The American War of War

It’s not quite what we’ve been told.

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

(1) In this new age the American military does not like fascists, and it thus will unleash horrific power to eliminate autocrats like Noriega, Milosevic, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein.

(2) It is as difficult to provoke the United States as it is to survive its eventual and tardy response. We will take months, years, even decades of slurs, random murdering of our own, terrorism, and general hostility before acting — and then in some primordial rage at last unleash firepower undreamed of to remove the odious regime.

(3) The American media and its punditry follow a predictable wartime volatility — as Gulf War I, Serbia, Afghanistan, and the present conflict attest: day-one euphoria; followed by week two of dejection and recrimination; followed by days of false knowledge; culminating in mild “I told you sos” as peace seems nearer. Confidence in victory is never as strong as despair on rumors of quagmire. The stronger our military, the more likely grow the doubts of our elites.

(4) There is no typical “American Way of War” anymore in the textbook sense of traditional armored drives supported by overwhelming firepower. George Patton would smile on our current ride northward as would Ulysses S. Grant admire the hammer and tongs that batter Baghdad. A Swamp Fox would also praise the special forces in Kurdistan, but then so would Hap Arnold like the bombing campaign, Admiral King the naval broadsides, and Admiral Nimitz our marvelous carriers.

(5) The enemy will usually have killed more of its own civilians than we will kill its soldiers trying to kill us. Examples: Milosevic, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein.

(6) The Arab street is as ready to rush out when the American military moves as it is to dissolve when it wins. It will always galvanize on behalf of homegrown fascists if they are fighting a democratic United States.

(7) The American military fights best when it is asked to keep on the move and go from point A and end at point B. The very idea that troops “were going to Baghdad” was worth a division — like “on to Germany” or “Next stop, Tokyo” and, tragically, so unlike “on to nowhere” in a static Vietnam.

(8) Criticisms of the present generation are misplaced. In fact, in this last decade of wars our youth shows signs of being the best fighting cohort of Americans since that of World War II.

(9) Our military no longer is just a fighting force per se, but is asked to preserve oil fields, clear waterways, organize oppressed peoples like the Kurds, feed those without food and water, and under fire distinguish killers from innocents. It is hard to fight a force that employs everything from dolphins to satellites. When it clears Iraq of Saddam Hussein, it will have been done more to feed and help the Iraqi people than all the efforts of the U.N. of the last two decades.

(10) When war actually starts, the efficacy and professionalism of the American military tend to silence rather than incite its critics, as the example of brave soldiers seeking to free Iraq makes a sorry contrast with “Not in Our Name,” ANSWER, and the assorted likes of Peter Arnett, Hans Blix, and Dominque de Villepin. Americans always prefer to see brave young men fighting for ideals than pampered critics for a few minutes vomiting in public in San Francisco or staging die-ins on the pavement in Washington — before driving home to resume their comfortable lives only made possible by those sleeping now in the sands of Iraq.


©2004 Victor Davis Hanson

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