Thursday, December 07, 2006

Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily

Shorter Ben Shapiro: We have to win a war soon, any war, so I can watch (not march in) a grand victory parade while standing on the curb wishing for a pony.

I'm not certain whether it was the incoherence of Shapiro's position or the sheer lack of historical knowledge which reduced his latest offering to giberish.

America has not "won" a major "hot" war since World War II. The Gulf War cannot be considered a full-fledged victory; it returned the situation in the Middle East to the status quo. The aggressor in that war, Saddam Hussein, would remain in power for another dozen years. The Vietnam War was surely a devastating loss. The Korean War ended in stalemate; North Korea, the aggressor in that war, remains militant and dangerous 50 years later.
Whoa! Hold up there, Buckwheat! Start pulling all the fruit out of the basket because li'l Ben has a bunch of apples and oranges all mixed up.

What's a major "hot" war? First he provides the 2nd World War, a multi-theatre conflict, as the basis for measurement. Then he wanders into single-environment regional conflicts and holds them against WWII as equal events.

Assuming he didn't mean to do that, (or just doesn't know the difference), lets take them in the order he provided.

The 1991 Gulf War was a full-fledged victory. (We even had parades afterwards). What Ben fails to gather in, or hasn't bothered to look up, is that the Gulf War was a UN Chapter VII operation authorized by Security Council Resolution 678 to enforce provisions of Security Council Resolution 660 which required that Iraq withdraw its forces from Kuwait to a position they held on 1 August 1990, on the Iraqi side of the Kuwait border. Being as that is precisely what happened there was no authority to carry out any further action and most people didn't want to do it anyway. Regional war - defending one country from another - regime change was not mandated. Perhaps if Bush 41 had not welched on support for the Kurds in 1991, the Iraqis would have done it themselves.

The Vietnam War had been going on, in one form or another, since 1947. Perhaps if Woodrow Wilson and the other leaders of the Great Powers at the Versaille peace talks of 1919, had not ignored Nguyen Ai Quoc, a Vietnamese labourer, when he pled the case to allow the people of Vietnam the same "self-determination" that Wilson was demanding for a fractured Europe, the Vietnam War might never have happened. One thing is certain - Nguyen Ai Quoc would never have had a reason to become Ho Chi Minh. Vietnam was lost long before the US ever even set foot in the place.

Korea. Again, Ben ignores the historical facts. The force that went into Korea was a UN force under a unified command. The force was established under Security Council Resolution 83. The unified command was established under Security Council Resolution 84. Those forces were sent to repel attacks by North Korea and to enforce Security Council Resolution 82 which called for North Korea to withdraw its forces to the 38th parallel. Regardless of how the war went, the mission would be deemed complete when the North Koreans agreed to withdraw to that line and cease hostilities. They did that. There was no call for regime change by either the UN nor the US. The mission, as requested by Truman and authorized by the UN, was accomplished. How is that a draw?

Ben then does something really, really stupid.

It has been six decades since we emerged fully victorious from a major "hot" war. This is because the very definition of war has changed. Each modern war is now more of a battle than a war. Tearing out the enemy's motivating ideology by the roots is no longer a nation-centric task. Nazism was located in Germany and Shintoism in Japan. We could defeat both countries and win the war.
Ben has converted the commonly held definition of "regional war" to that of a battle. The battle of Vietnam was one long sucker wasn't it? But that's not the best part. He somehow equates Nazism, a political ideology, with Shintoism, a religion. Shintoism had nothing to do with aetheist Japan's politicial or imperial ambitions. It would be better if Ben had read this before putting fingers to keyboard.

Fundamentalist Islam, however, spans the globe. Even if we disestablish fundamentalist Islam in Afghanistan and Iraq, we still have not won the war. Afghanistan and Iraq are the equivalents of Okinawa and Utah Beach. Super-national ideologies mean that war is not a local affair, but a global one.
You had to know that was coming. Again, he makes some sort of connection between short, but critical strategic battles and conflicts which have lasted longer than the US involvement in WWII. Since Ben doesn't cite sources for his pronouncement that Fundamentalist Islam spans the globe, we'll have to take his word for it. I have one to add: Fundamentalist Christians are everywhere and have proselytizing missions in more countries, including Muslim ones, than Islam does.

So how do we win a global war? We won the Cold War by waiting out our communist opponents. We could lose the war in Vietnam and still win the broader Cold War. We could stalemate in Korea without losing the fight against communism.
Oops! Now, all of a sudden, those major "hot" wars are a part of a larger war: a global one. The Cold War. Didn't we win the Cold War?

Will America ever win another war? Only if we combine our Cold War vigilance with our World War II ruthlessness. We cannot afford to lose in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and a stalemate is a loss.
No doubt about it. Sounds like a run-of-the-mill collapse of empire to me.

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