Seven Degrees from Normal

Two people, eighteen years of marriage, seven college degrees.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


From Martin Van Creveld comes this riveting piece on Moshe Dayan in Vietnam. If you want to know what is happening in Iraq, read it, and weep. If you just want to feel slightly suicidal this weekend, read this excerpt:

In other words, he who fights against the weak – and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed – and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did.

Van Creveld is the author of The Transformation of War; sez:
Van Creveld, who teaches history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, argues that the theories of Karl von Clausewitz, which form the basis for Western strategic thought, are largely irrelevant to nonpolitical wars such as the Islamic jihad and wars for existence such as Israel's Six-Day War. In the future, he prophesies, wars will be waged by groups of terrorists, guerrillas and bandits motivated by fanatical, ideologically-based loyalties; conventional battles will be replaced by skirmishes, bombings and massacres. Weapons will become less, rather than more, sophisticated and the high-tech weapons industry (which "supports itself by exporting its own uselessness") will collapse like a house of cards. A bold, provocative, frightening book.
You don't say. This theory is called "fourth generation warfare," and I find it fascinating, in a ghastly sort of way.

Van Creveld's piece comes via James Wolcott, who depresses us realists even further by summing up:

So thick is the euphoria and triumphalism post November 2nd that I wonder if most of our media, never mind the bovine American public, have any inkling of how ghastily Iraq is going down the drain, and taking the American military with it. We've been so bombarded with "Failure is not an option" that few are willing to assert, as van Creveld and Lind do, that failure may not be an option but it damn well may be the outcome, and quicker than anyone contemplates.

Andrew Sullivan and Thomas Friedman can petition for more troops all they please. It's too late for more troops. We don't have troops to spare as it is, but even if we did, it's too late. It's too late for everything. The blundering mistakes that were made in the first days and weeks of the occupation can't be reversed now--they're incorrectible. The window of opportunity dropped like a guillotine while Donald Rumsfeld was regaling the press corps with his pithy wisdom.

Support our troops. Get them the hell out, now.


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