Can we achieve victory in our current conflict? Although our president won’t use the term “victory,” we at least owe it to our troops to remember what it means and to keep charging forward. Victor Davis Hanson illustrates:
Victory has usually been defined throughout the ages as forcing the enemy to accept certain political objectives. “Forcing” usually meant killing, capturing, or wounding men at arms. In today’s polite and politically correct society we seem to have forgotten that nasty but eternal truth in the confusing struggle to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.
Humans have been fighting wars since before Moses was a corporal – and always will – because it’s basic human nature for one group to want something they don’t have, or want to eradicate people they don’t like. And while we would prefer that wars could be executed with technology, non-lethal ammunition, and negotiations, the truth is that war will always be decided by soldiers and Marines with guns.
In the case of our current conflict, the U.S. military is defending against (albeit with either one or sometimes both hands tied behind our backs) a supremacist movement that wants to kill/convert/subjugate those who don’t practice their form of Islam.
And why should this struggle be so “confusing?” Our enemies have done us the favor of identifying themselves. All we have left to do is acknowledge their declarations of war and return the favor. We aren’t fighting Muslims as many have wrongly suggested, otherwise we would have long since bombed U.S. mosques and Islamic centers. We are fighting jihadists. It’s just that simple.
What stopped the imperial German army from absorbing France in World War I and eventually made the Kaiser abdicate was the destruction of a once magnificent army on the Western front — superb soldiers and expertise that could not easily be replaced. Saddam Hussein left Kuwait in 1991 when he realized that the U.S. military was destroying his very army. Even the North Vietnamese agreed to a peace settlement in 1973, given their past horrific losses on the ground and the promise that American air power could continue indefinitely inflicting its damage on the North.
When an enemy finally gives up, it is for a combination of reasons — material losses, economic hardship, loss of territory, erosion of civilian morale, fright, mental exhaustion, internal strife. But we forget that central to a concession of defeat is often the loss of the nation’s soldiers — or even the threat of such deaths.
Our enemies know they have no chance on the battlefield, which is precisely why we are fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, and not fighting Iran and Saudi Arabia in a conventional war. But while we are beating them on the battlefield, little damage has been done to our enemies on other fronts. When your enemy is committed to an ideology that treasures death more than life, then “material losses, economic hardship,” etc. will have far less effect than it would on say, Germans. But this is no reason to throw in the towel. The more mujahideen we kill, the more suicide bombers blow themselves up, the more resources our enemy expends, the less they have.
And as we kill the jihadists on one hand, on the other we are helping the non-jihadist Muslims wherever our troops operate. Our enemy can’t maintain their populations in a perpetual dark ages, surrounded with death and destruction, while the U.S. is constructing roads, schools, and dams. Sooner or later people will realize that the jihad means death while cooperation means prosperity.
Victory is most easily obtained by ending the enemy’s ability to resist — and by offering him an alternative future that might appear better than the past. We may not like to think all of that entails killing those who wish to kill us, but it does, always has, and tragically always will — until the nature of man himself changes.
All that remains is for us to maintain our resolve and to show our enemies that we will not compromise with supremacists.