Friday, October 23, 2009

Winning Wars

I suspect that very few Americans know that our military forces are currently fighting an insurgency in The Philippine Islands. Although no longer allowed to participate in actual combat, and reduced from the original 1300 landed in 2002, we still have 600 soldiers there for “training and support” in an active counterinsurgency war with no end in sight.

From the New York Times of Sept 25, 2009,

“…despite seven years of joint military missions and American development projects, much of the island outside main towns like Lamitan remains unsafe. Abu Sayyaf members, sheltered by sympathetic residents, continue to operate in the interior’s dense forests, even as the United States recently extended the deployment of troops in the southern Philippines.”

Nick Turse writes in some detail at Tom Dispatch about the American military’s track record at winning wars since World War II, and it is not pretty. He points out that our record is essentially zero since then, achieving at best stalemate and at worst outright defeat every time we engage in full scale armed combat. He disregards Panama and Grenada which, I would concur, do not count as “wars.”

"…50 years later, the U.S. still garrisons the southern part of the Korean peninsula as a result of a stalemate war and a peace as yet unmade. More recently, the American experience has included outright defeat in Vietnam, failures in Laos and Cambodia; debacles in Lebanon and Somalia; a never-ending four-president-long war in Iraq; and almost a decade of wheel-spinning in Afghanistan without any sign of success, no less victory. What could make the limits of American power any clearer?"

This should not be construed to condemn American fighting forces, which are well trained, well equipped and among the very best in the world. Rather it should serve to condemn the misuse and misapplication of the power that is represented by those fighting forces; to say that we are simply trying to use our power in a manner that is not well suited to the application of that particular instrument. We are using a hammer on that which is not a nail.

The discussion omits one war that we did win, and won very convincingly; the Cold War, a war we won by not fighting it. The best use of military power is to have it and not use it. We won the Cold War with the best military slogan ever coined, the one emblazoned on the B-52’s of Strategic Air Command, United States Air Force, “Peace Is Our Profession.”

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