posted by: Samkit on April 8, 2003 03:52 AM

I have tears streaming down my face. THANK YOU for writing this.

Posted by: witchy on April 8, 2003 10:49 AM

Scott, this is a gem. Accurate, incisive, historically rich, and inspirational as well. Bravo!

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto on April 8, 2003 07:04 PM

Especially effective post...

Particularly the memory of the Krakow bugler. Recall that a Turkish arrow split his wishbone... hence the dying fall of music.

In fact, let us all recall those who won't be coming back. Fallen heroes in the noblest endeavor of a lifetime.

Bravo, Heroes!

Posted by: Alex on April 8, 2003 07:32 PM

Very well put...

Posted by: Grymskull on April 8, 2003 07:58 PM

Excellent work.

Posted by: Lord Spatula I, King & Tyrant on April 9, 2003 10:10 AM

I somehow missed reading this essay. I thought some others might have missed it also. Excellent!

Posted by: Pat on July 23, 2003 11:54 PM
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